Benefits of inefficient walking: Monty Python-inspired experimental study

Benefits of inefficient walking: Monty Python-inspired experimental study

Source: BMJ2022;379: e072833 (GA Gaesser et al, Phoenix, AZ, USA)

Figure Benefits of inefficient walkingRecent research has confirmed results which have in fact been known for a long time.

The walk of Mr Teabag (John Cleese) and Mr Putey (Michael Palin) in the legendary Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks (MoSW) skit in 1970 were duplicated in 13 healthy adults (22 – 71 years, six women and seven men) with no known gait disorders. Participants performed three 5 minute walks around an indoor 30 m course in an exercise physiological laboratory. The first trial consisted of walking at a freely chosen speed. The next two trials consisted of low efficiency walks similar to the ones of Mr Teabag and Mr Putey (Figure).  The famous silly walks of Mr Teabag (the fictive Minister of Silly Walks) can be described as walking with bow knees, throwing the legs in the air every few steps, and walking backwards sometimes before walking on. The walks of Mr Putey were less pronounced.

Ventilation and gas exchange were recorded and collected to determine oxygen uptake (VO₂) and energy expenditure (EE), which were the main outcome measures. VO₂ and EE were about 2.5 times higher during the Teabag walk, but not different during the Putey walk compared with the paticipants’ usual walk (Figure). The Teabag walk could be qualified as vigorous intensity physical activity. With respect to cardiovascular fitness, inefficiency of movement (especially the Teabag walk) might be a desired trait and may reduce the risk of all cause mortality. Teabag style walking for about 11 minutes/day (75 minutes/week) would be enough to increase in cardiorespiratory fitness (as yet untested) and reduce mortality risk about 10 %.

Minutes spent laughing, or the number of smiles as secondary outcomes while walking inefficiently unfortunately, were not measured. All participants, however, were noticeably smiling on removal of their facemasks, worn during data collection. Bursts of laughter from the participants were frequently noted (but not counted) and by the supervising investigator, almost always when participants were engaging in the Teabag walk.