According to a new article published in the annual Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal. In fact, just 11 minutes of walking a day like Mr. Teabag was equivalent to 75 minutes of vigorously intense physical activity a week, presenting a new way to improve cardiovascular fitness.
“Half a century ago, the [Ministry of Silly Walks] The skit could have unintentionally touched on a powerful way to improve cardiovascular fitness in adults,” the authors wrote. “If an initiative to promote inefficient movements had been adopted in the early 1970s, we might now be living in a healthier society.
The BMJ’s Christmas issue is generally lighter, although the journal says that articles published there “still adhere to the same high standards of novelty, methodological rigor, reporting transparency and readability as those that apply.” in the regular issue”. Past years have included articles on topics such as why 27 is not a dangerous age for musicians, the side effects of sword swallowing, and the measurement of the toxicity of the concoction brewed in Roald’s book. Dahl from 1981. George’s Wonderful Medicine. (It is indeed highly toxic.) Most read was the infamous “Magnetic Resonance Imaging of Male and Female Genitals During Coitus and Female Sexual Arousal” from 1999. (We wrote about the paper in 2019 to mark the 20th anniversary of its publication.)
As we previously reported, the “Ministry of Silly Walks” sketch first aired on September 15, 1970 on BBC One. It begins with Mr Teabag buying a newspaper on his way to work, which takes him a little longer than usual since his walk “has been getting rather silly lately”. Awaiting him in his office is a gentleman named Mr. Putey (Michael Palin), who is seeking a grant from the ministry to develop his own silly march. Putey demonstrates his stupid progress, but Teabag is not immediately impressed. “That’s not particularly silly, is it?” he says. “I mean, the right leg isn’t silly at all, and the left leg just does an airy half turn forward with each alternate step.” Putey insists that a government grant would allow him to do the very silly walk indeed. Teabag eventually offers him a fellowship to research the Anglo-French Silly March. The sketch shows a pair of Frenchmen demonstrating this “La Marche Futile”.
In 2020, two Dartmouth College scientists performed a gait analysis of the various silly walks on display, publishing their findings in the journal Gait and Posture. They studied Putey’s and Teabag’s gait cycles in the original 1970 television sketch video, as well as Teabag’s gaits during a 1980 stage performance in Los Angeles. They found that Teabag’s silly walk is much more variable than a normal human walk – 6.7 times more – while Putey’s running walk is only 3.3 times more variable.
But according to the authors of this latest paper, the 2020 study did not measure the calorie expenditure of these silly steps. So Glenn Gaesser of Arizona State University and his co-authors set out “to fill this vital research gap.” The authors note that humans have evolved to “move increasingly efficiently,” but when it comes to cardiovascular fitness, “movement inefficiency might be a desired trait.” They thought it might be possible to decrease energy efficiency by adopting a more inefficient gait, thereby improving cardiovascular fitness without having to exercise for a longer period of time. They called their approach PEMPA: practice of maximizing effort in physical activity.
For their study, Gaesser et al. recruited 13 healthy adults (six women and seven men) between the ages of 22 and 71. Subjects completed three walking trials on an indoor track: one walking with their usual gait and chosen pace, one walking (to the best of their ability) Teabag-style, and a third trying to walk Putey-style. All subjects wore portable metabolic measurement systems to measure oxygen consumption (ml/kg/min), energy expenditure (kcal/kg/min), and exercise intensity (MET). And it seems that most subjects enjoyed the experience.
“We did not measure minutes spent laughing or number of smiles as secondary outcomes during ineffective walking,” the authors wrote. “Smiling during the ineffective walking trials could not be observed because the participants’ mouths were obscured by the face mask worn during data collection. However, all participants were visibly smiling upon removal of the face mask. Additionally, outbursts of laughter from participants were frequently noted by the supervising interviewer, almost always when participants were participating in the Teabag walk.”
The Results: For both men and women, walking like Teabag resulted in significantly greater energy expenditure, about 2.5 times more than normal walking or walking like Putey. In fact, the Teabag walk showed an energy intensity of eight METs, which is equivalent to vigorously intense exercise. Plus, it’s fun, even if you have to be prepared to look a bit silly.
“At this time, we cannot advocate generalizing the results of this research and this general suggestion to reduce the efficiency of movement to other forms of exercise such as mountaineering, water sports (at except water aerobics) or urban cycling,” the authors concluded. “Ineffective dancing has been around for generations but, too often, that lone innovator in your local nightclub or on your cruise ship has been the object of derision rather than justifiable admiration (with the notable exception of break dancing ).”
List image by BBC
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