Thank fucking goodness. Because I have a hill in my life that has heard more filthy words than a truck stop at midnight. At least now while I’m screaming obscenities as I’m slogging myself up the damn thing, I’ll know that it’s making me stronger. That’s what a new study presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual meeting is claiming, and I’m choosing to believe it wholeheartedly.
Scientists, led by Richard Stephens, from Keele University, U.K., measured the performance of athletes while exercising for a short but intense period on a bike. Other participants squeezed a hand grip that tested strength, and I think that the first group got kinda screwed over. They found that the participants performed physically up to 8% better while they screamed swear words like, “motherfucker!” as compared to saying neutral words like, “table.” (The study is currently under peer review.)
The participants in the study even got to choose the curse word of their choice, and mine would have probably been “pisswizard” or “cockburger” just to keep them all on their toes. I like a little spice in my curse words.
I have a lot of thoughts about all of this, like, I wonder if the scientists took bets on who would burst out laughing first while watching the participants sweat their asses off and then randomly hurl expletives. I would have lost that bet, and maybe that’s why they didn’t ask me to be a scientist.
I also think about how do you get funding for swearing research? Someone is probably out there right now writing a grant letter trying to convince someone else to pay real money to study words like, “assclown,” and, “cunt-a-saurus,” and that sounds kind of like an awesome job.
Stephens is also the guy who did a study a few years ago that found that swearing increased people’s heart rates and allowed them to withstand pain for longer periods of time. If you’ve ever been in a delivery room or in my house during my kids’ bedtime, you would already know that this is a true statement. Richard Stephens seems to have cornered the market on swearing research, and I’m sure this makes for a lot of awkward social situations for his parents. “Yes, Richard’s a well-known scientist you know…oh, well, he researches, um, vulgar words.” My daughter would totally do this to me.
Stephens wanted to build on his previous pain research with this new study on exercise. He expected that people’s fight or flight system would be activated during exercise (like it does with pain) and that was why swearing would be beneficial. Well, this didn’t happen, and Dr. Stevens stated, “Quite why it is that swearing has these effects on strength and pain tolerance remains to be discovered. We have yet to understand the power of swearing fully.” Just as long as it fucking works, I’m happy.
I believe in the power of cursing. I believe that it can add some well-needed emphasis to shittier-than-normal experiences like when in pain or while exercising. I’m thinking that, instead of having beer or goats in our yoga classes, that maybe we should start one for people who talk like truck drivers. For now, I’m really glad that there are real heroes out there adding something truly important to our collective knowledge, goddammit.