Swearing Can Help Boost Your Physical Performance

Be careful about where you try this out.

Photo by Ethan Lofton/Flickr.

A few years ago, my good friend Mark Foulks occupied the rear seat of a tandem on a sponsored long-distance cycle ride from Berkshire to Barcelona. His pithily entitled JustGiving website “Berks2Barca” is typical Mark and no doubt contributed to him raising more than £10,000 toward a mobile chemotherapy unit at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.


But it wasn’t easy – accessing Barcelona by road from the north involves crossing the Pyrenees by cycling uphill for long stretches of time. He told me that one strategy that evolved spontaneously during these difficult moments was swearing loudly. But could it really be that shouting profanities in any way helped him get up that hill? If so, why?

As a psychologist interested in understanding swearing, I decided to find out.

My research has previously shown that swearing helps people to better tolerate pain, apparently because swearing triggers the body’s acute stress response. Indeed, this research demonstrates that repeating a swear word during an ice water challenge produces an increase in heart rate, consistent with an aroused autonomic nervous system as seen during moments of acute stress.

This same phenomenon is sometimes talked about as the fight or flight response and is well known to incorporate a range of elevated bodily responses. One example is the release of endorphins, which contributes to a phenomenon known as stress-induced analgesia — potentially explaining why swearing reduces pain.

But one feature of the fight or flight response is the release of adrenaline, which can lead to increased physical performance. This raises the intriguing question as to whether swearing while performing a physical challenge might improve performance by triggering the fight or flight response in a similar fashion to what happened in the swearing and pain research.

“Hell on wheels” experiment

To find out, colleague David Spierer and I asked volunteers to ride a stationary bicycle in what is known as the Wingate Test. After warming up, the rider is asked gradually to build up to top speed, at which moment a switch is flipped adding huge resistance so that the next 30 seconds of exertion resembles hell on wheels. It’s a tough challenge to push very hard under these circumstances and vomiting is not uncommon during or shortly afterward.

In this study, participants performed the Wingate Test twice – on one occasion repeating a swear word during that 30 seconds of high intensity and on another occasion repeating a neutral word. Interestingly, volunteers produced a 4.6% increase in peak power (power exerted during the first five seconds) and a 2.8% boost in average power when swearing.

However, there were no biological signs of the fight or flight response, which we had anticipated would underlie these performance increases. Indeed, several measures of heart rate showed no difference across the swearing and non-swearing conditions. This was a puzzle: We had an effect but no explanation for it.

Thinking that perhaps the enormous exertion required during the Wingate Test may have obscured meaningful heart-rate data, we ran a second study using the more sedate physical challenge of a hand-grip task. But this study showed the same pattern of results. Now we found an 8.2% increase in grip strength when participants swore while undertaking the task. However, once again, there were no physiological signs of the fight or flight response.

Photo by Marco Verch/Flickr.

Psychological explanation

We feel fairly sure that whatever is causing this effect of swearing on physical performance is not related to fight or flight mechanisms. But if the effect isn’t physical, it’s intriguing to try and work out what psychology may be at play.

It may be that our studies are simply detecting the effects of “letting go” – where any concerns that overexertion may cause injury or embarrassment become more easily put aside. This would be thanks to an “I don’t care” mindset brought about by swearing. If true, then swearing might also be expected to improve the performance of non-strength based physical tasks such as balancing and perhaps even cognitive performance.

What our new studies do show, without explaining it, is that repeating a swear word enables higher degrees of physical exertion compared with repeating a non-swear word. So, at least for now, it seems that science was indeed on the side of my friend Mark during his difficult times in the Pyrenees.

Sports
via Smithfly.com

"Seventy percent of the Earth is covered with water, now you camp on it!" proudly declares Smithfly on the website for its new camping boat — the Shoal Tent.

Why have we waited so long for camping equipment that actually lets us sleep on the water? Because it's an awful idea, that's why.

"The world is your waterbed," Smithfly says on its site. But the big difference is that no one has ever had to worry about falling asleep and then drowning on their waterbed.

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While it is possible that one could wade into the water, unzip the tent, have a pleasant slumber, and wake up in the morning feeling safe and refreshed, there are countless things that could go terribly wrong.

The tent could float down the river and you wake up in the middle of nowhere.

You could have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

This guy.

It could spring a leak and you could drown while wrapped up in eight feet of heavy nylon.

A strong current could tip the tent-boat over.

There isn't any way to steer the darn thing.

This guy.

Mashable shared a charming video of the tent on Twitter and it was greeted with a chorus of people sharing the many ways one could die while staying the night in the Shoal Tent.

