Sunday 18 March 2018

Strong language: Cursing boost stamina and strength

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John von Radowitz in London

Muscle strength and stamina can be boosted by turning the air blue, a study has found.

Swearing may help a cyclist struggling up hill 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 rudely 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," Dr Richard Stephens, from the University of Keele, who led both teams, said.

"A possible reason is that it stimulates the body's sympathetic nervous 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."

Surprisingly, increases in heart rate and other expected changes linked to the "fight or flight" response were not seen in the latest tests.

Dr Stephens added: "Quite why it is that swearing has these effects on strength and pain tolerance remains to be discovered."

The findings were presented at the British Psychological Society's annual meeting in Brighton.

Irish Independent

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