For those who have never picked up a set of needles, the thought of knitting may seem like an overwhelming task. The structured and coordinated, two-handed movement required to get the job done right is in fact hard mental work. However, just like any good workout, knitting doesn’t come without benefit. The practice of knitting is an extremely meditative process that helps to eliminate stress, calm the nerves and preserve memory function.
A team of researchers from the Mayo Clinic analyzed 1,300 adults who engaged in activities like knitting, reading books and playing games instead of watching television. Participants who practiced these more mentally challenging activities were 30-50% less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than their television-watching counterparts. That’s right, 30-50%.
A separate online survey was completed by over 3,545 knitters. The results of the survey also clearly pointed out that knitting three times a week gave participants a greater sense of well-being and accomplishment. Active knitters also reported higher cognitive function and social wellbeing from knitting with friends than those who knitted less often.
In a third study conducted by The University of Texas at Dallas, 220 older adults were asked to perform mentally challenging activities like quilting for at least 15 hours per week for a 3-month period. Not only did these participants experience improved memory, cognitive testing also indicated they could focus better than people who engaged in less mentally demanding activities, such as socializing, taking day trips or working on simple, passive tasks at home.
If you’re looking to maintain your cognitive function, the evidence is clearly stacked in favor of activities like knitting, quilting and crocheting. Though there’s no magic pill or quick fix for reducing stress, enhancing creativity or improving memory, the health benefits of these handicrafts add up — one stitch at a time.