Study Suggests that Monty Python 'Silly Walking' Exercise Could Improve Health

Monty Python silly walk study
Monty Python silly walk study
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G A Gaesser et. al.; Monty Python

Monty Python were pioneers in sketch comedy, but their impact on health — however silly it may be — is starting to get some attention!

A new study published in the holiday edition of British medical journal, the BMJ, examined the "silly walks" of Monty Python's Flying Circus characters Mr. Teabag, the head of the Ministry of Silly Walks, as well as Mr. Putey, a silly walker who didn't quite have the same finesse. The two were introduced in the 1970 sketch "The Ministry of Silly Walks," where John Cleese's Mr. Teabag oddly strides with his leg kicked in the air and in a variety of other silly ways.

The team led by researchers at Arizona State University decided to find out how silly walking compares to normal walking, and if it could turn a normal walk into a more intense workout. "What we wanted to know was, how would deliberately inefficient walking affect energy costs?" Professor Glenn Gaesser told the Washington Post.

As it turns out, silly walking required 2.5 times as much energy as normal walking, and could qualify as a "vigorous exercise," as Gaesser told the Post. He added that it could improve health and aerobic fitness if someone were to silly walk for 11 minutes a day — meeting the standard recommendation of weekly vigorous exercise (75 minutes).

For the study, 13 adults between the ages of 22 and 71 watched the Monty Python sketch multiple times, before having their oxygen uptake measured while walking around a track. After walking normally for five minutes, they then copied the strange walking style of Michael Palin's character Mr. Putey by occasionally "hooking out their left leg," per the Post. Then they took on Mr. Teabag's superior silly walk, as their speed and metabolic costs were being looked at for all three.

University of Southern California Professor David Raichlen — who wasn't involved in the study — told the publication that humans have developed a "very economical, bipedal walking gait," which requires "50 percent less energy than our closest living relatives, chimpanzees." So while walking generally doesn't burn many calories, he explained, energy expenditure is increased "through biomechanical tweaks like those seen in the silly walks."

"The inefficient walking techniques of Teabag and Putey have actually been analyzed biomechanically before. On the basis of gait variability scores, Teabag's walk was judged to be up to 6.7 times more variable than typical walking, while that of Putey's was only 3.3 times more variable," the study read.

The study concluded that 50 years ago, Monty Python "unwittingly touched on a powerful way to enhance cardiovascular fitness in adults," and that now, it can ultimately "promote regular physical activity in a joyful way."