Shouting out swear words 'makes you stronger': Study

Mel Buttigieg and Rob Waugh

Turning the air blue when you’re pumping iron may make other gym-goers raise an eyebrow – but it can actually make you stronger.

Dr Richard Stephens from Keele University in Manchester, UK, conducted tests that proved if you let profanities fly, your body will get a surge of power.

The British doctor told Weekend Sunrise this morning via video chat that he came up with the idea for the research while his wife was giving birth.

Tests were conducted that proved if you let profanities fly, your body will get a surge of power. Picture: File
Tests were conducted that proved if you let profanities fly, your body will get a surge of power. Picture: File

"My wife swore a lot during the labour, which seemed absolutely appropriate under the circumstances," he told Andrew O'Keefe and Monique Wright.

"But she was a bit embarrassed about that, though. The midwife said to not be embarrassed, everyone does this. Swearing is a normal part of giving birth.

"So swearing and pain, they seemed to go together. I wanted to have a look at that in more detail."

During the UK study, participants performed exercises such as handgrip tests and cycling, with and without swearing.

The 29 bike riders could produce more power if they swore while riding, while the 52 handgrip testers produced a stronger grip if they turned the air blue while doing it.

Nick Kyrgios made headlines for his outburst at fans earlier this year, before a heated confrontation with his opponent Bernard Tomic. Picture: 7 News
Nick Kyrgios made headlines for his outburst at fans earlier this year, before a heated confrontation with his opponent Bernard Tomic. Picture: 7 News

"We know from our earlier research that swearing makes people more able to tolerate pain," Dr Stephens said.

"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, and that is just what we found in these experiments."

"But when we measured heart rate and some other things you would expect to be affected if the sympathetic nervous system was responsible for this increase in strength, we did not find significant changes."

Dr Richard Stephens from Keele University spoke to Weekeend Sunrise vid video chat from Manchester. Picture: Weekend Sunrise
Dr Richard Stephens from Keele University spoke to Weekeend Sunrise vid video chat from Manchester. Picture: Weekend Sunrise

He told Sunrise the reason why swearing has these effects on strength and pain tolerance remains to be discovered, but it could stem from learned associations between profanities and dramatic tensions.

"As you grow up as a child, the swear word seems like they almost can contribute to this serious adult world and a world you are not part of. Adults tend to use swear words in these big kind of dramatic moments of tension.

"I think you need to learn the words in that context for them to have that power."