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AN INDECENT WAY TO MORE POWER AND STRENGTH

By Mark Salamon, April 24, 2021

An innovative technique that has been clinically proven to improve athletic performance may be just what you need to get that extra boost out of your workouts. It is called “cursing,” and a 2018 study published in the Journal of Psychology of Sport and Exercise showed that it did indeed increase power and strength on hand grip and exercise bike testing. 

The medical term for this technique is “cursing out loud in public gyms,” and proof of its effectiveness comes as welcome news to anyone with painful childhood memories of swallowing soap for the simple crime of trying to improve their athletic performance. It is also just the tip of the iceberg in a growing body of research revealing many other benefits of cursing. For instance, a 2015 study out of Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY showed that people who are more fluent in swearing are also more fluent in the entire English language. How did they measure this? Fluency in English is traditionally measured by counting the number of words a person can think of that start with a particular letter in one minute. The ingenious researchers at Marist College devised a “swearing fluency task,” which measured how many curse words a person could think of in one minute. I am going to go ahead and let them take credit for this, even though I distinctly remember inventing this test as a drinking game in my dorm room in 1983. But whatever, the point is that people who scored high in the bad-word test also scored high in the general English test, proving that the more curse words you know, the smarter you are.

Swearing is also beneficial in certain stressful situations, like holding your hand in ice-cold water, according to a study led by renowned swearing researcher Richard Stephens of Keele University in Staffordshire, England. Subjects who did this while repeating a swear word over and over could tolerate the ice water longer, rated it as less painful, and had a higher heart rate than those who performed the test while repeating a non-swear word, like “pineapple.” Not to be a dick, but I also came up with that drinking game in 1983. But I’ll just let that go for now, because the important thing is that cursing is also a great way to improve the “fight or flight” response.

Stephens, who also led the athletic performance study, was inspired to research cursing during the birth of his daughter when, to his shock and surprise, his wife “swore profusely during agonising contractions.” The midwives who explained this astonishing phenomena told him that “swearing is a normal and common occurrence during childbirth,” and in a triumph of self control, refrained from wrapping his testicles around his neck.

More research is needed to uncover the mechanisms by which cursing improves athletic performance. As an evidence-based clinician, I recommend that future studies be conducted in my clinic during the busiest times.

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