There are benefits to be gained from knitting in addition to creating something to wear or a rug to put over your knees. Knitting can benefit your health in a number of ways and is now being used as a therapy in some hospitals, GP surgeries, workplaces, schools, residential care homes and even prisons.
Knitting has been found to be very relaxing. Although some complicated patterns can be frustrating at first, once they have been mastered they make the knitter feel calm, just as a simple pattern does.
When people meditate they often repeat a word, phrase or sound, such as ‘ommm’. The muscular activity involved in knitting is repetitive and causes a ‘relaxation response’ which decreases heart rate, lowers blood pressure and lessens any muscle tension. Studies have discovered similarities between the state of meditation and the activity of knitting.
The repetitive nature of knitting triggers the release of the neurotransmitter serotonin. This makes people feel calmer. Experiments with inmates of low security prisons have shown knitting therapy results in fewer outbreaks of violence.
Some inmates have been involved in knitting ‘comfort dolls’ for children who have had a particularly stressful experience. Completing a project and giving it to someone else has a positive effect on the inmates.
Knitting is good exercise for the memory. Research has shown it is one of a number of activities that lessens the risk of dementia.
In some alternative schools children are taught to knit before starting on formal reading lessons. Knitting teaches the children to focus, concentrate and to work from left to right as in reading and writing. It helps with fine motor skills which will be needed when the children learn to write. Knitting uses both hands so both the left and right brains are involved and it is a skill which helps with coordination. Children also gain confidence through learning to knit which can be especially important if they are struggling with other areas of the curriculum.
Image: Marie Vonow
Some people belong to knitting groups and benefit from the socialisation involved. Shy people often find they are more emotionally comfortable knitting while they talk. Looking at their knitting is a legitimate excuse for avoiding prolonged eye contact.
When animals are injured through bushfires or are orphaned, knitters get busy making pouches to keep juvenile animals warm and mittens for injured paws. The knowledge they are helping wildlife has an additional positive effect on knitters involved in these activities.
It has been found knitting can be more relaxing than reading when people are waiting for a medical appointment. Knitting also helps with pain management because it distracts the brain.
Knitting is sometimes used as a complementary therapy in conjunction with counselling or medical treatments for long term illness.
Some people unravel old jumpers and re use the wool for new projects. The low cost nature of knitting makes it an affordable form of long term therapy and support.
People should be aware it is possible to overdo knitting. Too much knitting can lead to carpel tunnel syndrome. Taking regular breaks and doing activities which use different muscles will help avoid the likelihood of this negative side effect.
If you enjoy knitting, remember its many benefits next time you pick up your needles and wool.