Back in the Garden

Although we are still in the depths of winter, signs of spring are beginning to appear, with bulbs emerging from the soil and buds forming on the trees. For many of us, with spring comes the urge to get back in the garden. However, as well as resulting in beautifully borders, gardening can also cause aches, pains and strains, especially in the lower back and shoulders.

Some new research has just been published by Coventry University, along with the Royal Horticultural Society, which used some innovative techniques more usually found on the set of a Hollywood blockbuster than a research lab. The aim was to discover how best to prevent or minimise the damage that can be done by gardening.

The team at the university used ‘motion capture’ (the technique used to create life-like characters such as Gollum in Lord of the Rings films) to record exactly how the body moves when digging. A computer programme then created an animated 3-D model of the human skeleton, major joints and muscles associated with movement, enabling the researchers to study the wear and strain on the body.

The top tips to emerge from the research were:

  • When digging, use a regular, repetitive technique rather than erratic movements
  • Bend with your knees rather than your back where possible
  • Avoid reaching, bending or stretching forwards. Instead work with your spade or fork close to your body
  • Try not to twist as you dig or lift. Turn your whole body instead

You can read more about the research here

This clip from BBC Breakfast News shows how it was done: