Photo from flickr.com
According to a recent 2017 study by Knit for Peace, a charity in the United Kingdom, hand knitting boasts significant health benefits. The organization’s literature review and survey of more than 1,000 knitters shows that knitting can help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, lower blood pressure, divert one’s attention from chronic pain and slow the onset of conditions like dementia, among many others.
The organization’s evidence-based research reveals that the steady and repetitive nature of hand knitting can improve physical and cognitive skills, and it can serve as a means to better cope with ongoing physical and mental health issues.
Ninety-two percent of “those in poor or very poor health” said that knitting improved their health. Furthermore, 92 percent of the people surveyed said that knitting improved their overall mood, while 82 percent claimed that knitting helped relax them.
The study also notes that knitting is a skill that individuals with limited sight, hearing and mobility can still adopt or do, which is one of the reasons why it is so accessible to older populations and to people with disabilities.
“It is an activity that can be continued into extreme old age,” the Knit for Peace report states. “It is a sociable activity that helps overcome isolation and loneliness, too often a feature of old age.”
The findings of another research study, conducted by the Craft Yarn Council in 2014, substantiated Knit for Peace’s survey results. Of the 3,178 knitters and crocheters who participated in Craft Yarn Council’s research, 85 percent said crafting helps them relax and reduces stress. Seventy-six percent of people who claimed to suffer from health issues said that crafting helps them cope with their health challenges.
Knitting isn’t just for senior citizens; all age groups knit and can reap the health benefits.
For example, 21-year-old Ashley Wallace, a senior at SUNY Plattsburgh, began knitting by hand when she was about 12 years old. Since then, she has crafted a variety of items, such as scarves, for friends and family members.
“Back then, it was something to do because I was bored,” Wallace said. “Now that I’m older, I use knitting as a way to relieve stress.”
Along with improving one’s health and its calming effect, hand knitting can also promote a greater sense of creativity, confidence and purpose. It can make someone feel content, proud and accomplished for having finished a crafting project, especially one that is done for someone in need.
Wallace confirms this and explains how the positive habits someone develops from knitting can transfer into that person’s everyday life: “After completing a project, you can’t help feeling proud of what you’ve accomplished. If you can honestly do your best to finish that project, no matter the length or difficulty, then you can apply the same concept to everything else.”
Some critics of knitting believe that the creative activity is outdated. Knit for Peace, in its study, acknowledges that some people don’t believe in knitting “as a potential preventative and treatment measure.”
“Instead of deriding knitters, and dismissing it as old fashioned, surely done because it is a craft most practiced by women,” Knit for Peace asserts, “the evidence suggests knitting should be widely promoted because of its health-giving qualities.”
Knitting can be fun and is easy to learn. Photo by Safire R. Sostre.