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7 Ways Knitting Keeps You Healthy and Well

February 28th, 2014

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This article originally appeared in TreeHugger and is reprinted with permission from Katherine Martinko.

knitting-keeps-healthy

Last month I wrote an article called “Why bother knitting a scarf?” Much to my surprise, I received thousands of positive reactions from readers who share my love of homemade, local, and beautiful “slow fashion” items. Clearly, knitting is being embraced by people from all walks of life who benefit from its peaceful, relaxing repetition. It got me wondering – what’s really going on when people knit? Why is it so tremendously popular?

It turns out that knitting has incredible health benefits. It makes people feel good in just about every way. A bit of research has revealed a wide range of ways in which knitting helps humans cope, physically and mentally.

1. Knitting is used for therapy. It’s a powerful distractant, helping people manage long-term physical pain. For those who are depressed, knitting can motivate them to connect with the world. It is a conversation starter, allowing people to interact politely without making eye contact. It builds confidence and self-esteem.

2. Knitting is supremely relaxing, which is extremely important for reducing stress and anxiety. Dr. Herbert Benson, founder of Harvard’s Mind/Body Medical Institute, wrote The Relaxation Response, in which he recommends the repetition of a word, sound, phrase, prayer, or muscular activity to elicit “the relaxation response” – decreased heart rate, muscle tension, and blood pressure. Knitting is likened to meditation, sometimes described by knitters as “spiritual” and “Zen-like.”

3. Knitting connects people. By joining a knitting group, a solitary activity turns into a social one. One study, called “The Benefits of Knitting for Personal and Social Wellbeing in Adulthood” and published in the British Journal of Occupational Therapy, found that “knitting in a group impacted significantly on perceived happiness, improved social contact, and communication with others.”

4. Knitting improves concentration and can provide an outlet for excessive energy. Toronto teacher Caleigh Murtaugh started a knitting clubfor 7- and 8-year-olds at a private boys’ school. It was a smashing success, with boys opting to stay in from recess to work on projects. Some were extremely hyper, but focusing on work with their hands helped them greatly and gave them a sense of accomplishment.

5. Knitting can reduce the risk of dementia. One study of over 2,000 seniors (65 years and older) found that “regular participation in social or leisure activities such as traveling, odd jobs, knitting, or gardening were associated with a lower risk of subsequent dementia.”

6. Knitting offers a break from busy schedules and a refreshing detox from a technology-saturated world. It gives many of us a rare chance to be alone with our thoughts.

7. Knitting makes people happy, from the people who knit to those who receive knitted items, and those who see knitting in their surroundings. Consider the popularity of “yarn-bombing,” the beautiful graffiti that uses yarn to decorate public spaces, filling them with happiness-inducing warmth and colour. No one can resist smiling at the sight of a knitted bus or tree!

Even professionals are catching on. Stitchlinks is a UK-based group that’s developing a network of knitting therapy groups in hospitals, GP practices, schools, workplaces, and care facilities. Its website states, “Therapeutic knitting [is] being formally acknowledged by leading clinicians and academics for [its] benefits in mainstream healthcare.”

Keep at it, all you knitters! Not only are you having fun, but you’re also knitting yourselves a happier, healthier life.

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  • Carla

    I don’t knit, I crochet and all of this applies. I have small projects at work that I will do during lunch and it really helps to calm me down and recharge me for the afternoon. Also, my mom used to work with high risk teenagers and they were taught how to knit and crochet and they loved it as it kept their hands and mind busy in a positive way.

  • Lakshmi Moorty

    Yes I read the last Post Why Knit a scarf. I enjoyed reading Benefits of Reading just now. All the above benefits apply to me and much more. I knit a lot and take along my Knitting and I feel very relaxed while I wait in Dr Office or at the Airport, or even on the Train. No only for me it is for other who look at me Knitting. Last evening it was rainy and I went to Starbucks and was knitting away while the Younger generation were busy with their Lap Tops . One young lady aid to another “Lost Art”and I looked up and she smiled. Yes No Language barrier or age. Even kids look at me. Some come up to me sying my Grand Ma used to Knit. I stress No Language barrier again because it really touches the foreigners who ar here working or students or even middle aged or elderly, the sight of my Knitting makes them smile and they smile t me. I usually knit at Starbucks Early in the mornings because I want to forget my Body Pains when I wake up. Police Officers also look at my knitting. one came up to me last year and said I did not know you were knitting for me and another said my size is 38″. We laughed it away.Just enjoyed reading your Post.

  • Holly

    In a recent interview I was asked “How do you deal with stress?” Without missing a beat I said “I crochet!”. The interviewer got a kick out of that!

  • Deborah Hale

    My roommate’s daughter (diagnosed with ADHD and anxiety) has been begging me to teach her to knit for several months, yesterday for her 10th birthday I gave her a French Knitter and two skeins of variegated yarn and showed her how to use it. I had my doubts that she’d enjoy it but she took to it quickly – I’m thinking she’ll learn “regular” knitting very quickly!

  • Tammy Piquette

    I Crochet. I would also add the positive feelings of accomplishment and pride when you complete a project!

  • Karen Seyfert

    I love knitting . It is hard sometime to put it down. I love knitting baby hats, booties, blankets. Also Book markers. I also make dish cloths and wash cloths. I give them away. Karen Seyfert

  • Kit

    Also hopefully I can learn to make stuff that fits the recipient just right, even if the recipient is not a standard size or shape. Most of us are not cookie cutter people so why should we only have cookie cutter clothes? Knitting and crochet let us celebrate our unique sizes and shapes.

  • Sandy DeGrow

    Where can I get the pattern of the afghan in the picture?

    • http://www.lionbrand.com/ Petrina

      That would be the Shaded Ripple Afghan, which you can find here.

  • susan ernst

    I am disabled,because of chronic back and leg pain. and use to be very depressed. because of this,and the loss of a 16 yr old son.

    My life now revolves around: my family,our home, my crafting…and last but not least… yarn!
    I love to crochet and knit stuff for ppl who are going through tough times. This, then helps me,to put aside my own issues.

    And besides all this…I love your yarn!

    Most of it is ordered online, because I don’t get out of the house, much.
    But…I sure look forward to the mail person!
    Thank you, for such great products!

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