healthHealth and Medicine

Swearing Makes You Physically Stronger, According To Strange Study


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Holy shit, it works! durantelallera/Shutterstock

According to an investigation by a researcher at Keele University, well-timed swearing can make you physically stronger, if only for a moment. If this isn’t the strangest study you’ll read about today, we’ll happily consume our hats.

Dr Richard Stephens, a senior lecturer in psychology at the aforementioned institution, gathered a team together to conduct some rather curious tests, at first on 29 people. They were asked to exercise for a short period of time at high-intensity – fast, sustained cycling, for example – with some of them remaining piously unsweary beforehand and with others allowed to be as profane as they liked.


In a second experiment, this time with 52 participants, the same procedure was applied, but the high-intensity exercise was replaced with an isometric handgrip test. Using biometric readouts, the study revealed that those who turned the air blue prior to undertaking the chosen physical activity could cycle more powerfully and grip far more tightly than those who remained schtum. It was a small increase of around 3 to 4 percent, but an increase nonetheless.

“We know from our earlier research that swearing makes people more able to tolerate pain,” Stephens said in a statement. “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 are in danger. If that is the reason, we would expect swearing to make people stronger too.”

Weirdly, when heart rate was measured during the experiments, they found no discernible differences between those who dropped a few “shits” into the mix and those who refrained.

“So quite why it is that swearing has these effects on strength and pain tolerance remains to be discovered,” Stephens added. “We have yet to understand the power of swearing fully.”


A few caveats are necessary at this point. This research has no peer-reviewed studies to its name (yet), and the sample size for this research is incredibly small. It was presented at the annual gathering of the British Psychological Society in Brighton, so it’s definitely legitimate, but it should certainly be taken with a good pinch of salt for now.

Still, it’s almost certain that if you go to the gym, shout “fuck” or “bollocks” as loudly as possible, then get on your bike and burn some calories, it won’t do any harm, so we’d suggest giving it a go. It’s for science, after all!

Another recent study uncovered a correlation, albeit not a direct causation, between profanity rate and trustworthiness. The residents of New Jersey and Connecticut had the highest profanity rates in the country – so all things considered, this suggests they’re people of Herculean strength that you can really rely on.


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