Saying These Words While Exercising Actually Makes You Stronger, According To Research

Here's why saying certain words improves your workouts.

Last updated on Sep 19, 2023

Couple working out together Crystal Sing | Canva

By Victoria Messina

Potty-mouthed gymgoers, rejoice!

Scientists just made quite an exciting discovery: swearing while you exercise apparently makes you stronger. Can we get a "Heck yeah"?

RELATED: It's Completely Fine To Swear In Front Of Kids, Says Science


Richard Stephens and his Keele University colleagues found in 2017 that swearing helps with pain management (which explains why profanities seem to be the secret weapon for curing a stubbed toe, healing a funny bone collision . . . and dealing with kids).

However, the UK researchers decided to test out their hypothesis that vulgar words may pose actual physical benefits during a sweat session.

So they gathered a handful of participants to partake in two different exercises while repeating either their favorite profanity or a neutral word.

RELATED: Thinking About The Gym Is Just As Effective As Going, According To Research


The first round had 29 people cycling for a short yet intense session, and researchers discovered that those who swore were stronger than those who uttered a non-cursing word.

"On one measure of power in the first five seconds, it was a four percent increase in the swearing vs non-swearing group, then across the full 30 seconds it was about two percent increase," Stephens told Newsweek.

The second exercise involved 52 people doing a handgrip test, and it revealed that those who swore repeatedly showed about an eight percent stronger grip compared to those who didn't. "This still measures performance, but it isn't as extreme. In the grip task they produced about eight percent stronger grip in swearing vs. non-swearing," Stephens explains.

RELATED: A Doctor Shares Some 'Really Phenomenal News' For People Who Don't Exercise At All


"The reason we ran this study was that we were anticipating this fight or flight response.

But our data don't support that at all. So we don't really know [what swearing does]. It could have to do with pain tolerance. If you look at pain literature there are many different strategies people can employ to reduce pain perception. Even distracting somebody can reduce pain — if you were getting pain relief then that might allow you to perform better.

"But we also consider whether it could be what psychologists call generalized inhibition. In other words, when you swear, you just don't care as much. You're just not as self-conscious. It could be that. That would be interesting because that would suggest swearing might help beyond physical tasks."

Though those percentages aren't that high, you better believe it still makes us pretty darn stoked. Let those cuss words fly, and don't feel bad about it when everyone around you at the gym looks at you funny, you're doing everything you can to make your workout super-effective.


RELATED: I'm A Liberal Parent — But Even I Don't Let My Kids Say These Words

Victoria Messina is an Editor on POPSUGAR's Breaking News team. Her writing has also been published in Her Campus, SheKnows, College Fashionista, WUFT News, and The Independent Florida Alligator.