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Published on January 13th, 2016 | by Angie

32 comments

The 4 health benefits of knitting

As knitters, many of us can feel the health benefits of knitting. But is it a placebo, or something more? Angie from the LoveKnitting team investigates.

The 4 health benefits of knitting: read more at LoveKnitting

Many knitters do what they do because it makes them feel good. For a variety of reasons, from the warm fuzzy feeling of donating knits to the simple rhythm of stocking stitch, we keep picking up the needles, day after day. Here at LoveKnitting, we have previously written about the mental health benefits of knitting and told our own stories about how knitting helps us. As an investigative personality with an insatiable hunger for facts, I wanted to know why.

As it turns out, the bilateral movement of knitting fires neurons all over your brain. Just like playing the piano, the act of usng both hands at once to make different movements stimulates a whole host of brain functions that scientists haven’t yet totally decoded. As a result, there are 4 main health benefits of knitting, as evidenced in scientific studies around the world.

Eating disorder management

In 2009, a small study took place in a specialized, in-patient eating disorder management program, and it yielded surprising results. All of the participants were taught to knit and given access to materials; 74% reported a significant decrease in weight management preoccupations, and 53% reported a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Doctors link this positive outcome with the well-known effects of knitting on mental health, applied to the detrimental effects that eating disorders can have on people. More studies are on the horizon in this topic, to research larger groups and the positive effects of knitting on patients who struggle with eating disorders long term.

4 benefits of knitting: read more at LoveKnitting (image of luxury yarns surrounding a heart)

Chronic pain management

A study at the Royal United Hospital in Bath, England revealed that people who suffer from chronic pain can benefit from knitting through several different ways. First, the meditative qualities of rhythmic activity aids in serotonin release, which causes feelings of happiness, calm, and content. Second, the social aspect of knitting circles meant that those who previously had felt alienated in society due to lack of mobility had a new support network; these newfound bonds carried on after the study ended.

Finally, the feeling of achievement and accomplishment help to aid the development of new identities separate from the chronic pain that previously ruled every waking moment. All of the study’s participants chose to knit for charities, and that newfound “purpose” led to more positive thinking and network building within the chronic pain community.

4 benefits of knitting: read more at LoveKnitting (image of bright colored cottons yarns surrounding a yarn heart)

Memory and dementia

As many with ageing relatives know, dementia can be a devastating degenerative illness that takes a toll on patients and caregivers alike. In June 2010, Cardiff University in Wales began studying the effects of knitting on memory loss and word recall. While there was a difference between knitters and non-knitters, the study ended in May 2011 due to inconclusive results on a scientific level.

However, the Spring 2011 edition of The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences published a study from the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, USA, which cited statistics suggesting that crafters of all stripes benefit from improved cognition and a decreased risk of cognitive impairment. These results showed that crafting, reading, and played logical games like chess enjoyed a shocking 50% decrease in odds of having a mild cognitive impairment.

Doctors support a theory that participating in these activities makes “deposits into an individual’s brain bank,” creating a cognitive reserve which can ultimately protect them from cognitive impairment from diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

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Depression and anxiety

As we have reported in the past, knitting and crafting has a huge impact on the effects of depression and anxiety across all ages, cultures, and genders. Two cancer ward nurses decided to test their theory that knitting would help prevent and treat “compassion burnout” in hospital nurses. Though it was a small group of 38 participants in a blind study, the results showed that all of the nurses felt less burned out at the end of the 13 week study.

If you’re still doubting the effects of knitting on mental health, consider this: after World War I, shell-shocked soldiers were taught to knit as a part of their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder treatment.

In 2014, the news organization CNN studied the effects of knitting on mood as part of their This Is Your Brain series. Participants were all diagnosed with clinical depression, and 81% reported feelings of “very happy” after knitting for a short amount of time.

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Conclusion

It’s been proven time and again through genuine scientific studies that knitting and crafting has significant benefits on both physical and mental health. Though more studies are on the horizon to research ongoing effects and the intensity of these effects, it’s a sure thing that knitting is good for you.

What are the health benefits of knitting that you experience?

