Knitting for Health: 9 Evidence-Based Benefits

People often ask “what are the health benefits of knitting?”  It turns out there are many.  Some of the evidence-based benefits, so far, include:

  • lower blood pressure
  • reduces depression & anxiety
  • slows the onset of dementia
  • is as relaxing as yoga
  • distracts from chronic pain
  • Opportunity for creativity
  • increases sense of wellbeing
  • reduces loneliness & isolation
  • increases sense of usefulness and inclusion in society

Just the facts

This isn’t wishful thinking or an amorphous feeling. It’s been proven by numerous scientists in real, scientific studies using real facts.

The best resource I’ve found for summarizing the health benefits of knitting is “A Literature Review and Survey to Examine the Health Benefits of Knitting Especially for the Elderly, and Opportunities it
Offers for Volunteering” written and conducted by the international charity Knit for Peace.  Most of the information that follows comes from this study.  Follow the link for more info.

Physical Benefits of Knitting

Knit Your Way to a Stronger Immune System

I’m not aware of any studies directly linking knitting with a stronger immune system, but there are studies showing that meditation “turns on” genes that strengthen our immune system. It’s estimated that meditating about 20 minutes a day will turn on your immunity strengthening genes.

Knitters frequently knit for much more than 20 minutes/day. Since knitting can be a form of meditation, it stands to reason that knitting can strengthen your immune system, too. It’s also estimated that it takes less time to get the results of meditation with knitting as compared to other forms of meditation.

Knit for Your Heart

Knitting is frequently done to give to others. What could be better for your heart?

Want more?

Knitting has been shown to lower blood pressure and decrease knitter’s heart rates by an average of 11 beats per minute.

Knit for Relaxation

Everything works better when we’re relaxed. Fortunately, knitting promotes a sense of relaxation. You’ve heard of the phrase “knitting is the new yoga”? That’s because studies have shown that knitting is just as relaxing as yoga.

Dr. Herbert Benson of Harvard’s Mind and Body Medical Institute compares knitting to a calming mantra. Specifically, a 2007 study from the institute showed that knitting induces the relaxation response, an antidote to stress.

Distracts from Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is difficult to treat because it is usually influenced by a wide range of factors. Knitting has been shown to distract sufferers from their pain without a rebound effect even though the knitters may spend a great deal of time sitting.

Mental/Emotional Benefits of Knitting

Reduces depression and anxiety

It’s not surprising the hear that something that induces the relaxation response also helps with depression and anxiety.  Mental health studies suggest that knitting helps with depression because of it’s product characteristics.  That is, it grows.  Progress can be seen which can be especially helpful for those suffering from a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.  Finishing a project helps with self-esteem, as does increasing one’s knitting skills.  Knitting can help moderate stress and emotions.

Slows the Onset of Dementia

A Mayo Clinic study showed that participating in craft activities, in general, results in a lower chance of age-related mild cognitive impairment.  Better yet, a French study shows that being an active knitter predicts lower levels of dementia.

Distracts from Chronic Pain

It seems that knitting helps chronic pain sufferers in a variety of ways:   by promoting relaxation, lowering stress, distracting from pain, and empowering pain sufferers by giving them a tool that they control.

Opportunity for creativity

The benefits of creativity are many, including:  problem-solving, personal growth, a sense of purpose and autonomy.  This is especially important for the elderly and those dealing with the onset of disability.  Fortunately, many in this group can still knit.

Increases Sense of Well-being

Knitting also provides an increased sense of normalcy and control.  It may also help knitters maintain or reclaim a sense of positive identity.

Reduces loneliness and isolation

Although knitting is an individual activity, it also promotes, and may make it easier to engage in, socializing.  Knitters groups are common and, by the need to keep one’s focus on one’s own knitting, make it easier to engage as much or as little as is comfortable.

Increases sense of usefulness and inclusion in society

This last one refers to knitters’ habit of giving away their knitting. Although we may feel a sense of pride and accomplishment from finishing a project, many of us enjoy giving it away once it’s done.  Charity knitting is very popular.

The Mystery of Knitting’s Health Benefits

The most surprising thing about the health benefits of knitting is the fact that few know about them.  There are too many studies to count proving that knitting is good for you. I mean this literally.

A recent search of Google Scholar for the “health benefits of knitting” yielded over 53,000 results.  Note this search was done on Google Scholar, which focuses on reporting the results of research studies, not blogs and advertisements.

Of course, there’s overlap between the search results, but that’s still a lot of academic research into the health benefits of knitting.

Knitting promotes health.

Evidence-based research is at the heart of health care.  Doctors and insurance companies demand it.
Plenty of research exists proving that knitting improves health, yet knitting is rarely recognized or prescribed by health professionals.  Why?  Because it’s “women’s work”?

I don’t have any other explanation, but I’d love to hear your respectful thoughts and opinions.

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