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If You Can Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time, Should You? Study Says, Yes

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Key Takeaways

  • Chewing gum while walking may increase energy expenditure.
  • Increasing daily step count is an expert-approved method for boosting NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis).
  • Chewing gum may aid in adherence to nutritional goals.


You may have heard the self-deprecating bit about those who fail to multitask: “I can’t even chew gum and walk at the same time.” A recent study now begs the question—if you can manage both those tasks simultaneously, is there a benefit?

About the Study

Fifty participants (25 each male and female) participated in a randomized, single-blind, controlled, cross-over study examining the effects of chewing gum while walking for 15 minutes. Each participant randomly completed both a gum-chewing trial and a fast-dissolving pellet trial. 

When compared with the pellets, the gum-chewing trials resulted in significantly higher walking distance, step count, walking speed, heart rate, and energy expenditure.

This study is only the latest to highlight the benefits of chewing gum on various health parameters. For instance, a previous study indicated that chewing gum can increase satiety in healthy men without obesity, while another demonstrated the appetite-suppressant capacity of gum-chewing in a mixed-gender group.

Getting Started

Experts agree that you should not put the cart before the horse, or in this case, a stick of gum before the activity at hand, though.

Brooke Rosenfeld, RDN

Walking is an unsung hero when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight and boosting our overall health.

— Brooke Rosenfeld, RDN

Guidelines for daily distance and step count vary based on individual goals, but spending more time putting one foot in front of the other is a step in the right direction for overall health. 

“Walking is an unsung hero when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight and boosting our overall health,” says Brooke Rosenfeld, RDN, senior registered dietitian-nutritionist at Be Strong Stay Fit. “It has been shown to decrease our risk of chronic disease, help strengthen our bones, improve our balance, boost our mood - the list goes on. It requires no gym membership, it can be done anywhere at any time.”

Ruben Borges, CPPS, a certified performance preparation specialist and creator of the Glute World Order Training Program, notes that walking is an important part of an overall fitness regimen. If 20 minutes doesn’t fit into your schedule, making time for a couple of brisk strolls for 10 minutes each is just as good a place to start.

“A big part of getting my clients in a rhythm of consistent movement is letting them know how important and effective walking is,” says Borges. “A 20-minute walk is the most underrated form of cardio. It is phenomenal for assisting in burning fat and getting movement in for the day.”

Pros and Cons of Gum Chewing

Chewing gum may seem like a harmless enough activity, and in some cases it can act as an appetite suppressant. However, depending on your mastication style, you will inevitably end up swallowing air as you chew, which has the potential to cause some gastrointestinal discomfort. 

Ruben Borges, CPPS

If I am working with a client on a healthy caloric deficit program, then a big tip I’ll give my clients if they have an urge to binge, is to drink a glass of water and chew a piece of gum.

— Ruben Borges, CPPS

If you’re already a frequent chewer, go ahead and give the method a go. There are also other situations in which reaching for a stick of gum can be helpful, says Borges.

“Gum chewing also helps me curb my appetite and avoid too many sweets or unwanted cravings—this was especially helpful when I was prepping for my Men’s Physique Show," he says. 

But bodybuilders taking to the stage aren’t the only ones who might benefit from this strategy.  

“If I am working with a client on a healthy caloric deficit program, then a big tip I’ll give my clients if they have an urge to binge, is to drink a glass of water and chew a piece of gum," he adds.

Enhancing Walking Sans Mastication

The hypothesized mechanism by which gum seems to enhance walking is referred to as cardiac-locomotor synchronization (CLS) or cardiac-locomotor coupling. CLS describes when body movement (locomotor activity) synchronizes with heart rate (cardiac activity). The researchers theorize that chewing gum while walking increases a person's heart rate, and the person moves their body faster to match that pace.

You don't have to go running to the gum and candy aisle if chewing while walking is more than you can manage, or more likely, just not appealing. Raising your heart rate through more enjoyable methods like music would also work. Numerous bodies of research have established how listening to music can enhance various types of exercise.

As for adding walking to your daily routine, Rosenfeld offers a number of ideas. “Add a walk first thing in the morning and perhaps after dinner," she says. "If you make plans with your friend to have coffee or receive a phone call, walk and talk! Take an extra lap around the grocery store. Park in a spot far away from the entrance of wherever you're going."

You also can walk in place in front of the TV, take the stairs instead of an elevator, and set reminders on your phone to get up and walk around the office or house every so often.

"Every little bit helps and counts," she says.

What This Means For You

Walking is a low-cost form of exercise which experts agree nearly everyone should do, regardless of age or specific goals. If you enjoy chewing gum, it appears to be a relatively low-risk and potentially beneficial addition to your existing walking routine. Just be sure to talk to a healthcare provider before beginning a new exercise regimen to help determine what's right for you.

 

 

 

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