Does Swearing Before A Work Out Increase Your Pain Tolerance?

You may want to quietly say some expletives (if you’re not around kids or those easily offended) the next time you exercise, as apparently swearing before working out helps you become stronger!

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The Power Behind Cursing

British researchers from Keele University’s School of Psychology monitored the strength of 29 participants while they endured a short stint on an exercise bike to test their anaerobic power. The researchers then examined 52 participants in another experiment to test their grip while they were on the exercise bike.

Some participants from both groups swore before the exercises and results then showed that those who cursed had more power and strength than those who didn’t curse.

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“Swearing has been around for centuries and is an almost universal human linguistic phenomenon,” says study leader Dr. Richard Stephens.

“We know from our earlier research that swearing makes people more able to tolerate pain. A possible reason for this is that it stimulates the body’s sympathetic nervous system – that’s the system that makes you 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.

“So 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.”

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Swearing During Labour Helps Reduce Pain

This comes after the same researchers revealed that cursing during labour is a great way to cope with pain.”

Dr. Stephens says he became curious about the underlying reasons his wife yelled out a string of expletives while she was giving birth to their first child.

“I thought there was a good chance that swearing would help people cope with pain, because there has to be a reason people do it,” he told The Daily Beast.

“I’ve been curious about swearing since childhood. There’s a sort of fascination around hearing adults curse and use a language that you can’t. That interest stays with people.”

In this study, 64 participants were put in high-stress situations to see whether cursing can increase pain tolerance.

A mother in labor and getting ready to have her baby.
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The volunteers were asked to place their hands in ice cold water and were told to repeat a swear word of their choice, while a control group were asked to refrain from cursing.

The results showed participants were able to keep their hands submerged in the cold water longer if they swore.

While it is not clear how or why this link between cursing and pain relief exists, Dr. Stephen’s team believes swearing triggers our natural ‘fight-or-flight’ response.

The heart rates of volunteers accelerated when they repeated the swear word, which may indicate an increase in aggression, which is a classic fight-or-flight response in order to help deal with a ‘threat’.

“If [people] want to use this pain-lessening effect to their advantage they need to do less casual swearing,” adds Richard.

“Swearing is emotional language but if you overuse it, it loses its emotional attachment.”

So, if you do end up swearing at your partner during labour, you can claim it was one of your methods of pain relief!

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Just keep the naughty words away from the kiddies!

For more information on the different (and perhaps more conventional) types of pain relief, click here. You can also read all about the different stages of labour.

For more stories on pregnancy and parenting, click HERE.