As well as being a way to create warm garments and rugs, knitting can have health benefits. These days knitting is being used as therapy in places such as aged care facilities, support groups, hospitals, schools and prisons. Sometimes a cafe will have knitting available for people to do while they chat to friends. The finished items may be donated to a charity.
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The health benefits of knitting can include:
reducing stress, depression and anxiety
making socialising easier
Reducing stress, depression and anxiety The rhythmic movement of knitting has a meditation-like quality which helps people relax. In one study of people with eating disorders 74% reported knitting reduced their compulsive thoughts.
Low serotonin levels have been linked to depression and anxiety disorders. Research suggests the rhythmical, repetitive motions of knitting increases the release of serotonin, a hormone that regulates mood, learning and sleep.
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Alleviating pain Concentrating on knitting can distract a person from the pain they are experiencing.
Knitting builds up the cartilage in the fingers. Knitting and crocheting keep the fingers dexterous without putting a strain on them. This can help reduce arthritis.
If a person already has arthritis, they may benefit from soaking their hands in warm water for a few minutes or doing a few gentle exercises to warm up the muscles in the hands before a knitting session. Using larger needles can also be helpful.
Helping with socialisation Having friends and interacting with people is good for your health.
Some knitters say strangers are more likely to strike up a conversation with them if they are knitting. Talking about what a person is knitting shows an interest in that person without being intrusive.
Social knitting groups are becoming more common now that knitting is in vogue once more. Some of these groups knit for a charity that helps people or animals in need. Contributing to the welfare of others makes people feel happy. Watch out on notice boards and the internet for a knitting group in your area.
Seen on a country town community notice board Image: Marie Vonow
Strengthening memory Knitting stimulates most parts of the brain at the one time. It boosts memory and cognitive function, reducing the risk of developing dementia. Following a new pattern requires concentration which stimulates the brain to create new neurons.
Many people enjoy knitting as a way of expressing their creativity or because they like to have something to do while watching television, talking or waiting. The health benefits are a bonus.