Damn it To Heck – And Other Health News

by DavalosMcCormack on July 14, 2009

So, I read this study the other day that said that swearing can make you feel better. I thought. No shit! And instantly I felt better. Ain’t science amazing!

But it’s true. Researchers at Keele University’s School of Psychology did a fiendishly clever little study that found that swearing can help ease pain and even increase your tolerance for pain.

They got 64 undergraduate volunteers (those crazy kids will do anything) and got them to stick their hand in a tub of ice-cold water and hold it there as long as possible. They did this twice. First time around they were told to keep repeating a swear word of their own choosing. Second time around they were asked to keep repeating a word they would use to describe a table. Why a table I have no idea!

Anyway, that’s not the point. The point is that they found that when the students were saying “dammit dammit dammit ” they were able to keep their hand in the ice water longer than when they were just saying “desk desk desk”.

In another interesting finding they noted that when the students were swearing their heart rates were higher than when they weren’t.

So why is this happening, what does it all mean? I don’t friggin’ know. Gosh, that felt good.

The researchers don’t really know either to be honest but they think that it could be because when you curse you are triggering the brain’s natural “fight or flight” response and that heightened response to a perceived threat – even something as relatively benign as ice-water – helps increase our tolerance for pain.

So, next time a doctor or nurse comes at you with a syringe to give you an injection start cursing like a drunken sailor. Then tell them you are just exercising a scientifically-tested, non-pharmaceutical pain relief method. And if they don’t believe you, well screw them! See, didn’t that feel good!

Working Out at Work

Years ago, when I was still a TV producer, we had a gym at work. It was great. On what passed for relatively quiet days I could sometimes slip away and have a quick workout, either on the stairmaster or lifting weights. Sometimes I even wrote a script while peddling on a bike. It was a great way to ease the stress and tension of the job and stay healthy at the same time. And it is a lot cheaper and less messy than heroin.

Now a new study, in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, is saying just how and why that kind of at-work workout is good for you.

The researchers randomly assigned 841 Danish officer workers (the researchers were Danish too, so this wasn’t just some ploy by folks in Arkansas looking for a way to wangle a free trip to Copenhagen) to two exercise groups. One group did a variety of all-round exercises such as walking or running etc. The second group did strength training, focusing mostly on the neck, shoulders and back.

There was a third group but they didn’t do any exercise at all so forget them.

Anyway, both the aerobic and the strength training group both saw improvements in their cardiovascular health, including a decrease in both blood pressure and body fat. This wasn’t some small decrease either; in both groups the decrease in blood pressure was enough to cut their risk of a stroke by 25 percent. Pretty impressive stuff.

Both groups also reported fewer problems with back and shoulder pain, about a 30 percent reduction. Again nothing to turn your nose up at.

Now, there have been many studies that show having a place to exercise at work can help reduce disability, decrease the number of sick days employees take and even increase productivity.

This study didn’t look at any of those, it just focused on the health benefits to the workers. But the findings were pretty impressive.

And you know what, even though they didn’t measure it, I’m guessing that people felt better not just physically, but also emotionally. When you break away from whatever you are doing at work and jump around or lift weights or just do some physical activity, it can be wonderfully freeing.

It is amazing how often a problem you were struggling with when you went into the gym is no longer an issue when you come out. It’s also fascinating how often you can find come up with creative solutions to issues after a workout. Just by stopping thinking about a problem, concentrating on something else, your mind is able to come up with a creative solution that it couldn’t when you were just staring at the computer screen.

It’s good for the brain, good for the body. Goddamit, it’s good for you. OK.. enough with the swearing jokes.

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