A Classic Monty Python Sketch Could Offer Actual Fitness Benefits

Silly walk your way to greater fitness

Silly walk diagram
There's an art to the silly walk.
Jazeen Hollings, CC BY-SA 3.0

Could the solution to exercising in 2023 be found in a comedy sketch from 1970? If a study recently published in The BMJ, a journal published by the British Medical Association, is any indication, the answer might just be “Yes.”

In 1970, Monty Python’s Flying Circus debuted a sketch featuring John Cleese as a bureaucrat in the British government’s Ministry of Silly Walks. The sketch is a master class in physical comedy, with a succession of absurd gaits on display throughout. And, as a recent article in News-Medical.Net points out, a new study reveals that the walking techniques on display make for a very efficient form of exercise.

A paper titled Quantifying the benefits of inefficient walking: Monty Python inspired laboratory based experimental study recently appeared in The BMJ, in which the participants took part in a series of walking trials, each lasting for five minutes. The first one involved walking in “the participant’s usual style.” The second and third, by comparison, found the participants “[duplicating] the walks of Mr Teabag and Mr Putey (acted by John Cleese and Michael Palin, respectively) in the legendary Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks (MoSW) skit that first aired in 1970.”

As it turns out, walking inefficiently burns a lot more energy than walking normally. The study’s authors write that oxygen uptake and energy expenditure were significantly higher for the participants who emulated Cleese’s walk. That could have a significant impact on health; the study concludes that “[a]dults could achieve 75 minutes of vigorous intensity physical activity per week by walking inefficiently for about 11 min/day.”

“Had an initiative to promote inefficient movement been adopted in the early 1970s, we might now be living among a healthier society,” the study’s authors add. Is the key to fitness embracing your own inner silly walk? It just might be.

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