Comedians John Cleese and Michael Palin delighted British TV audiences more than 50 years ago with their silly walking styles. Now scientists say that perhaps that type of walking is not so silly after all.
A study by American researchers has found that by imitating the comedians and walking inefficiently for only a few minutes daily, adults can attain their physical activity targets more easily and more effectively.Read More »
Increases heart health
The researchers in this study are hoping, too, that what they call inefficient walking as portrayed in the Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks sketch in 1971 will help to achieve what campaigns over the past 20 years have failed to do—to boost worldwide rates of physical activity and thereby increase heart health among adults.
The character in the sketch played by John Cleese was known as “Mr. Teabag” and that played by Michael Palin was called “Mr. Putey.”
Up to now no scientists have measured the amount of energy put into low efficiency walking compared with high efficiency walking such as that demonstrated by the comedians.
How the study was conducted
Thirteen healthy adults (seven men and six women) aged 22 to 71, took part in the study. Their average age is 34. None of the participants had a history of lung or heart disease, nor any walking disorder.
After measuring the body weight and height of each participant, the researchers showed them a video of the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch. They then asked the participants to walk three times around an indoor course covering about 30 yards. Each walking test lasted for five minutes.
Three walking tests
Participants first walked at their own pace in the way in which they regularly walked.
In the second two tests participants were asked to imitate —as far as they could—the walking styles of Mr. Putey and Mr. Teabag that they had seen in the video.
Far greater energy output
The result was that the research team found that the Mr. Teabag walk resulted in a markedly greater output of energy, which amounted to about two-and-a-half times that of general walking. The Mr. Teabag walk far outperformed that of regular walking as well as the Mr. Putey type of walking.
Normally, adults have an oxygen uptake amounting to 11.3 mL/kg/min (3.2 METs) when they walk. Similar results were found in the study. The Mr. Putey walk was found to result in an oxygen uptake that was only slightly higher—12.3 mL/kg/min (3.5 METs).
The Mr. Teabag walk, however, resulted in a substantially higher oxygen uptake of 27.9 mL/kg/min (8 METs). That style of walking, therefore, was found to qualify as “vigorous intensity exercise.”
Only 11 minutes a day
The researchers calculate that adults can gain the equivalent of 75 minutes a week of intense and vigorous physical exercise by walking in Teabag style—as opposed to their usual walking style—in just 11 minutes a day.
That amount of walking in Teabag style is likely to boost cardiorespiratory fitness, cut your risk of death, and would take no additional time out of your busy day because it replaces activity that you already undertake with a higher physical activity that takes up more energy.
Some are unable to walk in this way
The research team concedes that this study is based on a small sample. They also recognize that some people might not be able to perform either the Teabag or Putey walks because they suffer from disorders in their walking, disabilities, joint disease, or other conditions.
Those people, however, might be able to increase the amount of energy that they use up in their daily movements by setting inefficient walking as their aim, the researchers add.
They also note that bursts of physical activity lasting for only one or two minutes can build up over time to deliver heart benefits. People therefore could undertake regular bursts of inefficient walking at places and times that are more suitable for them, such as indoors.
Clearly walking like Mr. Teabag outdoors where you can be seen by many people might be unsuitable for most people.
Move more energetically
The bottom line of the study is that its finding can encourage people to move their bodies in ways that are more energetic and also more joyful, the researchers say.
Efforts to improve their heart health should include inefficiency and inclusivity for all, they note.
In short, silly walking is one way it can pay for you to be inefficient.
The study appears in the British Medical Journal.