During the Winter Olympics this year, Finland’s snowboard coach could be seen knitting on the slopes. It was a surprising sight and made many curious as to why it was necessary. It turns out that knitting can decrease stress and anxiety; with April being stress awareness month we thought it would be fitting to talk about knitting.
Knitting is sometimes underestimated and can be seen as a boring “elderly” hobby. However, knitting has many mental and physical benefits. When someone starts knitting the relaxation response is induced and decreases the heart rate by an average of 11 beats per minute. The relaxation response lowers heart rate, blood pressure as well as muscle tension in the body. This response is elicited using many meditation techniques such as yoga and diaphragmatic breathing. How does knitting induce the relaxation response? It is said the repetitive and rhythmic movement along with the clicking sound of the needles creates a sense of calm. Knitting also keeps the hands busy allowing for the person to focus and bring stillness into ones’ life.
Knitting is good for taking personal time to reflect on your thoughts but it is also a social activity too. You can make social connections through internet knitting sites and through local knitting groups. Knitting can decrease loneliness and social isolation. Social interaction changes the balance of hormones within the body. More social support increases a hormone called oxytocin which stimulates the calming responses in the parasympathetic nervous system. Oxytocin can also help balance other stress hormones that are related to the fight-or-flight response. Knitting can be a therapeutic method to decrease stress for various people. It decreases stress for the social butterfly, for the person who is just looking for some peace and quiet to rejuvenate, and the stressed out Olympic athlete/coach.
Knitting has many other health benefits such as decreasing depression, distracting from chronic pain, and slowing the onset of dementia. If you are not a fan of knitting you might be interested in sewing, quilting, or crocheting. These activities are also shown to have similar health benefits as knitting.