There's an old insult: That guy's so dumb he can't walk and chew gum at the same time. Turns out that guy wasn't just missing out on the delightful flavors of Fruit Stripe, but on a slimming secret, too. A research study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science reports that chewing gum while walking increases heart rates for men and women and also burns more calories for men. (We're going to have to chew on the sheer unfairness of that for a while.)
Researchers at Waseda University in Tokyo had one group of test subjects chew gum while walking for 15 minutes. The other group swallowed a powder that contained the same ingredients as the gum but wasn't chewable. All participants walked at a natural pace, and their heart rates, distance, speed, steps, and energy expenditure were all measured. In all, 46 people aged 21 to 69 participated in the study.
It turned out that both men and women who'd chewed two pellets of real gum during the walk had significantly increased heart rates when compared with their powdered-gum counterparts. While the gum-chewing women in the survey did not seem to burn additional calories, gum-chewing men aged 40 and older did have a significant response.
"Gum chewing while walking measurably affects physical and physiological functions," researchers concluded.
This study was supported by a research grant from Lotte Co. Ltd., the world's third-largest chewing-gum manufacturer. But it makes sense — your jaws are flapping when you're chewing, and the sheer action of chomping might inspire you to walk more forcefully.
Waseda University professor Masashi Miyashita, one of the study's authors, credits cardiac-locomotor synchronization, a mechanism which synchronizes the cardiac rhythm and locomotor rhythm, for the results.
“It can be concluded that gum chewing increased the heart rate, and CLS possibly led to increases in the physical functions of walking distance and steps,” he said on the university's website. Professor Miyashita did not immediately respond to a request for comment. But if you've been chewing over the idea that gum as a whole is a terrible habit, you might want to file that with this list of 25 other food and exercise myths.