The Hidden Exercise Risk No One Talks About


By: , – Dana Gore, Certified Personal Trainer
  :  114 comments   :  248,491 Views

I thought I knew a thing or two about diet and exercise. For example, I knew how to do a squat, and that avoiding carbs altogether wasn’t necessarily a wise thing to do.

Then I enrolled in personal training school and realized just how much I didn’t know.
To be perfectly honest, I had never really given any thought to the subject of exercise safety – and it took getting a formal education to bring it to my awareness.

When you want to lose weight and get in shape, you focus on the important things: what foods to eat, which fitness program to follow and how to balance your calories in vs. calories out. Of course these factors are normal and helpful, but when it comes to exercise—an activity designed to bring you optimal health and well-being—there are hidden dangers lurking beneath the surface if you aren't paying attention.

One of those hidden dangers is the act of chewing gum during exercise.

When you work out, you breathe harder, heavier and faster than normal—and often through the mouth.  If you are engaging in high-intensity exercises, as many of the popular weight-loss programs have been promoting within the last couple of years, then there is a pretty good chance that you are breathing quite heavily during your workout.

Now imagine that you are exercising with a piece of gum in your mouth and suddenly, without warning, it gets lodged in your throat and you begin to choke.

Would you be able to do something about this? If you were alone, the chances are pretty slim. If you were at a fitness facility, you would have to depend on the gym staff to know how to administer the appropriate protocol to try to save your life.
I know it isn’t a pleasant thought, and I’m not trying to scare you.

But since many of the gyms out there don’t necessarily require their staff to know the lifesaving techniques required to remove this foreign object that is blocking your airway, you may or may not survive the incident.

And if you were lucky enough to have someone around who knew how to perform the abdominal thrusts in an effort to remove the objects that people normally choke on (such as food or candy), it’s important to understand that choking on gum is an entirely different situation.

Since gum is flexible in texture, it tends to mold itself to fit perfectly in the airway once it gets stuck. This means that not only is it more challenging to expel gum even if the correct technique is applied by a qualified rescuer, but that there really are no guarantees that it will work.

And the longer the gum remains stuck in the airway, the longer the brain is deprived of oxygen, the effects of which can range from mild to severe. So if you do happen to survive the incident, you may or may not have lasting consequences to deal with, such as brain damage, reduced cognitive abilities or memory and problems with attention span. This is a risk you can easily avoid.

The truth is: If someone is capable of choking on his or her food while calmly sitting and dining (and this happens frequently), then it’s definitely possible that it can happen during exercise. I cannot tell you how often this habit is overlooked, which is why I am bringing it to your attention.

I certainly didn’t know, and would have remained unaware if it hadn’t been intentionally brought up one evening in class. In fact, during this particular lecture on the dangers of chewing gum while exercising, Dr. Abbott (the president and chief instructor of the school) informed us that while discussing this topic in the past, three of his students admitted to having witnessed someone choke on their gum while working out in the gym--and all three died.

If you happen to like having something around to help cope with the effects of a dry mouth that exercise sometimes causes, then a helpful suggestion is to keep some cold and refreshing lemon water around while you work out, and then enjoy your gum after your workout once your breathing has returned to normal.

Considering that this isn’t a common topic of discussion, I felt it was my responsibility to make sure that others had access to this lifesaving advice as well.
So given that healthy-living is the overall goal, doesn’t it make sense to be well informed about the possible hidden risks of your fitness program? I think so.  The knowledge that makes it possible to make wise, informed and deliberate decisions in an effort to live our best lives is a precious gift.

Are you guilty of chewing gum during your workouts? Have you ever had a close call because of it?

About The Author
Creator of and author of the book "A Simple Guide to Exercise Safety: What You Don't Know CAN Hurt You," Dana Gore completed the curriculum at Fitness Institute International, Inc. as an outstanding graduate in 2009.

Dana brings guidance to the public about how to achieve optimal health in a safe and structured manner. She believes that the body follows the guidance and instruction of the mind and spirit while inspiring her readers to seek self-awareness and inner peace as a means to well-being in all areas of life.

