If you find the inefficient walking styles of Mr Teabag and Mr Putey — acted by John Cleese and Michael Palin in the 1971 ‘Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks’ sketch — funny, then you must read this. According to researchers, the ‘Teabag style’ walk for a few minutes a day could help adults meet physical activity targets.
The researchers estimate that adults could achieve 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity per week by walking in ‘Teabag’ style — rather than their usual style — for about 11 minutes/day.
Substituting usual style steps with Teabag style steps for about 12-19 minutes/day would increase daily energy expenditure by approximately 100 kcal.
Global rates of physical inactivity have not budged in the past 20 years, despite campaigns to increase physical activity and boost cardiovascular fitness in adults.
To fill this vital research gap, a team of US researchers set out to compare the energy expenditure of low efficiency walking with high efficiency walking.
Their findings, published in the prestigious journal BMJ, are based on data from 13 healthy adults (six women, seven men) aged 22-71 years (average age 34) with no history of heart or lung disease, and no known gait disorder.
“Our analysis of the energy consumed during different styles of walking seeks to empower people to move their own bodies in more energetic — and hopefully joyful — ways,” the authors wrote. “Efforts to boost cardiovascular fitness should embrace inclusivity and inefficiency for all.”
For the study, height and body weight were measured and each participant was shown a video of the ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ sketch before performing three walking trials, each lasting five minutes, around an indoor 30-metre course.
In the first trial, participants walked in their usual style at a freely chosen pace. For the next two trials, participants were asked to recreate, to the best of their ability, the walks of Mr Teabag and Mr Putey they had seen in the video.
The researchers found that only the ‘Teabag’ walk resulted in a significantly greater energy expenditure — about 2.5 times that of usual walking.
In terms of energy expenditure, exchanging just one minute of usual walking style with one minute of Teabag walking was associated with an increase in energy expenditure of 8 kcal/min for men and 5 kcal/min for women.
Teabag’s walking style involves moving forward with slightly bent legs, interspersed with high-kicks, backwards hops and other erratic leg jerks.
The Putey walk, on the other hand, consists of the left knee being lifted at a 90 degree angle every alternate step.
Bursts of physical activity as short as one to two minutes, accumulated over time, can produce cardiovascular benefits, so people could engage in regular bursts of inefficient walking, at times and places that are most convenient for them, including indoors.