When we see little kids running around while chewing gum or food, we always tell them to stop and either spit out their gum or finish eating before they continue going in circles. Now, we do that because, as adults, we realize that chewing while actively running can lead to the child choking, especially if they try to swallow the gum while moving. This universal rule we learn as kids tends to be something we remember forever, and it’s why most people consider it dangerous to chew gum while running.
Well, in this article, we’re going to try to break the stereotype. In partnership with our friends from the running blog Pace Passion, we’ve prepared a short piece in which we’re going to go over all the benefits and potential risks of chewing gum while running.
And so, if that sounds like something you would want to learn more about, then keep on reading.
What Are the Benefits of Chewing Gum While Running?
If someone told you to chew gum while running, you’d probably think they’re insane – after all, isn’t that dangerous? However, the reality is that it can be helpful to you as a runner in various ways, and it’s likely a lot safer than what you were taught to believe.
The most obvious benefit of chewing gum is the fact that it can help increase your endurance – the act of chewing activates the muscles in your jaw and increases blood flow to the head, thus enabling you to run for longer before fatigue kicks in. Additionally, for many people, chewing gum is a stress-relieving act – helping them get rid of negative thoughts and feelings, which while running, can also mean distracting you from any pain, boredom, or discomfort you might be feeling that would otherwise have a bad effect on your performance.
Surprisingly enough, chewing gum can also be used as a way to maintain a specific pace – when you get caught up in the motions of your jaw, you stop thinking so much about the speed, and you end up making consistent steps with a pace that feels comfortable for you and doesn’t get you out of breath. It may be interesting for you to learn that chewing gum during exercise has been shown to increase the level of alertness experienced by athletes by stimulating both their physical and mental energy levels – something particularly helpful during long-distance runs when you need to maintain focus for more than 1-2 hours, sometimes more.
Having said that, one of the primary reasons people chew gum in the first place is stress relief. There are some studies that suggest chewing gum prior to exercise or before a competition can help lower anxiety levels and lead to better performance by the athlete, giving us yet another reason why you might want to consider it.
And What Are the Risks?
When you start running, especially if you want to cover long distances, you realize that breathing correctly is of crucial importance. Knowing when to draw a breath and when to let one out is vital for maintaining pace, and unfortunately, chewing gum doesn’t help at all. If you’ve chosen a stronger flavor of gum – peppermint, for example, you will find it difficult to get air into your lungs. That not only affects performance but can also lead to an increased risk of injury if you start to hyperventilate due to lack of oxygen.
Funnily enough, chewing gum can also cause jaw pain and even cramps, especially if you’re doing it too vigorously or you’ve decided to chew on multiple pieces of gum. To top it all off, eating sugary gums while running can lead to an increased risk of tooth decay due to the constant exposure of saliva mixed with sweeteners inside your mouth. As we all know, that can contribute towards tooth enamel erosion over time and may cause cavities – which are not only painful but costly as they require at least a few visits to the dentist’s office.
Finally, if you chew gum while you exercise, you’re at risk of swallowing the gum midway through the movement – this will not only restrict your airflow but may also cause you to choke, in which case you will need to either cough it out or have the Heimlich maneuver performed on you, both of which not particularly pleasant experiences.
Hopefully, by now, we’ve helped you learn all about the risks and benefits associated with chewing gum while running. Contrary to what we believed as kids, chewing gum is not all bad, and it does have some incredible stress-relieving properties. The reality is that it does have a few benefits, especially when it comes to long-distance running, as it helps avoid dehydration and also keeps the mind busy. However, we’d still recommend you to be mindful when you do it, as it also has some pretty significant risks, such as choking, which can quickly turn dangerous, especially if it happens to you when you’re alone on the road.