The Monty Python ‘Silly Walk’ Is Actually Great Exercise, A Very Serious Study Finds
We’re always looking for shortcuts to getting in shape, but the best one might be more obvious and embarrassing than previously thought. It’s not about working out in a sauna suit or at intense intervals — you just have to be willing to walk around like a complete idiot.
The Holy Grail of low-effort exercise can be found in a Monty Python sketch dating back to 1970, featuring Mr. Teabag (John Cleese) and Mr. Putey (Michael Palin) as the legs and feet behind the Ministry of Silly Walks.
For those unfamiliar with an exaggerated “Mr. Teabag walk,” researchers from the University of Virginia, Kansas State University and Arizona State University conveniently outlined it in a diagram in a recent study:
Moreover, they monitored the walks of 13 healthy adults (six women and seven men) across three different five-minute courses — one with a normal walk; one with a slightly goofy “Putey walk”; and one with an unhinged Mr. Teabag walk. After analyzing the participants’ speed, oxygen uptake, energy expenditure and exercise intensity, they found that Mr. Teabag walking resulted in two-and-a-half times as much energy expenditure as regular walking.
Admittedly, the findings were published in the British Medical Journal’s Christmas Issue, which historically has a humorous bent, but they’re still grounded in science rather than satire. To that end, the study authors earnestly point out that “adults could achieve 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity per week by walking in Teabag style — rather than their usual style — for about 11 minutes per day.”
They similarly recommend that substituting regular walking with “Teabag-style steps” for about 12 to 19 minutes a day would increase daily energy expenditure by approximately 100 kilocalories. “Half a century ago, the Ministry of Silly Walks skit might have unwittingly touched on a powerful way to enhance cardiovascular fitness in adults,” the researchers concluded. “Increasing the inefficiency of physical activity and movement that we already perform (thereby requiring no further time commitment) might complement other public-health efforts to promote regular physical activity in a joyful way. Efforts to boost cardiovascular fitness should embrace inclusivity and inefficiency for all.”
So if you’re looking to skip the gym but stay in shape, walking Teabag-style might make you look ridiculous, but also swole as hell.