Bad language good for muscle strength
Muscle strength and stamina can be boosted by turning the air blue, study finds
Swearing may help a cyclist struggling uphill to summon extra pedal power, new research suggests.
Likewise, a good dose of foul language might be what it takes to free that stubborn bolt or jammed bottle top.
Psychologists conducted tests in which volunteers had to swear before intense sessions on an exercise bike or squeezing a device that measures hand-grip strength.
In both experiments swearing led to significant improvements in performance, compared with uttering "neutral" words.
The study followed up earlier work that showed how swearing increases pain tolerance, helping explain the common reaction to hitting one's thumb with a hammer.
"We know from our earlier research that swearing makes people more able to tolerate pain," said Dr Richard Stephens, from the University of Keele in Staffordshire.
"A possible reason for this is that it stimulates the body's sympathetic nervous system - that's the system that makes your heart pound when you're in danger.
"If that is the reason, we would expect swearing to make people stronger too, and that is just what we found in these experiments."
Surprisingly, increases in heart rate and other expected changes linked to the "fight or flight" response were not seen in the latest tests.
In the first experiment, 29 volunteers with an average age of 21 pedalled hard on an exercise bike for half-a-minute while repeating a swear word or a neutral word.
Peak power was increased by an average 24 watts by swearing, the scientists found.
The second experiment involved 52 participants of about the same age undergoing tests of hand-grip strength.
Again, the volunteers were asked to swear or utter a less emotionally charged neutral word while measurements were taken.
Swearing boosted grip strength by 2.1kg on average.
Belfast Telegraph Digital