Monty Python's Silly 'Teabag' Walk May Have Actual Health Benefits: Study

Want a silly yet effective way to reach the daily physical activity targets? Try the British comedy troupe Monty Python's Teabag walk.

For their study, published in the Christmas issue of The BMJ (British Medical Journal), a team of researchers sought to compare the energy expenditures in low- and high-efficiency walking. In this case, the low-efficiency walking styles were the Putey walk and the Teabag walk from the iconic Ministry of Silly Walks sketch by Monty Python.

The Teabag and Putey styles of walking had been analyzed before, the researchers said, noting that both walks were found to be "more variable" than normal walking. However, the energy expenditures of those walks hadn't been measured before.

The researchers explained, the global physical inactivity rates "have not budged in the past 20 years." Cardiovascular disease rates, on the other hand, have actually "doubled since 1990."

"To counter this problem, we propose PEMPA—practice of effort maximization in physical activity," they wrote. "We take our lead from the so far unrecognized scientific genius of Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks, in which Mr. Teabag considers a proposal to fund the promotion of Mr. Putey's inefficient walking technique alongside other inefficient styles of walking."

One can see the "silly walks" in the video below.

For their study, the researchers recruited a group of 13 healthy adults 22 to 71 years of age. They conducted three trials, each of which lasted for five minutes in an indoor 30-meter course.

The participants walked normally in the first trial but did the Putey and Teabag walks in the second and third respectively, all while wearing a "portable metabolic measurement system." The researchers included a video of the participants doing the silly walks in their study.

They found that among the three walks, it was the Teabag style that led to the highest energy expenditure, the BMJ noted in a release. In fact, it was about 2.5 times greater than normal walking and even qualified as vigorous-intensity physical activity.

"Adults could therefore achieve 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity per week by walking in Teabag style for about 11 min/day," the researchers wrote, noting that this could boost cardiorespiratory fitness though this hasn't been tested yet.

In other words, adding even just a few minutes of silly, Teabag walking could boost one's energy expenditure and perhaps help reach physical activity targets. And according to the researchers, "the heavier the person, the more energy expended during an inefficient walk."

A bonus is that the walk could be a bit of fun as well. Though the participants were wearing masks during the procedure, all of them were said to be "noticeably smiling" once they had removed their masks. They also had bursts of laughter, particularly when doing the Teabag walk, the researchers said.

The study was based on a rather small sample, noted the BMJ, and that the Putey and Teabag walk may not be a viable choice for some people, such as those with disabilities. However, this shows that people could add a bit more energy expenditure to their movements by adding inefficiency to movements that they were already doing, to begin with.

"Had an initiative to promote inefficient movement been adopted in the early 1970s, we might now be living among a healthier society," the researchers wrote. "Efforts to promote higher energy—and perhaps more joyful—walking should ensure inclusivity and inefficiency for all."

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