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Project Grow: South London Small Grant Winners 2016

This summer, researchers from University of Roehampton’s Sport and Exercise Science Research Centre are collaborating with the NHS to give patients the opportunity to participate in a newly developed falls prevention gardening programme. This programme has been funded by the South London Small Grants (previously named Innovation & Diffusion Awards) 2016.

Dr Sandra Klaperski, Senior Lecturer in Sport and Exercise Psychology at the University of Roehampton has written about the programme.

Patients referred from Wandsworth Falls and Bone Health Service have been visiting the specially adapted gardening site at the University’s Froebel College weekly since June 2017. The garden was built from scratch, including the installation of ground-level and raised beds to allow for gardening activities at comfortable working heights. The variety of working opportunities means that the physical needs of patients can be more easily met. Gardening expertise to the project comes from the University’s own sustainability programme Growhampton. Under guidance of a professional exercise facilitator and occupational therapist, staff and volunteers have been supporting participants to do the bed preparation, planting, nurturing and digging necessary to create a flourishing garden. So far, 14 participants have joined the project and all of them appear to return each week with a burgeoning enthusiasm as they see, enjoy and share the fruits of their labours in all forms of British weather!

The project is the result of a common interest in the potential therapeutic power of conducting “meaningful” physical activity surrounded by more natural scenery. Discussions between the University researchers and staff from the Wandsworth Falls and Bone Health Service identified how a demand from patients for alternative physical activity approaches that were not solely exercise-related was not being adequately met. It was agreed that gardening might effectively fill this gap, especially as patients had mentioned that they would love to engage in gardening activities but that they did not have access to a garden. Furthermore, this project aims to expand the existing, albeit limited, research that points to the beneficial effects gardening activities can have on both physical and mental health. Anecdotally, we are already observing positive outcomes as a result of the intervention. However, at the end of the summer, in addition to a bounty of vegetables, we hope to be able to present more detailed feedback on the efficacy of gardening in helping people at risk of falling and on the “lessons learned” when running schemes of this nature.

For more information about Project Grow, please email hin.southlondon@nhs.net.

Click here to see the winners of this year’s South London Small Grants.

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