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About the Author

Jack of all trades, Master of Netflix and video games. A musician by passion, a gamer by choice, and a crafter by chance: I write about knitting and crochet, design fun patterns, and blog at GamerCrafting!


Last updated: January 12th, 2016.

32 Responses to The 4 health benefits of knitting

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Hi! It’s always good to read articles supporting the fact that knitting is good for us!

    You may be interested in a book I wrote last year ‘The Blanket Book’ which supports therapeutic knitting and contains some simple patterns people can follow – beginner knitters and the more experienced.

    If you’d like to know more have a look at my website: http://www.theblanketbook.co.uk and FB page I’d love to tell you more.

    Elizabeth Caush

  2. Anne Ransom says:

    I’ve enjoyed knitting from a very early age and I’m still knitting at the age of 63 now in my retirement. I’ve always enjoyed the challenge of a new pattern and have recently completed a shawl for my mother, I have to say it was the most complex pattern I have ever knitted, better than any crossword or Suduko puzzle to keep the brain active !! I enjoyed reading your report it was very interesting.

  3. Sandy Nethery says:

    I believe there is truth in what you have written, but would like to add that crocheting provides me with all the same benefits. I enjoy both crafts and find crocheting to be just as satisfying as knitting, possibly more so. Different textures and projects are possible with crocheting, such as edgings, or things made with thread. Variety is the spice of life!

  4. Paula Weinbaum says:

    Several years ago I was laid off from my job of 20+ years. It was a difficult time for me since my job had always been the one constant in my life that I could really depend on in good and bad times. I have been knitting for over 50yrs, so it’s always been a part of my life, but at that time it became something that got me through those first weeks of being without my job. It brought me confort and kept me from feeling sorry for myself. I put the extra time I had to good use and it gave me a purpose. Learning to knit when I was eight years old has been one of the best things I ever did! Knitting has been a life-long friend and continues to be!!!

  5. Maggie says:

    I learned to knit when I was 7 and now at 20 I am still knitting and love it! Eventually, I wanted to stop knitting only for myself so me and my sisters opened an Etsy shop and things took off from there!
    http://www.girlpower.etsy.com

  6. Elsa Oliver says:

    I started knitting at 5 years old I am still knitting and crocheting at the age of 76 years old I am at the momont knitting for great grand children and crocheting for two knew ones due soon . I must have a bit of knitting on or I would go mad .i have been married 60years this year and having four sons 11 grand children and 7 great grand children kept me busy .

  7. claire st james says:

    I am a knitter ,and agree that in time of hard and depress moment ,knitting been helping me a lot

  8. Shirley Weihing says:

    My grandmother taught me how to crochet rag rugs. I then taught my fourth graders to make rag rugs when we had the pioneer unit. I had a small table in the room that they could do that when they finished their work. . Even the boys liked to do it. I am now 92 still crocheting. My husband always said buying yard was better than pills.

    • Bernadette Byrne says:

      You are clearly a ‘wonderful lady’ still crafting at this age !! I hope you have passed your gift of crafting on to many who will carry on the tradition ?!? God bless you ! Xx

  9. Patricia Dibsdale says:

    Iwas so interested to read your report. I have knitted since I was 7 years old and have knitted for my 4 children 6 Grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren and hope to carry on .Recently at a drop in centre at our church we were asked to knit premature baby hats for the local hospital. This venture was so popular with the ladies that after this request was saturated we carried on knitting for other charities.Over our clicking needles we found it so much easier to talk to each other and more importantly listen.So carry on knitting I say .We eagerly await a gentleman knitter.

  10. Evelyn Gray says:

    I have knitted many garments over my 78 years. I always used my hobby as a relaxation after a very busy day’s work or while sitting at my husband’s bedside on his many hospital stays. I certainly put in on the top of the list of what needed to be in my bag if I had a hospital stay or appointment. I now enjoy producing one off garments, putting together parts of many patterns and styles I have made in the past. My craft is a wonderful way of passing time in the cold winter days and evenings, and someone benefits from the article produced. I also know no one has a replica of the garment!

