How Inefficient Are Monty Python’s Silly Walks? The British Medical Journal Investigates

Monty Python’s Silly Walks is one of the immortal skits of that 1970s-era comedy troupe. “Last year, the government spent less on the Ministry of Silly Walks than it did on national defense,” the officious Mr. Teabag (John Cleese) gripes as he lopes around his office like a spavined giraffe.

But what could this form of locomotion do for your exercise routine? Three U.S. professors sought to answer that in a recent study.


The study, published in the British Medical Journal, states the proposition more matter of factly. It wanted “to compare the rate of energy expenditure of low efficiency walking with high efficiency walking.”

To do it, its authors gathered a group of 13 “healthy” adults and subjected them to walking tests — normal and silly. Each adult (exhibiting no gait disorders) first traipsed around a 30-metre indoor course for five minutes. Each participant then performed either the “Teabag” walk or the “Putey” walk on the same course for the same duration. The Putey walk mimics the enfeebled silly walk of Mr. Putey, the hapless grant applicant, in the skit.

The researchers measured two main variables: ventilation and gas exchange (or oxygen uptake), and energy expenditure.

The results are in: the Teabag walk will wear you out. (And that’s probably a good thing.) Using Mr. Teabag’s herky-jerky gait qualified as “vigorous” physical activity, the study found, and participants burned significantly more energy performing it. Exercise benefits of the Putey walk — as you may have inferred — were less impressive.

silly walks study

Image: G.A. Gaesser et al


As the graph indicates, the study itself bursts with quips of varyingly successful wit.

Overall, it concludes, “[If] an initiative to promote inefficient movement had been adopted in the early 1970s, we might now be living among a healthier society. Efforts to promote higher energy — and perhaps more joyful — walking should ensure inclusivity and inefficiency for all.”

Sam Anderson

Sam Anderson spent his 20s as an adventure rock climber, scampering throughout the western U.S., Mexico, and Thailand to scope out prime stone and great stories. Life on the road gradually transformed into a seat behind the keyboard, where he acted as a founding writer of the AllGear Digital Newsroom and earned 1,500+ bylines in four years on topics from pro rock climbing to slingshots and scientific breakthroughs.