Chewing gum while walking elevates the heart rate and makes people walk faster, meaning they could be burning more calories, research says.
A study of the effects of chewing gum on people’s heart rate while they walk found chewers walk further, have higher heart rates and expend more energy.
During a 15 minute period people chewing gum walk on average 12 metres further and their heart rate is three beats-per-minute higher.
Researchers from the Waseda University in Tokyo say their findings suggest chewing gum and exercising at the same time could help people manage their weight.
Chewing gum has been shown to increase heart rate while resting but this study was the first to examine changes during activity.
Dr Yuka Hamada, the study’s lead author, hopes the team’s findings on chewing gum could help people to lose weight
The study, led by Dr Yuka Hamada, studied the effects of chewing gum in 46 men and women aged between 21 and 69.
Those who chewed while walking cover more distance in the same time, and their average heart rate is significantly higher – and it increases significantly more from their resting heart rate.
Comparing a person’s weight with the distance walked allowed the researchers to estimate how many calories they burn, and showed those chewing gum burn more.
And the effects were most noticeable among middle-aged and elderly men, who had the biggest change in heart rate, distance walked and calories burned.
Chewing gum while exercising could help fight obesity
The scientists said the findings could help people burn more calories during exercise as obesity becomes a worldwide crisis.
They said: ‘Obesity has become widespread, and a global obesity pandemic has been reported.
‘Obesity has been reported to be related to the development of various chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases, metabolic diseases, musculoskeletal disorders, and cancer.
‘To prevent the onset and progression of these chronic diseases, effective preventive methods and treatments for obesity are needed.
‘Gum chewing has been reported to stimulate sympathetic nervous activity, and increase heart rate and energy expenditure.
‘Therefore, because gum chewing increases the body’s energy expenditure, it may be an effective method of weight management.
What is obesity?
Obesity is a condition in which someone is very overweight and has a lot of body fat.
Generally, people with a BMI of 30+ are considered obese. A BMI of between 18 and 24.9 is healthy.
In the UK an estimated 25 per cent of adults are obese, and 20 per cent of children aged 10-11.
Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes, heart disease and stroke, some types of cancer, and numerous other serious health problems.
It is generally caused by people eating more calories than they burn off – particularly if their food is high in fat or sugar.
The best way to prevent or tackle obesity is to eat a healthy, balanced diet and to do regular exercise – the NHS recommends between two-and-a-half and five hours per week.
Source: NHS Choices
‘In addition, because exercise increases the energy expenditure, gum chewing while simultaneously exercising is expected to increase [the number of calories burned] more than either exercise or gum chewing alone.’
How the research was carried out
There have been a number of studies which examined the effect of chewing gum on the body while at rest, but until now none have focused specifically on how it impacts the body while walking.
Each of the study’s 46 participants took part in two trials.
In one, they were given two pellets of gum to chew while walking at their natural pace for 15 minutes after a one-hour rest period.
The control trial involved the same one-hour rest and 15 minute walk, and participants were given a powder to ingest which contained the same ingredients as gum, but did not require them to chew.
Scientists measured the individuals’ resting heart rate, average heart rate during walking, distance covered, and the rate at which they took steps.
Their walking speed was calculated from the distance travelled during the 15 minutes.
The number of calories they burned during the walk was estimated based on their walking speed and body weight.
While both men and women had a higher heart rate and a significantly bigger change in heart rate when they were chewing gum, men also walked further and faster.
The team’s research was presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Vienna.
Effects are strongest in older men
The biggest effects were seen in middle-aged and elderly men, who have the biggest change in heart rate while walking, the biggest distance increase, and the highest number of extra calories burned.
The authors added: ‘Chewing gum while walking affects a number of physical and physiological functions in men and women of all ages.
‘Our study also indicates that gum chewing while walking increased the walking distance and energy expenditure of middle-aged and elderly male participants in particular.’