  11. Cathy James says:

    Knitting as therapy. I think we all do things in our lives that make us feel good without really knowing why. Sometimes it’s good to know why.

  12. Lindsey Easton says:

    I was taught to knit at about 7 by my mum, did a bit now and then, nothing much. I’m now 45 and found during a severe period of stress and anxiety last year that I ‘needed’ to knit. I picked up my needles after years, and I’m sure the knitting really helped my recovery. I think it’s because I can’t worry and stress and concentrate on knitting. All I know for sure is after knitting I feel calmer and much better to solve any issues. And I have produced some lovely pieces to give away. It’s like giving away my troubles, having turned them into something beautiful! Win win!

    • Bernadette Byrne says:

      That’s wonderful news ! Delighted for you !! I love my knitting too – so relaxing !! ?

    • Miranda says:

      Almost the same story for me, I am so glad I have my knitting, however, my knitting machine has the absolutely opposite effect on me, so staying away from that for while. Great article, now if my partner would just learn we’d be in heaven!

  13. Sam says:

    I have found that knitting has actually helped strengthen the muscles in my fingers and hands…. As someone who suffers from a connective tissue disorder that leads to early onset arthritis it has been invaluable…. It also has a therapeutic effect as my enforced rest periods dont feel like wasted time when i have so many knitting projects on the go!… Thank you knitting!!!

  14. Linda says:

    When I am into my knitting, it cuts down significantly on my snacking. If my hands are busy with the knitting, I don’t want to stop to get up and get a snack!

  15. Cathi says:

    My Grandmother taught me to knit and I have always knitted for pleasure. A few years ago my son had a ‘life changing accident’ he was sixteen and needed to be in hospital for a very long time were I had the pleasure of teaching him to knit, it proved to be very good therapy for him and me, and produced one of the longest scarf’s ever !

  16. Una says:

    In 2006 my beautiful brother died suddenly in a fire, he was only two years older than me. It was a big shock for me but what I did was starting knitting all day every day until in September of 2009 my father passed away out of a heart attack. I gave my last piece of knitted sweater to his girlfriend, it was to be my fathers Christmas present that year and since then I haven’t done any knitting but I have made some drastic changes in my life instead. 2010 I packed my bags and took my husband and three daughters and we moved from Iceland to Australia, not knowing anything about the land or people but I believe the knitting helped me keep it together after my brother died until I was ready to save myself.
    Love and Peace

    • Beccy Horder says:

      Hi Una from Iceland. I was really touched by your story and the sanity knitting gives our lives in the face of terrible adversity at times. Welcome down under to the antipodes, Australia a long way from Iceland but where I live in New Zealand almost as far from Iceland as you can get. I met a family from Estonia a few years ago who sent me a book of their traditional knitting fair isle patterns which are stunning. I imagine you will have a knitting culture from Iceland with a lot of pattern and history, enjoy your new country and the wonderful wools produced there Beccy Horder Wanaka New Zealand

  17. Beccy Horder says:

    All the comments on the benefits of knitting I could,nt agree with more. Not only a functional craft of benefit to the recipients with every stitch a love link, but the mental and emotional health deeply holistic and has been down through the ages. I began to research the history of knitting a few years ago, this quest introduced me to information, books and magazines which delved into every culture and country around the world with some historical origin of knitted garment, the earliest a cotton legging discovered in Egypt from centuries ago. We knitters are linked in community whatever age, wherever we live and with whatever yarn ,method and imagination, there are no bounds! Bless all you love knitting knitters from Wanaka New Zealand

  18. Suzie says:

    Hi, I’ve always wanted to do some craft work except sewing. At school I enjoyed embroidery, being taught to knit. I was shown how to crochet when I started work as my boss and the deputy both loved crochet and when my children were babies I knitted lots of pretty cardigans, bootees etc for them but haven’t done any for years. Oh I have the needles wool etc, but as soon as I attempt to start anything, I am mocked by my nearest and dearest to the point that I give up. I feel so belittled that I feel that anything I try to do has to be done in secret. Part of me wants to tell them all to ‘get lost’ while at the at the same time I wonder if I am being unrealistic about my abilities. I’m 62 now.