Oh yeah, it's expensive, too.

Even though the general public seems to think the Shoal Tent is a terrible idea, according to the Smithfly's website, it's currently sold out due to "popular demand" and it will be "available in 6-8 weeks." Oh, and did we mention it costs $1,999?

Lifestyle
via zoezimmm / Imgur

There are few more perniciously dangerous conspiracy theories being shared online than the idea that vaccines cause autism.

This has led to a decline in Americans vaccinating their children, resulting in a massive increase in measles. This year has already seen over 1,200 cases of measles, a disease that was eradicated in the U.S. nearly 20 years ago.

A 2015 Pew Research study found that 83% of Americans think the measles vaccine is safe, while 9% think it's not. Another 7% are not sure. But when you look at the polls that include parents of minors, the numbers get worse, 13% believe that the measles vaccine is unsafe.

There is zero truth to the idea that vaccines cause autism. In fact, a recent study of over 650,000 children found there was no link whatsoever.

RELATED: A new study of over 650,000 children finds — once again — that vaccines don't cause autism

A great example of the lack of critical thinking shown by anti-vaxxers was a recent exchange on Facebook shared to Imgur by zoezimmm.

A parent named Kenleigh at a school in New Mexico shared a photo of a sign at reads: "Children will not be enrolled unless an immunization record is presented and immunizations are up-to-date."

This angered a Facebook user who went on a senseless tirade against vaccinations.

"That's fine, I'll just homeschool my kids," she wrote. At least they won't have to worry about getting shot up in school or being bullied, or being beat up / raped by the teachers!"

To defend her anti-vaccination argument, she used a factually incorrect claim that Amish people don't vaccinate their children. She also incorrectly claimed that the MMR vaccine is ineffective and used anecdotal evidence from her and her father to claim that vaccinations are unnecessary.

She also argued that "every human in the world is entitled to their own opinion." Which is true, but doesn't mean that wildly incorrect assumptions about health should be tolerated.

She concluded her argument with a point that proves she doesn't care about facts: "It doesn't matter what you say is not going to change my mind."

RELATED: 12 medical professionals shared their most memorable anti-vaxxer stories and you won't stop face-palming

While the anti-vaxxer was incorrect in her points, it must also be pointed out that some of the people who argued with her on Facebook were rude. That should never be tolerated in this type of discourse, but unfortunately, that's the world of social media.

Here's the entire exchange:

via zoezimmm / imgur


via zoezimmm / imgur


via zoezimmm / imgur


via zoezimmm / imgur


via zoezimmm / imgur


via zoezimmm / imgur


via zoezimmm / imgur


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via zoezimmm / imgur


via zoezimmm / imgur

The post received a ton of responses on imgur. Here are just a few:

"'In my opinion...' 'I believe...' That's not how facts work."

"You're entitled to your opinion. And everyone else is entitled to call you a dumbass."

"'What I do with my children is no concern to you at all.' Most of the time, true. When your kid might give mine polio, not true."

"If my child can't bring peanut butter, your child shouldn't bring preventable diseases."

It's important to call out people who spread dangerous views, especially how they pertain to health, on social media. But people should do so with respect and civility.

Health

He photographed Nazi atrocities and buried the negatives. The unearthed images are unforgettable.

He risked his life to leave a "historical record of our martyrdom."

via Yad Vashem and Archive of Modern Conflict, 2007

In September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland. By April 1940, the gates closed on the Lodz Ghetto, the second largest in the country after Warsaw.

Throughout the war, over 210,000 people would be imprisoned in Lodz.

Among those held captive was Henryk Ross. He was a Jewish sports photographer before the Nazi invasion and worked for the the ghetto's Department of Statistics during the war. As part of his official job, he took identification photos of the prisoners and propaganda shots of Lodz' textile and leather factories.

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Communities
via Imgur

Every few years there's something that goes mega viral because people can't decide what it is.

There was the famous "is it blue and black, or white and gold" dress?

There was the audio recording that said either "yanny" or "Laurel."

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Viral


Rochester NY Airport Security passing insulting notes to travelers caught on tape www.youtube.com

Neil Strassner was just passing through airport security, something he does on a weekly basis as part of his job. That's when a contract airport security employee handed him a small piece of folded cardboard. Strassner, 40, took the paper and continued on his way. He only paused when he heard the security employee shouting back at him, "You going to open the note?"

When he unfolded the small piece of paper, Strassner was greeted with an unprompted insult. "You ugly!!!"

According to Strassner, and in newly released CCTV of the incident, the woman who handed him the note began laughing loudly.

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popular