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Saying 'Fuck' During Exercise Makes You Stronger, Study Says

Researchers found that people exert more physical power if they swear while they work out.
Drew Schwartz
Brooklyn, US
Photo by Flickr user CrossfitPaleoDietFitnessClasses and png via Pixabay

Depending on how quiet your gym is, it might be a good idea to throw a few "fucks" into your morning workout because cursing apparently makes you stronger, psychologists suggest.

According to the Guardian, Keele University professor Richard Stephens and his colleagues discovered that cussing your way through an exercise can boost your physical performance and lend an extra burst of strength, kind of like a mushroom in Super Mario.


For their study, the Keele researchers gathered 29 participants and asked them to pedal a stationary bike for two brief, intense sessions with added resistance. First, subjects were asked to pick a curse word and say it repeatedly while they pedaled—Stephens said "shit" and "fuck" came up a lot. Then, they'd do the same routine while uttering a neutral word—something they'd use to describe a table, like "legged," maybe, or "wooden."

When participants cussed, researchers found they put more power into their workout. After adding a bunch of resistance on the bike, cursing people put 4 percent more power into their pedaling compared to when they were saying a neutral word.

The researchers also rounded up 52 subjects for a handgrip test, in which they squeezed a device as hard as they could while, again, either saying something as satisfying as "motherfucker" or as innocuous as "Idaho." Cursing gave participants about an 8 percent stronger grip, according to Stephens.

"When we got people to repeat a swear word or a neutral word while they were doing it, we showed a performance increment with swearing," Stephens told WIRED. "It's not just a chance effect; there's something really there."

While Stephens and his crew may have found a correlation between cussing and physical power, it's still not clear what causes it. They found that cursing didn't actually affect people's heart rates, suggesting cussing has nothing to do with the fight-or-flight response. It could, however, have something to do with pain tolerance, something Stephens found cussing can increase back in 2009 with a similar study.

"The reason we ran this study was that we were anticipating this fight-or-flight response. But our data don't support that at all. So we don't really know [why swearing helps]," Stephens told Newsweek. "It could be to do with pain tolerance… But we also consider whether it could be what psychologists call 'generalized inhibition.' In other words, when you swear, you just don't care as much."

In the meantime, while they figure out what's going on in, stop giving a fuck, start saying "shit" at the gym, and go get those gains, bro!

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