    • Pauline says:

      Hi Suzie,
      It is so sad that wanting to have a hobby knitting is derided within your house. Is there a knitting group near where you live. I’m sure you would get help, support and positivity in whatever project you tackle. 62 is certainly not too late to restart.

      • Miranda says:

        Last year I turned 62, and picked up my knitting needles for the first time in 40 years, now I have opened my own Etsy shop and enjoying it immensely, Not only am I enjoying my projects so are my buyers, win win. If you are interested I am Jack Bentley Knitwear. You are never to old to try something new, especially if it is beneficial to you. and with Loveknitting I never run out of wool.,

    • Teresa says:

      Hi Suzie

      If you want to knit again and want to have a ‘reason’ to give your critics then maybe you could start off by making tiny hats for the annual fundraiser done by Innocent drinks. It is called The Big Knit and all funds raised go to Age Concern. You can find information about it here. http://www.ageuk.org.uk/get-involved/events-and-challenges/the-big-knit/
      This year’s campaign just finished in December but many of us knit hats all through the year in readiness for when we can next send them in.

      It would get you back into knitting and help the elderly community at the same time, and your loved ones would look bad for mocking your charity efforts.

  19. enid stephenson says:

    Love the article ,just re-enforces what i have thought for years .My father taught me to knit with 6 inch nails and string in the cornfield where he was working and stopped for his tea break i had delivered to him .I am still knitting ,not with string ,making baby clothes for the local prem baby unit I am now 77 by the way .

  20. Aless says:

    My late mother and I both had a serious health issue- severe osteoarthritis of the finger joints (as well as other places…) and, while she said she was never able to teach me to knit, I taught myself, and I became quite proficient. I also LOVED it!! I had to give up for about 10 years when I developed elbow pain when knitting, but I kept trying every so often, till I was again able to knit. JOY!!

    Strangely, while my mother was unable to continue to knit wothout pain, she could easily do quite fine crochet till she passed away, and it was a great comfort to her in her latter years. Now that I am dealing with wide spread osteo plus psoriatic arthritis,I adore knitting but crochet hurts MY fingers!!
    I recently asked my rheumatologist if it was OK for me to continue knitting, and she said a definite YES (apparently it helps to exercise the joints). So, apart from being good for my heart and soul, it is also good for my body.

  21. Elizabeth Wittig says:

    Just getting back into knitting for nephew 9 months and niece almost 6 I’m having fun and Zoe loves to pick her own colour and pattern. She said she wanted one like mine No not the colour but cable patyterns – this could take some time! Also she wants me to teach her to knit – at the moment she is working the needle while I move the yarn!

  22. Allena west says:

    So enjoyed reading this article. My mum taught me to knit when I was 6. I am now 61 and had to give up work nearly 2 years ago because of a disability and boy has knitting been my saviour as some days I can’t leave home. I knit mostly baby clothes. Some for friends and some for a local maternity hospital. It gives me pleasure and keeps me sane. So folks keep knitting.

  23. kathy c says:

    It is so encouraging to read all your letters of how knitting is giving you all so much pleasure, at the same time stimulating the brain . This is not only exercising your joints it is also a wonderful way of keeping the inner artist activated. Choosing style and colour of any project is an achievment in itself whether be it squares, cardigans, hats or baby clothes, just think ! your designing your master piece. Well done to you all.
    We are starting a knit & natter group , including crochet for beginners. With the intentions of grouping crafters together eventually, the experienced passing on their know how to others, so wish us bon chance. Any ideas gratefully recieved.

  24. Balbirnatt says:

    I read some view very impress I love kniting istart kniting 12th year age but I am 67year old I so much knit sweater my brother sister nephew nice son daughter friends grand daughter and little just three month grand son I love kniting I very impressive read your email and views

  25. Patricia Dibsdale says:

    Knitted cushion covers are great for a knit and natter group to do.Any colour ,any stitchand it goes on for a long time if you do both sides with an overlap .Happy knitting.

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