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The Hidden Exercise Risk No One Talks About

By , Dana Gore, Certified Personal Trainer
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 IChooseAwareness.com 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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NIOMIW 8/15/2020
Thank you! I'm sure there are more safety issues that don't seem obvious that we should know. Report
GRALAN 8/12/2020
As an instructor of First Aid and CPR for healthcare providers to medical staff to bus drivers and babysitters, I can say that I'm glad to read your article here and I wish more folks practiced "safe" exercising. There are too many things people do by rote, without thinking about it; including driving, chopping vegetables, listening to music loudly as they drive, run or walk, etc.
It is surprising more folks don't die from stupid things. It is sad that there are folks who continue to do so. Report
I really can't even imagine chewing gum while working out. Report
My dad never let us chew gum when I was young, so I didn't develop the habit. Report
ILOVEROSES 7/26/2020
I never chew gum. It's a great article. Report
WILDKAT781 7/25/2020
don't chew gum anyway, but good tip Report
JAMER123 7/24/2020
Good article on safety for each individual. Report
ACIMPEGGY 7/24/2020
Wow! Never thought of it. And I sometimes chew gum on my elliptical exercise bike alone in my apartment.

Thanks!! Report
SHOAPIE 7/24/2020
Rarely chew gum, but if I did while exercising, I’m sure I’d bite my tongue! Report
Great article! Report
Nice to know. Now, since my gym has indicated they will not be opening again until 2021 due to the pandemic, I guess I will not chew gum while exercising to my workout DVDs. :) Report
DAWNGW 7/24/2020
something I've never done... I think that having gum in my mouth while working out would annoy me. I never gave it any thought; glad that it's opening some people's eyes who do chew gum during workouts. Report
1CRAZYDOG 7/24/2020
Never would have thought of chewing gum while workin out. Thanks for the warning. Common sense, really. Report
TRISH8456 7/24/2020
Common sense don't you think???
JILLIAN0216 7/24/2020
Good advice. I never would think to chew gum while exercising. Report
I would have never thought about chewing gum while working out. Great information for those who might do this though. Report
AQUAGIRL08 7/24/2020
I never chew gum when I exercise. Thank you for the reminder! Report
NELLJONES 7/24/2020
I never thought about this before. Report
PLCHAPPELL 7/24/2020
Not guilty Report
RACHAEL2020 7/24/2020
After reading the comments, there are pros and cons of chewing gum during exercise. This is something to ponder on. Report
KITTYHAWK1949 7/24/2020
interesting but I am not a gum chewer so not likely to happen to me Report
PATRICIAAK 7/23/2020
:) Report
WILDKAT781 7/12/2020
excellent point Report
NEKO2019 7/10/2020
I have Sjorgren's Syndrome (along w/ RA) and a swallowing disorder. There are products that are supposed to help but they are not all that effective. Yes, gum and hard candies are things that can help a bit but also can be dangerous during activity. I suspect most people take the ability to swallow for granted. Report
ALICIA363 7/10/2020
My gym prohibits gum, so that takes care of that! Report
Thanks Report
RO2BENT 4/9/2020
No way, not me Report
ROBINRS 4/4/2020
interesting. Had never thought of this. Report
thanks Report
CD25342329 1/17/2020
Wow--did not know that...fortunately I never chew gum but if I see someone chewing gum, I let them know the danger...thanks... Report
PATRICIAAK 11/24/2019
good point Report
POSEY440 11/19/2019
Great information
KHALIA2 11/16/2019
Thanks! Report
Great information. Thanks. Report
No gum during my workouts. Thanks for the reminder. Report
I did the heimlich on a gal at a party because no one else noticed she was choking. Instead of thanking me she said it happens all the time. My point is why take a chance when exercising to have anything in your mouth whether it be hard candy or gum? Report
Important to Know-makes sense with or without death/frequency statistics* Report
Wow - I never thought of that at all. Very informative. Report
Our gym has posters explaining that chewing gum is very dangerous and therefore not allowed. This is scary stuff. Report
Thank you! Report
Thanks I’m glad I gave up gum chewing a long time ago Report
Good thing I gave up chewing gum, but years ago I did chew gum while at the gym----thankfully that doesn't happen any more. That is dangerous and never thought about the danger before reading this article. Report
Thanks, good need-to-know information! Report
OMG I had NO idea! I have taken several first aid and CPR classes and nobody has ever talked about the dangers of gum!!! i never pay it any mind when i am chewing gum- but will be absolutely certain never to chew it while working out or performing any physical activity now! Report
Interesting article. Report
interesting Report
Great information. Thanks. Report
Great article! Report
Good point Report
Wow-I'm sure you have saved lives here with this article-mine included. Never gave this a second thought. I don't chew gum but I do carry hard candy when I exercise and I'm very aware of choking-Thanks! Report
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