When you’re trying to PR, anything that can give you a *little* extra mental edge can make all the difference. That’s why athletes use smart tactics like visualization to help them achieve their goals. But the most recent trick science has discovered for helping you push through a plateau is way easier than you’d ever imagine. It’s also something you’ve probably seen at the gym before, whether you’re an avid CrossFitter or a spin enthusiast.
In a new study presented at the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference, researchers showed evidence that swearing during your workout can help you perform better. We’re totally f*cking serious. The study was broken up into two parts. In the first, 29 people did sprints on a bike, once while swearing and once while repeating a “neutral” word that was not a curse word. In the second part of the experiment, 52 people did an isometric hand grip test under the same two conditions-once while swearing out loud, once while saying a neutral word. In both tests, people performed significantly better when they were swearing.
What gives? “We know from our earlier research that swearing makes people more able to tolerate pain,” Dr. Richard Stephens, the lead author of the study, explained in a press release. “A possible reason for this is that it stimulates the body’s sympathetic nervous system-that’s the system that makes your heart pound when you are in danger.” In other words, cursing might help to turn on your “fight or flight” instincts, making you stronger and faster.
During the course of the research, though, they found that people’s heart rates weren’t elevated in the cursing condition, which is what would happen if the sympathetic nervous system was involved. So now, researchers are back at square one when it comes to figuring out exactly why swearing helps your workout, but they plan to investigate further. “We have yet to understand the power of swearing fully,” Stephens said. In the meantime, looks like it can’t hurt to say your favorite bad word next time you’re trying to push through a super tough sweat session, as long as your gym BFF won’t take offense.