Gardeners Follow in the Footsteps of Top Cricketers and Dancers in Unique Study

Friday 30 January 2015

Royal Horticultural Society Launches Research into the Impact of Gardening Tasks and Tools on Physical Health

The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) and Coventry University have launched a joint study to look at the effects gardening tools, combined with different gardening tasks, have on the physical health of gardeners.

The research, 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.

Professional and amateur gardeners of all ages visited the University’s state of the art motion capture lab, where experts in the School of Art and Design monitored them performing activities such as digging and pruning.

Coventry’s 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 to enable the researchers to calculate the loads in their bodies during the activities.

The Coventry University team are well versed in this type of research; having previously conducted similar 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 Paul Alexander, Head of Horticultural and Environmental Science at the Royal Horticultural Society said: “The health benefits of gardening are difficult to quantify but by using the motion capture laboratory at Coventry University we hope to be able to better understand the effects different gardening tasks and tools have on the human body.

“By involving people of both sexes, different age groups, different skill levels undertaking different gardening tasks we hope to develop our knowledge across a broad spectrum of gardeners so that we can better advise them on what is beneficial for their health and what might be of harm.”

Dr James Shippen, an expert in biomechanics at Coventry University’s School of Art and Design, said: “Our motion capture lab has seen action of all sorts in recent years, from sports-related activities to dance studies, so it’s enormously exciting to be extending those activities still further to work with the Royal Horticultural Society on this unique piece of research.

“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 will be 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.”


Notes to editors

For more information, please contact Garfield Myrie in the RHS Press Office on 020 7821 3060or email

About the RHS
The Royal Horticultural Society was founded in 1804 by Sir Joseph Banks and John Wedgwood for the encouragement and improvement of the science, art and practice of horticulture. We held our first flower shows in 1820, were granted a Royal Charter in 1861 and acquired RHS Garden Wisley, our flagship garden, in 1903. From our first meetings in a small room off London’s Piccadilly, we have grown to become the world’s largest gardening charity.

Today the RHS is committed to providing a voice for all gardeners. We are driven by a simple love of plants and a belief that gardeners make the world a better place. 210 years on we continue to safeguard and advance the science, art and practice of horticulture, creating displays that inspire people to garden. In all aspects of our work we help gardeners develop by sharing our knowledge of plants, gardens and the environment.

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262



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About the RHS

The RHS believes that gardening improves the quality of life and that everyone should have access to great garden experiences. As a charity we help to bring gardening into people's lives and support gardeners of all levels and abilities; whether they are expert horticulturists or children who are planting seeds for the very first time.

RHS membership is for anyone with an interest in gardening. Support the RHS and secure a healthy future for gardening. For more information call: 0845 130 4646, or visit

RHS Registered Charity No. 222879/SC038262