So you want to improve your health. What’s your first step? Maybe you get a gym membership or start power walking around the mall on rainy days. Maybe you purchase a few helpful diet books and start trying to incorporate more leafy greens into your meals. Maybe you take up yoga or tai chi. Those are all great efforts, but the answer to good health may be simpler than you think.
According to a recent article published by The New York Times, the simple act of knitting can provide some serious health benefits. And it’s less expensive than a gym membership.
Here’s what you need to know.
How knitting Can Improve Health and Wellbeing
Not convinced that picking up a pair of knitting needles can help you live longer and be happier? Here are the facts:
1. Knitting helps reduce stress
Knitting features a repetitive motion much like those found in yoga. As such, it offers many of the same relaxing benefits. While learning to complete the stitches can be difficult, at first, people who have zoomed past the learning curve typically find that knitting or crocheting can lower the heart rate, decrease the blood pressure, and reduce the amount of cortisol the body dumps into the bloodstream.
2. Knitting can boost self-esteem
There’s nothing quite like crafting an item from scratch to help you feel good about yourself. While yoga and meditation both provide some of the same relaxing benefits of knitting, knitting does something that neither of those pastimes does: it provides a tangible payoff in the form of a hat, scarf, or sweater.
For people with low self-esteem, seeing these things come together from nothing can be an incredibly rewarding experience, and simply looking at the things they’ve created can help boost confidence and provide a dose of happiness for dedicated knitters near and far.
3. Knitting can replace addictive habits
For people struggling to stop smoking or drinking, or to navigate the stress and anxiety caused by death in the family, knitting can be a massive help. Programs like prisons and schools regularly use craft-making activities like knitting to help calm anxious individuals and boost social skills, and people struggling with addiction have routinely found that the repetitive and calming act of knitting can go a long way toward replacing their addictive behavior.
4. Knitting may help you control your weight
Thousands of people throughout the country eat out of boredom. Thousands more eat when they’re feeling stressed or lonely. Over time, these emotional eating habits can lead to severe weight gain, which has an adverse impact on the quality and enjoyment of life. Fortunately, craftwork of any type (including knitting) can help control these urges.
By putting the mind into something positive and constructive, like making something, it’s easier to avoid emotional food cravings and focus on eating only when you’re hungry, rather than when you’re simply stressed or afraid.
This is a simple payoff, but it’s one that can work wonders to improve the quality of your life and health.
5. Knitting can help keep arthritis in the hands at bay
If you’ve noticed your hands beginning to get arthritis as you age, knitting can help. Because knitting requires small, repetitive movements of the hands, it helps the fingers and joints remain dexterous in the golden years, which can translate into increased daily comfort and fewer arthritis symptoms moving forward.
6. Knitting can lessen eating disorders
While this may seem like an outlandish benefit, a study conducted by the University of British Columbia in 2009 found that 38% of women (all of whom suffered from anorexia nervosa) found that knitting helped them manage the problem.
What’s more, 74% of participants said that knitting helped them decrease their anxiety and keep their fears at bay. Because of this, knitting is often used in eating disorder treatment programs and can be ideal for people who have struggled with eating disorders in the past.
7. Knitting can decrease depression
If you’ve been feeling blue lately, knitting may be just the thing to help you. According to a study conducted by Betsan Corkhill, an England native, wellness coach, and founder of the “therapeutic knitting” site Stitchlinks, 54% of respondents in an informal survey said that knitting helped them feel happy or worked to alleviate their depression.
This may be due to the relaxing benefits of knitting, or to the fact that focusing on something positive makes it much harder to focus on negative, time-consuming thoughts.
8. Knitting can help manage chronic pain
Because knitting requires all of a person’s focus, it can decrease chronic pain and help the brain re-focus on the positive, thus reducing a person’s experience of pain.
Because of this, and because it is a low-intensity activity, it can be ideal for individuals who have cancer or are coping with painful, chronic conditions.
9. Knitting can stave off the effects of cognitive decline
According to a 2011 study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, participating in cognitive activities like knitting and crocheting can help prevent or decrease the effects of cognitive decline. In the study, 1,321 people between the ages of 70 and 89 were evaluated and interviewed about the cognitive activities they participated in. The study determined that the seniors who engaged in craft making activities had lower rates of cognitive impairment and memory loss.
With this in mind, it’s clear that something as simple as knitting can go a long way toward improving mental health and staving off cognitive decline with age.
10. Knitting can help you be a part of a community
Multiple studies have shown that maintaining social relationships is critical as we age, and knitting is a great access point for doing this. By joining a knitting group, attending craft shows, and more, knitters can show off their wares and make new friends along the way.
The Case for Knitting
Simple, low-impact, and easy for virtually everyone to enjoy, knitting is a fantastic way for people to manage pain, feel happier, and stay active as they age. Plus, it’s an excellent way to produce some truly unique wearable items for yourself and your family!