Writing on the New York Times’ Well blog last month, Jane E. Brody discussed some of the health benefits of knitting.
For example, there was the Craft Yarn Council’s “Stitch Away Stress” campaign, which argued that the repetitive action associated with needlework can lead to the sort of relaxed state you’d find in someone meditating or doing yoga.
“Once you get beyond the initial learning curve, knitting and crocheting can lower heart rate and blood pressure and reduce harmful blood levels of the stress hormone cortisol,” Brody writes. “But unlike meditation, craft activities result in tangible and often useful products that can enhance self-esteem. I keep photos of my singular accomplishments on my cellphone to boost my spirits when needed.”
Brody also discusses other ways knitting makes people feel better:
- A survey by British wellness coach Betsan Corkhill found that 54 percent of respondents who were clinically depressed said they felt happy when knitting. (Brody doesn’t say this, but other reporting we’ve seen on the link between knitting and alleviating depression notes that it may have to do with the fact that the repetitive act of knitting releases serotonin, a natural anti-depressing.)
- Another study by Corkhill looked at the effects of knitting on chronic pain on 60 knitters who reported the act allowed them to redirect their focus, making them less aware of their pain.
- Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that knitting may help to reduce decline in brain function later in life. The study, which involved 1,321 people between 70 and 89, found that those who enjoyed crafts like knitting or crocheting had less of a chance of developing mild cognitive impairment and memory loss.
- Karen Zila Hayes, a life coach in Toronto, uses knitting as a therapy to help people give up smoking, (“Knit to Quit”) and to help people cope with health crises (“Knit to Heal”), such as a cancer diagnosis or a family member’s illness.
- Knitting has been shown to help people with the eating disorder anorexia. A study at the University of British Columbia in 2009 found that nearly three quarters of the 38 women surveyed said knitting lessened their fears and kept them from dwelling on the disorder.
After reading Brody’s NY Times piece, we got curious about other health benefits associated with knitting. It turns out there’s been a number of studies on the topic:
- In a study sponsored by the American Home Sewing & Craft Association, Dr. Robert Reiner of the New York University Medical Center’s psychiatry department found that sewing helped his subjects relax.
- Knitting doesn’t just help improve memory function in old age. A 2011 study in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry & Clinical Neurosciences showed that knitting – and cutting back on TV viewing — during middle age decreased the odds of developing cognitive impairment and memory loss later in life by 30 to 50 percent.
- Knitting keeps us connected and improves our self-esteem. Completing a project makes us feel better. Making something that we can give to other people makes us feel better. Anytime we’re involved in a creative process, we want to bond with others who do what we do, which reduces loneliness and isolation. And getting positive feedback from those people makes us feel better.
- Knitting strengthens our coordination and dexterity. These are skills we pick up early on, but the act of manipulating needles around yarn keeps them sharp.
- Knitting can help us sleep. A study by Professor Herbert Benson of the Mind/Body Medical Institute found that 100 percent of insomnia patients found their sleep improved after knitting. Ninety percent were able to give up their medication.
Knitting is fun, it’s relaxing, and it brings people together. If you’re looking to be part of a knitting community in Bucks County, look no further than Knitting to Know Ewe. In addition to selling yarn, needles and other supplies, we hold a variety of classes to help you feel like a knitting all-star.