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  • 114
    Why would you be chewing gum while exercising anyway? This seems like common sense. - 6/7/2017   10:19:09 PM
  • 113
    Do not chewvgum, but this makes sense. - 5/27/2017   12:32:59 AM
  • 112
    I have always chewed gum while working out. I have read this article many times. I do keep in mine I am chewing gum and make sure I am careful. If I didn't chew gum, my lips would be dried out and I would find myself very thirsty. I do keep a bottle of water on me at all times. But if you are out walking a trail, water is not easily available. Just be careful and always exercise where there are people close.
    - 5/24/2017   10:22:56 AM
    I use to chew gum all the time, then all of a sudden I simply stopped chewing gum. Not sure why, but good to know that I don't have to worry about it since I no longer chew gum. - 5/4/2017   1:08:11 PM
    Don't chew gum while exercising! - 4/23/2017   8:33:34 AM
  • 109
    I never chew gum. Gave it up years ago. Disgusting habit. - 10/2/2016   12:08:35 PM
  • FAT-DOG2
    I used to always chew gum whilst playing tennis, but luckily stopped before I read this article, now I know why very informative. - 10/2/2016   5:49:58 AM
  • 107
    There is a woman in my aqua aerobics class who chews gum. She's been told this isn't allowed in the pool, so now instead of chewing on it she just stashes it in her cheek and only gives it a chew every once in a while. I don't understand why you'd take the risk. - 9/16/2016   9:08:37 AM
  • 106
    If bubblegum lodges in your windpipe you would blow a big bubble when you tried to breathe out.

    I would say nothing in your mouth when you exercise, depending on the type of exercise. I make it a point not to have anything in my mouth when I practice karate, and when I lift weights, since some of the time I'm laying on my back. - 7/24/2016   7:27:49 PM
    And remember to not chew gum or eat candy if you are on a ride at the amusement park. People have died while doing this. - 7/24/2016   5:12:45 PM
  • 104
    I choked on a piece of gum while playing volleyball. It was an incredibly scary experience, people were standing and staring but nobody seemed to realize I was choking so no one tried to help. I was able to cough it up eventually, but it was one the most frightening things I've been through. It happened over 25 years ago while I was in high school but I remember it like it was yesterday. - 7/24/2016   3:29:08 PM
  • 103
    I usually chew gum while exercising, but now I am not tempted to do it at all, ever again!! Holy crap! I usually exercise alone too. Thank you for this potentially life-saving info! - 7/24/2016   11:22:26 AM
  • 102
    That's why the old joke about someone not being "able to walk and chew gum" are still around!! I have seen people choke while walking and chewing gum! To the dummy who doesn't believe it can happen in the gym, someone should kick you in the butt, I assume you can keep your gum in your mouth while that happens to you, with no circumstance.... - 7/24/2016   11:13:29 AM
  • LANCE500
    I had chewed gum in the past while lifting weighs but the gum was small so it was never a problem if I swallowed it. I used to place it under my tongue on heavy exercise or spitted it out. I could see a choking problem with a size of bubble gum. - 7/24/2016   10:10:15 AM
  • 100
    In all my years of going to the gym, I don't remember anyone chewing gum. While this is good information, I agree with the above comment that I'd want to see some documentation on the deaths. I'm very skeptical. I'm also amused that it took 15 paragraphs to say, "Don't chew gum during workouts; you could choke on it." Of course, that applies to life in general. I would add, "It also makes you look like a cow chewing its cud, and is especially annoying if you chew with your mouth open and snap it constantly." - 7/24/2016   9:34:04 AM
  • 99
    "three of his students admitted to having witnessed someone choke on their gum while working out in the gym--and all three died"

