Boost Activity with Monty Python’s Silly Walk

They say that laughter is the best medicine, and research shows that tapping into your silly side with some physical comedy may burn off more than the day’s frustrations and worries.  Fans of Monty Python will appreciate a new study investigating the energy expended to mimic Mr. Teabag’s (acted by John Cleese) infamous walking style featured in “The Ministry of Silly Walks” 1970s skit. 

Born out of a lifetime love for Monty Python humour, Professor of Kinesiology and Physiology Glen Gaesser of Arizona State University asked 13 healthy adults – 6 women and 7 men, with no gait disorders to duplicate the silly walks of Mr. Teabag and Mr. Putey (Michael Palin) from the comedy sketch.  When compared with their typical walking style, Mr. Teabag’s exaggerated gait resulted in a significantly greater expenditure of energy, qualifying as vigorous-intensity activity.  Mr. Putty’s walk, however, expended roughly the same energy as the participants’ usual gait, despite its entertainment factor. 

Although inefficient, the Teabag walk, done for about 11 minutes each day could help adults reach their physical activity targets.  It may seem silly, but whatever helps motivate people to move more is worth a try.  Kitchen dancing, silly walking, energetic vacuuming to the oldies – if it gets your heart pumping and your muscles engaging, any activity that contributes to the recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity each week is good news in the battle against a sedentary lifestyle and the prevalence of obesity. 

Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch, “The Ministry of Silly Walks” first aired more than 50 years ago on BBC One, poking fun at the inefficiency of government bureaucracy.  It has such a following that it isn’t surprising to find Gaesser’s study of silly walking isn’t the first research to evaluate the two featured gaits.  A Dartmouth College study conducted a gait analysis on the Ministry’s silly walks and found Mr. Teabag’s walk to be 6.7 times more variable than a normal walk.  The findings were published in the journal Gait & Posture.

Want to give silly walking a try with the family on a snow day?  You can find a copy of the video on YouTube to emulate or follow these step-by-step instructions.