Teabag walking is a form of exercise that involves walking slowly and in small increments. It is believed to reduce physical activity, making it a viable alternative to traditional methods of exercise.
Adults may achieve global physical activity goals by walking in an inefficient manner for just a few minutes daily, according to a study published by The BMJ.
For the past 20 years, the rate of physical inactivity has remained constant.
In the 1971 Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks sketch, John Cleese and Michael Palin acted out inefficient walking styles, but their energy expenditure has never been measured.
A team of US researchers aimed to bridge this critical research gap by comparing the energy expenditure of low-efficiency walking with that of high-efficiency walking.
Their conclusions are based on data from 13 healthy adults (six women, seven men) aged 22 to 71 years old (average age 34), who had no history of heart or lung disease and no known gait disorder.
Before doing three walking trials, each lasting five minutes, around an indoor 30-meter course, participants were shown a video of the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch.
Participants were asked to recreate, to their greatest ability, the walks of Mr. Teabag and Mr. Putey they had seen in the video.
The length of time spent on five-minute walks was used to calculate average speed. Oxygen uptake (mL/kg/min), energy expenditure (kcal/kg/min) and exercise intensity (METs) — the amount of calories expended per minute of physical activity
Only the Teabag walk resulted in a significant increase in energy expenditure, roughly 2.5 times that of regular walking.
Normal walking produced 11.3 mL/kg/min (or 3.5 METs) for men and women, as compared to the Putey walk (12.3 mL/kg/min) for women, but the Teabag walk produced 27.9 mL/kg/min (or 8 METs), which qualifies as vigorous-intensity exercise.
Exchanging just one minute of usual walking style with one minute of Teabag walking resulted in an increase in energy expenditure of 8 kcal per minute for men and 5 kcal per minute for women.
Researchers estimate that adults might walk in Teabag style—rather than their usual style—for about 11 min per day, increasing daily energy expenditure by roughly 100 kcal.
According to the authors, this amount of walking in Teabag style would significantly improve cardiorespiratory fitness, reduce mortality risk, and would require little additional effort.
The researchers are investigating a small sample, and they caution that some individuals, including those who have disabilities, gait disorders, joint disease, or other illnesses, may not be able to perform the Putey or Teabag walks without difficulty. "They may be able to otherwise increase energy expenditure in their daily activities, with inefficiency as the goal," they say.
They also note that short bursts of physical activity, which can be as little as one to two minutes, that can be accumulated over time, can lead to cardiovascular benefits, thus people may undertake frequent periods of inefficient walking at times and locations that are most convenient for them, including indoors.
According to the authors, "our study of the energy expenditure during different walks aims to empower people to move their bodies in more energetic — and hopefully joyful — ways." "Efforts to increase cardiovascular fitness should embrace inclusivity and inefficiency for everyone."
Glenn A Gaesser, David C Poole, and Siddhartha S Angadi's reference is "Quantifying the Benefits of Inefficient Walking," published in The BMJ, on 21 December 2022. DOI: 10.136/bmj-2022-072833.