Monty Python's Silly Walks could be the key to reaching your exercise goals

John Cleese in Monty Python performing his silly strides - Ronald Grant Archive
John Cleese in Monty Python performing his silly strides - Ronald Grant Archive

Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks may have been created to make people laugh, but adopting the goofy gait has added health benefits too, a new study has found.

Swapping normal steps for John Cleese's silly strides for 12 minutes could burn an extra 100 calories a day, data show.

The mode of walking, brought to life by John Cleese and Michael Palin's Mr Teabag and Mr Putey in 1971, is so inefficient that it can be classified as "vigorous physical activity", according to the team from Arizona State University.

Therefore, not only will 12 minutes a day help burn 100 extra calories, but 11 minutes a day allows a person to meet the NHS's recommended weekly quota of 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week.

Scientists recruited 13 people and asked them to walk around a room for five minutes three times.

First, they went round the 30 metre space with their own gait. Second, they mimicked Michael Palin’s Mr Putey, the character who applied for a grant to “develop his silly” walk from the ministry. In the third instance, participants imitated the silly walk of Cleese’s Mr Teabag.

Silly walks may pose practical challenges

Height and weight of each person was measured before they were shown the Monty Python clip and asked to imitate it to the best of their abilities. A mask tracked changes in breathing and calculated exertion and energy expenditure.

“Each minute of Teabag walking increased energy expenditure over participants’ usual walking by an average of 8.0 calories in men and by 5.2 calories in women, and qualified as vigorous intensity physical activity,” the team writes in their study, published in the Christmas edition of the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Analysis also found that for an average adult who walks around 5,000 steps a day, substituting one in four steps for Teabag steps — which the team say would be around 1,100 steps a day and require around 12 minutes a day to do — would burn an extra 100 calories a day.

“Any joy derived from inefficient walking would further promote its uptake,” the scientists add.

The team acknowledges that those with disabilities, gait disorders, or joint disorders may be unable to perform the Teabag.

They also understand that 12 minutes of silly walking a day might pose practical issues, and that people engaging in short bursts of Monty Python walking may choose to do so inside, in private.

"People could engage in periodic bursts of inefficient walking, perhaps lasting only a few minutes at a time, at times and places that are most convenient for them," the scientists say.

"In fact, inefficient walking can be performed entirely indoors. This might appeal to those who live in places where outdoor spaces for recreation are inaccessible or unsafe, or indeed to people who are hesitant to engage in inefficient walking in public.

"Had an initiative to promote inefficient movement been adopted in the early 1970s, we might now be living among a healthier society.

"Efforts to promote higher energy— and perhaps more joyful—walking should ensure inclusivity and inefficiency for all."

Teabag walking everyday would 'likely reduce mortality risk'

Data show that the Teabag walk was around 2.5 times better at burning calories than normal walking.

The team found that 11 minutes of walking like Teabag a day would reach NHS guidelines for minimal levels of exercise, which would “likely reduce mortality risk”.

Previous research has found that 60 minutes a week of vigorous intensity physical activity is associated with a lower risk of all cause mortality of about 10 per cent.

Current NHS guidance states that adults should aim to be active every day, and also that adults should undertake 150 minutes of moderately intense activity (such as a brisk walk) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (such as running) every week.

Other examples of vigorous activity which helps reach this threshold are going to the gym and running, but also walking up the stairs, swimming or skipping.