An Old Man of Corfu

Exercise from the Ministry of Silly Walks to BMJ

More 50 years ago, John Cleese ran the Ministry of Silly Walks for a skit on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. He interviewed a grant applicant who had a silly walk and told Cleese that “with government backing I could make it very silly.” Now this little exercise has made it from the Ministry of Silly Walks into the BMJ.

Anatomy of a Silly Walk, illustration by Jazeen Hollings, CC BY-SA 3.0

Glenn Gaesser, David Poole, and Siddhartha Angadi tested the energy expenditure caused by the Cleese silly walk. They compared it to the usual walking style of 13 healthy adults. They found that Mr. Teabag (Director of the Ministry) was correct to be skeptical about the silliness of the grant applicant’s walk. The applicant’s silly walk was no more vigorous than normal walking.

Silly Walking for Vigorous Physical Activity

However, they found that the Mr. Teabag’s silly walk actually meets the standard for vigorous exercise. These researchers seem to think that we’ve missed an opportunity by not more widely promoting the Teabag style of silly walking:

“Had an initiative to promote inefficient movement 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.”

An Effective Obesity Prevention Strategy?

Yes indeed. At this point it seems that exercise from the Ministry of Silly Walks might well have done more good for preventing obesity than our efforts of the past few decades.

Click here for this new study in the BMJ and here for further reporting in the Washington Post. Also note this earlier study that validated the superiority of the Teabag walking style.

An Old Man of Corfu, illustration from the Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear / Wikisource

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December 22, 2022

4 Responses to “Exercise from the Ministry of Silly Walks to BMJ”

  1. December 22, 2022 at 8:22 am, Claudia Fox said:

    Ted, could you post a video of you demonstrating the silly walk? That would be amazing!

  2. December 23, 2022 at 5:46 am, Ray Hall said:

    There are two major problems with this study . The first is methodological . In the original John Cleese walk he is carrying a brief case . In the study no case is seen .
    Secondly, the original sketch is obviously part of our British culture and as an English -man , I strongly protest against this barbarous act of cultural appropriation .
    No doubt you will be hearing from His Britannic Majesty’s Government soon . A gun-boat will be dispatched .

    • December 23, 2022 at 6:06 am, Ted said:

      Bummer! Sorry about that.