ID x RHS: Health Effects of Gardening Explored


Mowing / Digging / Dr Paul Alexander (left) of the RHS and Dr James Shippen

The design of gardening tools and their effect on the physical health of gardeners are being explored by Coventry University and the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) as part of a joint study.

Professional and amateur gardeners of all ages recently visited ID’s state of the art motion capture lab, where experts monitored them performing activities such as digging, pruning and mowing.

Our 12-camera motion capture lab – which requires the subject to wear a Lycra body suit fitted with reflective sensors – recorded the movements of the gardeners and enabled the researchers to calculate the loads on their bodies during the activities.

The study, which is the first of its kind in the UK, aims to identify the best gardening tasks for maintaining healthy bones, muscles and joints, and to assess the performance of a range of gardening tools to see if they can be redesigned to reduce the risk of injury.

Similar studies we have conducted in the past, include assessments of the England cricket team’s bowling technique and an analysis of the Riverdance company’s choreography with a view to reducing injury rates.

Dr James Shippen, ID’s resident biomechanics expert, said: “We have written software based on engineering principles to analyse the movement of the human body, and analyse how it reacts to different loads and postures. In this case the loads are those experienced during the most common horticultural activities. Millions of people around the UK enjoy gardening, so I’m sure it will be of interest to them to get some scientific insight into the dos and don’ts when it comes to the physical aspects.”

Adapted from E-dition (TN ed.)


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