Can I chew gum while working out?

Your questions answered.

Chewing-GUm

Q  | My trainer makes me spit out my gum before I start working out. Why can’t I chew while exercising?

A | There are several reasons why your trainer is asking you to ditch the gum during a workout.

In addition to presenting a choking hazard, gum can make breathing through your mouth more difficult by lowering your respiratory rate and increasing stress on your trapezius muscles, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

Chewing gum — even the sugar-free variety — also poses certain health risks: Several studies have found that aspartame, one of the most common artificial sweeteners in gum, can overstimulate nerve endings and increase muscle tension. Other common artificial sweeteners have been linked to digestive distress — an undesirable consequence both in and out of the gym. (For more on gum, see “Taking a Bite Out of Gum“.)

If you are disinclined to give up chewing gum during your workouts, you might consider why. If you chew for fresh breath, you might be better off brushing your teeth before you hit the fitness floor. If you chew to increase saliva production, try drinking more water instead.

Wendy Watkins is a personal trainer and group fitness instructor in Bangor, Maine.

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