‘Teabag’ it: Just 11 minutes of walking ‘inefficiently’ provides same benefits as vigorous exercise

‘Efforts to boost cardiovascular fitness should embrace inclusivity and inefficiency for all.’

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Monty Python’s “Ministry of Silly Walks” may have had it right all along! A new study has found that walking inefficiently actually provides the same benefits as vigorous exercise.

With that in mind, researchers discovered that “silly walking” for just a few minutes a day, just like comedian John Cleese’s character Mr. Teabag, can boost cardiovascular fitness and increase overall activity levels. Interestingly, study authors say the way to help inactive people reach healthy exercise goals is by making simple tasks like walking as inefficient as possible!

“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,” study authors write in a media release. “Efforts to boost cardiovascular fitness should embrace inclusivity and inefficiency for all.”

What about Mr. Putey’s silly walk?

Researchers note that physical inactivity rates really haven’t budged over the last 20 years. In an effort to change that, they took some inspiration from the classic 1971 comedy sketch, featuring Cleese as Mr. Teabag and Monty Python co-star Michael Palin as Mr. Putey.

Study authors gathered 13 healthy adults (six women, seven men) between the ages of 22 and 71 (average age 34) with no history of heart or lung disease and no trouble walking. They all watched the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch before participating in three five-minute walking tests. On an indoor track, each person walked normally at their own pace, then they did their best impression of Mr. Putey’s silly walk, before finally trying to do Mr. Teabag’s silly walk.

Results show that walking “Teabag style” led to significantly greater levels of energy expenditure — roughly two and a half times more than a normal walk! Specifically, researchers found that participants walking normally had an oxygen uptake of 11.3 mL/kg/min (or 3.2 METs).

That was very similar to Mr. Putey’s walk, which led to an oxygen uptake of 12.3 mL/kg/min (3.5 METs). On the other hand, mimicking Mr. Teabag’s silly walk led to an oxygen uptake of 27.9 mL/kg/min, or 8 METs! That qualifies as vigorous-intensity exercise.

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11 minutes of silly walking is all you need

Health guidelines typically recommend that adults get 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. Based on their findings, researchers say just 11 minutes of silly walking “Teabag style” every day can get inactive people the vital exercise they need.

Moreover, substituting regular steps for Teabag style steps for 12 to 19 minutes a day would increase a person’s daily energy expenditure by nearly 100 kcal.

Overall, the team believes silly walking like Mr. Teabag can increase heart fitness, lower the risk of premature death, and requires no extra time to do since many people can easily do these movements at any point throughout their day.

The team does acknowledge that people with disabilities, gait disorders, joint disease, or other health conditions may not be able to replicate these movements. However, doing something to make moving around more difficult can have a similar effect.

“But they might be able to otherwise increase energy expenditure in their daily movements, with inefficiency as the goal,” the team writes.

The findings on silly walking are published in The BMJ.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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  1. Ten minutes is not enough, and anything over 18 is actually a waste — and a detriment to muscle retention because the body feeds on its own muscle before feasting on stubborn fat. Great story. Women … this is your secret weapon. 15 minute walk before you shower, after 8 hours of sleep and fasting.

  2. Awesome… Also, “Well, of course. No duh.”

    How’s that cure for cancer coming, scientists?

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