When you need a little extra oomph during a workout, try swearing. Researchers from the UK's Keele University report via the British Psychological Society that people perform better on tests of physical endurance when they curse. Specifically, 29 people around age 21 took part in a cycling test, and 52 people around age 19 took a hand-grip test. They were all tasked with choosing a neutral word to describe a table, such as "wooden" or "brown," and then a curse word they might utter if they hurt themselves, reports the Guardian. They were instructed to repeat each of those words in two separate tests in a steady, even tone, and, sure enough, they were stronger when muttering the curse word.
"We're not telling people something they don't already know, but we're verifying that in a systematic and objective way," says researcher Richard Stephens. "I think people instinctively reach for swearwords when they hurt themselves and when they're looking for an extra boost in performance." Previous research has suggested that swearing also gives people a higher tolerance to pain, but exactly what's going on remains unclear. In the endurance tests, for example, people's heart rates didn't rise when cursing, suggesting that a "flight-or-fight" response wasn't at play. "We have yet to understand the power of swearing fully," says Stephens in a ScienceDaily news release. (Swearing is linked to honesty, too.)