Knights in shining armor were the worst idea in military history

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To determine how much energy knights in the Middle Ages burnt merely strolling around, British researchers recruited volunteers to dress up in mock-ups of real knightly armor and — in a hilarious twist — gallivant on treadmills. Sure enough, the study found that shielding the entire body was a heavy proposition. Watch the volunteers get medieval on sedentary lifestyles.

Donning these replica suits — which were modeled on the armor of a 15th century London sheriff named William Martyn — forced the volunteers to expend approximately twice the amount of energy when engaging in cardiovascular activity.

After physiologist Graham Askew of the University of Leeds monitored the mail-bedecked volunteers trudging and jogging on treadmills, the researchers discovered that wearing the armor resulted in volunteers using 1.9 times more energy while running and 2.3 times more while walking.


Despite the protection and surprising mobility afforded by the armor — the volunteers could do cartwheels while wearing it — the distribution of plated weight across the volunteers' arms, feet, and legs caused them to burn energy at a greater rate than someone carrying the same amount of weight solely on their back. Additionally, the chest plate restricted the running volunteers' torsos, which limited the volume of the volunteers' oxygen intake.

Professor Askew knows that not all armors are built the same and would like to conduct similar tests with other kinds of historical body armor. Sadly, Askew has already nixed a similar test using an armored warhorse running on a treadmill, as the potential for this experiment to devolve into a Yakety Sax-scored chase scene is too great.


We'd also like to point out that the University of Leeds' team did not factor in any possible +1 speed buffs cast by friendly warlocks, the physiological affects of the Tincture of Heartiness, or the outside chance that Sheriff Martyn was the proprietor of the fabled Loafers of Alacrity.

[Proceedings of the Royal Society B (article locked) via Science. Photo and video via Graham Askew of the University of Leeds.]