    Call me a skeptic and a person who doesn't cave in to fear mongering. Can you provide the proof of these deaths or is it just hearsay? Claims such as this should be linked to credible sources.
    - 3/3/2016   9:34:37 PM
  • 98
    The only time I chew gum is while walking because I tend to walk for between 1 1/2 to 2 hours. It helps me moderate my water intake so that I don't drink it too fast and then cut my walk short to use the washroom! I keep my water bottle handy when working out and would never chew gum then. - 3/3/2016   4:20:52 PM
  • 97
    Never gave it a thought since I don't chew gum, and have never happened to see anyone at the gym chewing - but this certainly is great information to be aware of because it makes perfect sense. Thanks you so much for this! - 3/3/2016   1:50:33 PM
  • KESA0228
    I never even considered the dangers of chewing gum during a workout as I do this almost every time. It makes total sense. For sure stopping this habit. - 3/3/2016   12:10:37 PM
  • 95
    Makes perfect sense and I've never considered this. Now I know to keep an eye out for others. Thankfully, I'm trained to handle the situation if it were to happen! - 3/3/2016   8:37:40 AM
  • 94
    That's something I'd never even thought about before reading this article. Makes so much sense when you think about it. I used always to have a piece of gum in my mouth when exercising, because it was easier than having to stop to take a few mouthfuls of water. I ran out of gum about 18 months ago and decided if I could work out once without it, I could do without it for good. Didn't imagine what a great idea that was. Thank you for this article - I hope many others read it and take notice. Who knows how many lives it could save. - 3/3/2016   1:34:07 AM
  • 93
    I never chew gum during my workout but I do when I lay down and watch the news at night (I have it especially to curb sugar cravings) . I often am awakened by my gum half way down my throat and have swallowed it sometimes. Thanks for the info.!!! I think I'll pass on the gum from now on while watching TV and just have a snack or chew gum only when I know I can't fall asleep. - 3/3/2016   1:19:06 AM
  • 92
    Thanks for the warning! Sure makes sense to me! - 2/11/2016   12:49:38 PM
  • METOO50
    I also am a gum chewer, but now that I have be informed of what could happen , no more gum chewing while working out.
    Thank You !!!!!!!!!! - 1/21/2016   2:52:59 PM
    Chewing gum is disgusting at the best of times, but while exercising and deep breathing it is both dangerous and grotesque - 11/16/2015   5:13:10 PM
  • 89
    Wow, I never thought of this; chewing gum is just something you do so absentmindedly. I certainly won't do it again. Thank you for sharing. - 11/16/2015   6:27:42 AM
  • 88
    I used to train with gum excessively. However, when I switched to triathlons, you sure can't chew gum and swim, so I stopped chewing during exercise. I am glad that I stopped chewing gum during exercise. I never really thought about choking on it!! - 11/8/2015   10:39:47 AM
  • 87
    Interesting life saving information thanks for sharing. - 8/22/2015   11:16:09 PM
  • 86
    Thanks for taking the time to share this with us Dana!! It's much appreciated. - 8/17/2015   10:35:57 PM
  • 85
    I would suggest that if your gym doesn't require its staff to know first aid, you should check out another gym. Chewing gum while working out, though, is not something that has ever occurred to me but I'm not surprised if some people do it. - 8/14/2015   2:05:55 PM
  • 84
    If your exercise is swimming it is a much more critical issue. We were always cautioned in our nigh school. No gum in the pool. I see grown ups in the pool and it can wash the gum down the windpipe. If the person is in the water people might ignore a life threatening situation. - 7/24/2015   10:42:27 PM
  • 83
    Thank you it was really informative, however, I never chew gum. :) - 7/24/2015   10:58:35 AM
    This was so strange to me. I've never chewed gum while working out and can't imagine doing so or wanting to do so. However, I'm not a habitual gum chewer. I do chew it occasionally, mostly to freshen my breath. I don't worry about that while working out. - 7/24/2015   10:58:35 AM
    I have seen many people at the gyms I have worked out at in the past 30 years chew gum. At one time I was guilty as I would get bored on the elliptical and chew it. But I stopped. However I can't imagine running on a treadmill with gum in my mouth. And you know something, when I hear people smacking their gum while working out while I am trying to exercise, I sometimes wish they would swallow it. It is so rude and annoying! - 7/24/2015   8:50:40 AM
