Adults could achieve physical activity targets by walking “Teabag style” for a few minutes each day

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Adults could achieve global physical activity targets by walking inefficiently for just a few minutes each day, finds a study in the Christmas issue of The BMJ.

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.

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, have been shown to be more variable than usual walking, but their energy expenditure has never been measured.

Ministry of Silly Walks

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 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.

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.

Distance covered during the five minute walks was used to calculate average speed. Oxygen uptake (mL/kg/min), energy expenditure (kcal/kg/min) and exercise intensity (METs) - the amount of calories expended per minute of physical activity - were also measured.

The researchers found that only the Teabag walk resulted in a significantly greater energy expenditure-;about 2.5 times that of usual walking.

For men and women combined, oxygen uptake during normal walking was 11.3 mL/kg/min (or 3.2 METs), which was similar to that of the Putey walk (12.3 mL/kg/min, or 3.5 METs). However, the Teabag walk elicited an oxygen uptake of 27.9 mL/kg/min, or 8 METs, which qualifies as vigorous intensity exercise.

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.

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 min/day. And substituting usual style steps with Teabag style steps for about 12-19 min/day would increase daily energy expenditure by approximately 100 kcal.

This amount of walking in Teabag style would likely increase cardiorespiratory fitness, reduce mortality risk, and would require no extra time commitment because it replaces movement adults already do with higher energy physical activity, they add.

This is an experimental study based on a small sample, and the researchers acknowledge that some people, including those with disabilities, gait disorders, joint disease, or other health conditions might not be able to perform the Putey or Teabag walks. "But they might be able to otherwise increase energy expenditure in their daily movements, with inefficiency as the goal," they say.

They also note that 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.

"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," they write. "Efforts to boost cardiovascular fitness should embrace inclusivity and inefficiency for all."

Journal reference:

Gaesser, G.A., et al. (2022) Quantifying the benefits of inefficient walking: Monty Python inspired laboratory based experimental study. The BMJ.


  1. les kennedy les kennedy United Kingdom says:

    I mean if people can't do their normal walking - what are the odds of them funny walking their way to fitness.

    Is it April 1st already?

  2. Dr Seuss Dr Seuss United States says:

    One of the best things you can do for yourself is to soak your feet in slightly hotter water than you can stand with salt dumped in it

    The cold in your feet tells your blood to stay away, you have to bring it back
    It's tells your nerves your feet are still there and to make them young

  3. Tabby GamerNerdess Tabby GamerNerdess United States says:

    Well, when you got morbidly obese people brainwashing people into thinking obesity is healthy with this "fat acceptance" movement, you're going to get a lot of food addicted and lazy people using that to their advantage. Funny walking will not get these people up.

    • Dunkel Esclave Dunkel Esclave United States says:

      I guess you think most obese ppl are secure enough with themselves to walk like that. Most aren't even secure enough to work out in public(ironic but understandable).

  4. Gwen Newt Gwen Newt United States says:

    Teabagging means something very's a gamer term that has a far higher likelihood of being grabbed as the teabag walking style than a Monty python reference.

  5. Player 1 Player 1 United States says:

    11 mins/day is 77 mins. Opposed to the 75 we’re doing now?

  6. Mo RN Mo RN United States says:

    It would have been helpful to include a clip of said ‘inefficient walking’. Not everyone has seen Monty Python.

  7. Marie Blaszak Marie Blaszak United States says:

    But they didn't even show us how to DO the walk!

  8. Robert Weitzman Robert Weitzman United States says:

    For us idiots not familiar with "Teabag style", how about a link or crude drawing of some type?

  9. leslie landberg leslie landberg United States says:

    This is a conspiracy to normalize The Ministry of Silly Walks!  I'm all for it. Wait a sec while I grab the popcorn, though

  10. No.
    Dunkel Esclave Dunkel Esclave United States says:

    No way they were tested walking specifically how the guy is in the video. And no way in hell will this catch on in this decade. The 80s- maybe. If I did what he did minus the stretching part which I want to assume and hope is what is meant... I'd be in much pain(given my condition)

  11. buzzard bill buzzard bill United States says:

    I think this is more a case of funny talking than quirky walking. Further proof that we have too much time to come up with this inanity.

  12. Tim Kirwan Tim Kirwan United States says:

    But the more that an individual does the inefficient walk, the more efficient it becomes to them. As a result there will need to truly have a ministry to invent other inefficient walks.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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