The old quip about being able to walk and chew gum at the same time could turn into a health adage.
A new study published in The Journal of Physical Therapy Science found that chewing gum while walking increases heart rates for both men and women — and burns more calories for men.
For the study, researchers at Tokyo’s Waseda University divided 46 female and male test subjects (ages 21 to 69) into two groups. One group chewed two different sizes of gum while walking for 15 minutes at a normal pace. The second group also walked for 15 minutes, but swallowed a powder which contained the same ingredients as gum but didn’t require chewing.
Researchers tested subjects’ resting and average heart rates while walking as well as the distance covered and walking cadence. They also calculated how much energy was expended by comparing average walking speed and body mass.
After calculating the data, the researchers discovered that the average heart rate for both genders significantly increased while walking and chewing gum. But men who were 40 and older burned additional calories while walking and chewing gum while women did not have a significantly different response when it came to calories.
The average walking distance and walking speed were also significantly higher for middle-aged and elderly males, which likely accounted for at least some of the calorie expenditure.
The exact mechanism for the change was not specified in the study. But the researchers speculated that the heart rate increase was linked to cardiac-locomotor synchronization, a mechanism which synchronizes the cardiac rhythm and an individual’s locomotor rhythm.
The effects of chewing gum have been studied for decades. A 1999 study in the New England Journal of Medicine called “The Energy Expended in Gum Chewing” found that seated test subjects used 19 percent more energy when they chewed zero-calorie gum. If they did nothing but sit and chew gum, researcher calculated that they would lose 11 pounds at the end of a year.