    I always have gum in my mouth during a run. While actually running I keep it between cheek and teeth; then, when I do my alternate walking I chew on the gum. I am on a lot of mouth drying meds and the gum helps with that. Also, during the walk the chewing helps me to control my breathing. Never had a close call, but thanks for the warning. - 3/27/2015   10:09:39 AM
  • 79
    I'll admit, I read this article puzzled as to why you'd class as a health risk something surely no one would do... and then read the comments! Seems bizarre - cant imagine focusing on anything other than breathing during a run or while weight training - 3/26/2015   8:23:19 PM
  • 78
    Well I am a gum chewer while exercising and when not exercising. I enjoy chewing gum. It helps me when working out. Thanks for the warning. I only chew a small piece. Gotta have my gum but I will take heed as the dangers. I've never got choked on gum...but I have swallowed a vitamin the wrong way. I did not choke but it was lodged in my throat funny. I could breath. It was scary my son had to distract me to keep me from panicking. LOL - 10/4/2014   10:58:01 PM
  • 77
    I might have in the past but I hope this brings a stop to it for me at least.It seems to me a lot of athletes chew gum (or?) whilst playing,especially since they aren't supposed to chew tobacco anymore. - 9/29/2014   9:15:00 PM
    I can understand how this could happen, but, I wonder what the statistics are of it actually happening. I usually never chew gum, so, it isn't a problem for me, but, I've never heard of anyone choking on gum while exercising either. But, if it saves even one person's life, it was worth the article. - 8/12/2014   10:45:31 PM
  • 75
    It never even occurred to me to chew gum while doing any form of exercising. I've always had a cup of water or lemon water near me. I learned to always have a water near me from my Freshman in HS Gym teacher. She always carried water with her so she taught us to do the same. She was always telling us to get rid of any gum before the start of gym class. Seeing I was in braces I never chewed gum at all. Yes I know people who did it anyway. But to this day I'm not a gum chewer. I'm more of a water & tea person. - 8/10/2014   5:08:36 PM
  • 74
    Really? All the gym staff here - including the cleaning crew - have to know first aid and would know how to dislodge something stuck in someone's throat. But the thought of chewing gum while working out? That's a danger that should be posted on walls! Good reminder! - 8/10/2014   9:22:08 AM
  • 73
    I see people chewing gum in the swimming pool and that was a big deal if you chew gum. Chewing gum in the pool rewards us a detention. Pat in Maine. - 8/9/2014   11:54:02 PM
  • 72
    I cringe watching baseball players. How they don't chock is beyond me. - 8/9/2014   7:34:31 PM
  • 71
    I find myself chewing while I'm on the treadmill, warming up. When I move to strength training, I spit it out! Guess it's not a good idea!!! - 8/9/2014   6:32:57 PM
  • 70
    WOW - I don't chew gum but I do know friends who do - I'll definitely be bringing this to their attention!! Thanks for the heads up!! - 8/9/2014   3:52:57 PM
    THANK YOU for speaking up about this. As a fitness instructor, I am always worried about this, and try to (subtly and personally) get chewers to spit it out. I once even had to ask a school board member to spit out his gum! - 8/9/2014   11:08:02 AM
    I do not chew gum. In my youth, I was a gum-aholic. I would sometimes chew a whole pack of chicklets at a time. But gum chewing looks dumb! Nobody who chews gum looks intelligent! This is the only addiction I have ever TOTALLY eliminated from my life. I am proud of it. - 8/9/2014   10:24:25 AM
  • 67
    Chewing gum is a huge bad habit of mine. I try not to chew gum while doing intense exercises, but I still find myself struggling when I am walking, or doing other low impact exercise. It is a scary thought, and I wouldn't want to rely on someone else to save me because I was chewing gum. It's something I am going to try harder to quit doing! - 8/9/2014   7:11:37 AM
    This also holds true for children chewing gum while playing team sports...
    even when just outside playing. - 8/9/2014   6:20:59 AM
  • 65
    I chew gum when I'm on the elliptical or going for a walk because my mouth gets so dry from breathing heavily. I keep it tucked in my cheek, and honestly never thought about the fact that I could choke on it - that probably sounds really dumb, but there it is. If I drink too much water while on the elliptical, I get crampy. Guess I'll have to learn how to breathe more through my nose or something to avoid my mouth drying out! - 7/31/2014   8:48:17 AM

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