We’ve all, at some point, found ourselves having fits of laughter when John Cleese was flapping his legs during a Monty Python sketch.
Now researchers are urging people to join the Silly Walk Ministry — because it can help adults achieve their physical activity goals.
In the past 20 years, global rates of inactivity have not budged despite widespread campaigns to promote physical fitness and encourage people to move more.
But the outrageous — and ineffective — walking techniques of Mr. Teag and Putty, played by John Cleese and Michael Palin in the 1971 Monty Python sketch, could be the answer, according to scientists.
Study participants were asked to recreate the walks of Mr. Teabag (left) and Mr. Putey that they saw in the video clip from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”. Teabag’s walking style involves moving forward with legs slightly bent, punctuated by high kicks, hops backwards and other erratic leg jerks
Correlation between energy expenditure (kcal/min) and body mass (kg) for the participants’ habitual walk, the Putey walk and the Teabag walk
A team led by researchers at Arizona State University set out to compare the energy expenditure of different walking styles.
They recruited 13 healthy adults, ages 22 to 71, with no history of heart or lung disease and no known gait disorder.
Height and body weight were measured and each participant was shown a video clip of a Ministry of Silly Trails drawing before conducting three walking trials, each lasting five minutes, around a 30-meter indoor course.
In the first experiment, the participants walked in their usual fashion at a freely chosen pace.
For the next two experiments, the participants were asked to recreate the passages of Mr. Teabag and Mr. Putey, as best they could.
Boti’s walk (pictured) consists of raising the left knee at a 90-degree angle on each alternate step. This does not require much more energy than normal walking
Monty Python’s silly walk is ‘exactly 6.7 times’ sillier than a normal human’s gait
A study finds that John Cleese’s famous ‘Silly Walk’ in Monty Python is 6.7 times more ridiculous than a regular walk, thanks to the way he bends his knees.
The gait was examined by biologists from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire who studied the origin and evolution of bipedalism.
It’s a good example of the extreme variation in walking patterns possible in bipedal species, said the team, led by Nathaniel Dominy.
They found that the silliness came from bending the knee – particularly the angle at which it bends at 110 degrees compared to the normal 20 degrees.
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The Teabag’s walking style involves moving forward with slightly bent legs, punctuated by high kicks, hops backwards and other erratic leg jerks.
Puti’s March, on the other hand, consists of the left knee being raised at an angle of 90 degrees on each alternate step.
The researchers found that Teabag-only walking resulted in significantly more energy expenditure — about 2.5 times that of a normal walk.
The Teabag Walk also triggered a high oxygen uptake which makes it a very intense workout.
Researchers estimate that adults can achieve the recommended 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week by walking teabag style — instead of their usual pace — for about 11 minutes per day.
Replacing regular-style steps with Teabag-style steps for 12 to 19 minutes a day would increase your daily energy intake by about 100 calories.
They added that this amount of Teabag-style walking is likely to increase cardiorespiratory fitness, reduce risk of death, and would not require additional time because it replaces movement that adults are already doing with high-energy physical activity.
Writing in the British Medical Journal, they said: ‘We take the lead from the hitherto unacknowledged scientific genius of Monty Python’s Silly Walking Ministry.
“We’re not aware of a single study that determined the energy cost of walking like Teabag or Putey since the sitcom first aired.”
Oxygen uptake (left) and energy expenditure (right) during participants’ habitual walking and passive walking in men and women. Black lines are responses for individual participants. The purple line is the mean
They said they did not measure ‘minutes spent laughing or number of smiles’ as part of their study, but noted: ‘Bursts of laughter from participants were observed frequently by the supervising investigator, almost always when participants were taking part in the Teabag Walk.
A half century ago, a skit from Silly Walking Ministry may have inadvertently touched on a powerful way to boost cardiovascular fitness in adults.
“If the health profession had taken over the Ministry of Silly Picnics in the ’70s, hearts everywhere might be a little healthier.”
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Maybe we don’t always look on the bright side of life: Scientists cast doubt on the theory that optimism is inherent in human nature
Monty Python told us to “always look on the bright side of life,” but it seems that optimism is not as ingrained in human nature as was once thought, a new study has claimed.
The researchers found that humans are not predisposed to optimism, nor are we to put up with a “rose-colored pair of glasses”—a belief that may have biased the results of previous studies.
The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Bath, University College London and Birkbeck, University of London.
Experts have questioned previous research supporting the existence of an “irrational optimism bias” — that humans have an innate sense that everything will be fine.
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