Knitting has its practical uses as well as being an enjoyable hobby, and if you regularly reach for your wool, you are probably aware of just how relaxing this age-old pastime can be. Well, it seems that taking an hour out to work on a nice sweater or blanket has more benefits for your health than you ever could imagine. Research has shown that not only does knitting provide plenty of ‘textile therapy’, but it can have several other positive effects upon your physical and emotional well-being, some of which are really surprising…
1. It Performs the Same Function as Meditation
Once you have learned how to knit properly and you are able to work your needles without actively thinking about what you are doing, the whole process can be extremely relaxing. The repetitive action creates a rhythm that’s great for clearing the mind and offers many of the same benefits as a meditation session. And by the time you’ve finished, you have the added comfort of crawling under, or into, the nice warm garment you’ve knitted!
2. It Can Improve Your Motor Skills
The different actions and processes used when you knit are controlled in separate areas of the brain. This means that a good knitting session provides a wide-ranging, multi-layered ‘work out’ for your grey matter. It will exercise your frontal lobe (responsible for attention, planning and reward processing), the occipital lobe (tasked with processing visual information), the temporal lobe (which stores memory), the parietal lobe (which deals with sensory information and spatial awareness) and finally the cerebellum (responsible for precise and deliberate movement).
When your brain sends signals to your nerves and muscles to perform desired actions, you are working your ‘motor skills’. Keeping your motor skills supple is crucial to your quality of life. The benefits of knitting in this regard are such that is has been known to help people with Parkinson’s Disease improve their motor skills.
3. It Protects the Long Term Health of Your Brain
Not only does knitting have benefits for your motor skills, but it also promotes other forms of brain health. The stimulation of so many different sections of the brain as you knit helps maintain cognitive function, particularly as you get older. Research by the Mayo Clinic has found that seniors who regularly knit and/or engage in other artistic hobbies are around 30-50% less likely to develop ‘mild cognitive impairment’ than those who do not.
4. It Can Help Prevent Arthritis and Tendinitis
If you want your joints to remain healthy, then it’s important that you use them. Moving the joints in your fingers will encourage fluids to move in and out of surrounding cartilage, keeping your joints well oiled and reducing the risk of arthritis. Research has shown that joints lose their structure and can break down if they are not worked regularly, and knitting is one of the best ways you can keep those finger joints supple. Soaking your hands in warm water before and after your session and using larger needles can help this process along.
5. It Fights Anxiety, Stress and even Depression
No matter how hard we try, it is inevitable that we will experience times of stress and depression at various points in our life. However, knitting can help you alleviate symptoms in a number of ways. Again, the ‘rhythmic’ nature of the repetitive motion can distract you from wider troubles, and provide you with what Clinical Psychologist Ann Futterman-Collier calls a ‘vacation from problems’. The sense of focus will help keep you present and stop you worrying about the future, while the gentle nature of the pastime can help regulate your heart rate and blood pressure too. A couple of hours knitting can be a great tonic if you feel like the world is getting on top of you!
6. It Gives You a Sense of Focus and Accomplishment
As soon as you start to knit that fluffy sweater, or warm blanket, you set yourself a goal. If you see that goal through, it is likely to provide you with a great sense of accomplishment and pride, and you should not underestimate how good that can be for your sense of self and your emotional well being. Knitting is not only a hobby, it has an end product too – and whether you present your finished item to a friend or family member, or simply cozy up underneath it yourself, the feeling of accomplishment can be great for your mood.