And now for something completely different and silly. Doing the “Silly Walk” from the British TV show “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” could be much better for you cardiovascular-wise and calorie-burning-wise than simply walking normally. That’s what a study just published in this year’s annual Christmas issue of the BMJ suggested about that silly leg-contorting walk that John Cleese performed on the show. In fact, just 11 minutes a day of Silly Walking could get you past the 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week threshold that the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends. Of course, this depends on how silly your walk really is.
A trio of researchers, Glenn A. Gaesser, PhD, a Professor at Arizona State University, David C. Poole, PhD, Dsc., a University Distinguished Professor of Kinesiology and Physiology at Kansas State University, and Siddhartha S. Angadi, PhD, an Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia, conducted the study. They described the “Silly Walk” as “walking in Teabag style,” after the Mr. Teabag character that Cleese played. Walking in Teabag style entails walking alternating high kicks with other leg contortions such as scrunching your knees together and down. This can be a highly entertaining walk. Of course, you should be very careful when telling others that you are into the Teabag style, lest they misinterpret what you are saying.
For the study, the researchers recruited a Baker’s Dozen of folks, six women and seven men with average age of 34.2 years, to walk in different ways around an indoor 30 meter course. At first, the participants walked with their usual gaits. Then, the researches had the participants walk this way: like Mr. Teabag did in the “Ministry of Silly Walks” skit that first appeared on the Monty Python TV show in 1970. They also asked the participants to walk in a someone less silly manner, the way Mr. Putey, who was played by Michael Palin, walked in the skit. The researchers dubbed both the Mr. Teabag and the Mr. Putey “Silly Walks” as inefficient walks because, let’s face it, you probably wouldn’t walk either way if you were trying to be as efficient as possible such as, number one, when you are late for a date and, number two, when you are rushing to the bathroom to go, well, number two. In fact during, the “Ministry of Silly Walks” skit, Mr. Teabag did apologize to Mr. Putey for his tardiness by saying, “I’m sorry to have kept you waiting, but I’m afraid my walk has become rather sillier recently.”
The researchers didn’t enroll these 13 participants just to mess with them. That would have been quite silly. Instead, they measured the participants’ ventilation, gas exchange, and energy expenditure during the various walks to see if any differences emerged. While walking, participants wore face masks and vests that helped collect the various measurements, as you can see in the following video from Australian Community Media:
When performing the Mr. Teabag walk, study participants had about 2.5 times higher oxygen uptake and higher amounts of calories burned. However, doing the less-silly-but-still-kind-of-silly Mr. Putey walk didn’t result in significantly higher increases in either of these measures. Maybe Mr. Putey’s walk simply wasn’t silly enough. After all, Mr. Teabag did tell Mr. Putey that “The right leg isn’t silly at all, and the left leg merely does a forward aerial half-turn every alternate step.” That’s probably why Mr. Putey was seeking a grant in the skit and said, “Yes, but I think that with government backing I could make it very silly.”
Men on average burned more than women, calories that is. Every minute that men did the Mr. Teabag walk, they burned on average 8.0 calories (range 5.5-12.0) than when they walked normally, assuming that the Mr. Teabag walk was not how they usually walked. For women, this average was a bit lower at 5.2 calories (range 3.9-6.2). Nevertheless, the Teabag thing seemed to work for both sexes.
These measurements qualified the Mr. Teabag walk as vigorous intensity physical activity. In fact, the researchers concluded that walking this way 22% to 34% of the time could burn 100 kcal more per day, assuming that a person averages around a total of 5000 steps each day. Doing so would entail doing the “Silly Walk” for around 12 to 19 min. This isn’t that long, if you think about it, since 19 minutes is how long on average heterosexual sex lasts, based on a survey conducted by sex toy retailer Lovehoney. So if you do have a spare 19 minutes each day, should you have sex or do the Silly Walk? Well, it depends on your partner. Of course, you could do both at the same time but should then watch where you swing that leg.
Of course, you may say that 13 is not a large number of study participants. It is true that your mileage may vary depending on who is doing the Mr. Teabag walk, when it’s being done, and how it’s being done. But no one should expect the Spanish Inquisition when claiming that the Mr. Teabag walk may be more vigorous physical activity than normal walking. It shouldn’t be too surprising that swinging your feet and legs all over the place including way up high would get more of your body moving and could potentially count as vigorous exercise.