It could explain why foul-mouthed John McEnroe and Roy Keane were such good sportsmen.
Swearing out loud makes you stronger, a study has found.
Researchers carried out two experiments which showed swearing improved performance.
In the first test, 29 volunteers carried out an exercise bike test where they pedalled as hard as possible for 30 seconds, once after swearing and once after saying a ‘neutral’ word.
In a second test, 52 participants squeezed a handgrip as hard as they could, after both swearing and saying a neutral word.
In both tests, the order in which participants swore or said the neutral word was randomised.
The results showed that the participants produced around 24 watts more pedal power when they swore – an increase of around 4.8 per cent.
The second test found grip strength increased by 8.2 per cent when people swore – meaning they could lift around 2.1kg more on average.
But researchers found heart rate did not increase with swearing, meaning the act did not trigger participants’ fight-or-flight responses as they had expected.
Dr Richard Stephens, from Keele University, said: ‘The results consistently showed that swearing was helping, but not in the way we thought it would.
‘One explanation is that swearing distracts people from pain. Or it might be that swearing makes people more disinhibited – it makes them let go.
‘When you’re not holding back, you’re not worried about what you’re doing, that could enable extra performance.’
He added the research could explain why some sportsmen swear.
‘In the case of John McEnroe and Roy Keane, it may certainly explain it somewhat and maybe it helped them.
‘I’m not sure it is necessarily acceptable to swear in front of so many people though, so it’s complicated.’
The study followed earlier research showing how swearing helps people cope with pain, explaining why it can help to release a string of expletives when you hit your thumb with a hammer.
The latest findings will be presented at the Annual Conference of the British Psychological Society in Brighton today.
Culled from Mail