Our headline is adopting the comic strip convention of using symbols to denote swear words because we are intrigued by a report that swearing may have some health benefits. Certainly in our personal lives, we all have felt the satisfaction of exclaiming some forbidden expletive when hitting our thumb with a hammer or as a way of relieving the deep frustration we experience after standing in line and when you reach the box office discovering that the show you wanted to see is sold out. But as a way to reduce pain? and increase strength? Well maybe...
Psychology investigators at Britain's Keele University have conducted a series of investigations in which they found that swearing made individuals more tolerant of pain. They went on to test whether swearing also increased individuals' ability to perform intense exercise and also deepened the strength of their handgrips.
They tested 29 people in an intense anaerobic exercise regimen and found that their power increased after they had used swear words at the outset compared with the same exercise conducted without swearing. Similarly, in a test of handgrip strength of 52 participants, they found that their grips were stronger following a bout of swearing compared with not swearing.
The investigators initially surmised that swearing stimulates the body's sympathetic nervous system-the fight-or-flight mechanism that increases heart rate and affects energy metabolism, among other things. But when they looked for typical sympathetic system changes they found nothing significant. So now it's back to the drawing board to search for answers. But their findings still hold.