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The Health Benefits of Crafting


We’ve been talking crafter wellness this month, and we’ve already covered a lot! We’ve looked at how crafting can be beneficial during time of stress like a global pandemic and to one’s overall mental health. Going a step farther, we considered crafting’s impact on emotional wellness, including how the fiber arts can help us through seasons of grieving. Yet, when most people think “health and wellness,” they are focused on the body and its physical health. Well, this week we are moving outward from the cerebral and tackling both how crafting enhances our physical well-being and how to keep our bodies in tip top shape so we can keep on creating comfortably!

As we’ve discussed in previous articles, crafting is a powerful tool for both relaxing and controlling our minds. The benefits of that don’t stop with mental or emotional health, however. The focus required to craft, especially for the fiber arts, has the ability to improve our physical health. Research has shown that the hand/mind coordination and sustained attention of activities like knitting may delay some symptoms of aging. It is also believed that these pursuits stimulate and create connections within the brain which slow or diminish the risk of dementia and diseases such as Alzheimers. A study conducted by the Mayo Clinic supports this and reports participation in activities such as board games, knitting and reading saw a reduction in memory loss between 30-50%.

The power of craft can have more immediate impact as well. While many makers would agree that their crafting is an addiction, it can be a healing hobby that replaces destructive behaviors. Groups dedicated to helping people quit smoking, for example, have found that crafts can help divert attention away from the urge to smoke. The same rationale applies to other compulsive actions, as small as fidgeting with your fingers. Eating disorders are another example where crafting moves the mind away from detrimental thoughts, and on a smaller scale, those prone to continual snacking can curb their intake by keeping their hands busy through craft. This piece by Health and Fitness Revolution sums it up well:

Choosing to knit is a conscious decision with subconscious benefits because of the level of concentration required to keep you going.

Concentrating on crafting also works both hemispheres of the brain which improves cerebral coordination. Combining that with the advantage of strengthening hand/eye coordination, crafting proves extremely helpful for developing fine motor skills. This makes the fiber arts great activities for children with motor disorders. (You may see improvement in their writing skills for example.) Participation in the fiber arts has also helped reduce hyperactivity for some children!

Beyond reducing hyperactivity, the repetitive nature of the fiber arts has a calming and relaxing effect that is likened to meditation. Important for the mind, this practice also releases tension in the body which promotes rest. If you’re someone who has trouble sleeping - anybody else make a lot of lists in their head while they’re trying to fall asleep? Or think “If I fall asleep now I’ll get X hours of sleep”? - focusing on a soothing craft project before you lie down may be a solution for getting a few more z’s! Your mind is occupied and your body is actually ready to rest. Quality rest and more relaxation will reduce stress which promotes a healthier immune system!

Even if sleep isn’t a concern for you, the flow-like state of crafting has been shown to lower blood pressure in a fashion similar to yoga. Lower blood pressure helps avoid cardiovascular problems such as heart attack or stroke. Studies have also estimated that knitting reduces heart rate by an average of 11 beats per minute which can help reduce concerns such as hypertension and a variety of heart conditions.

We’re going to talk more about the ergonomics of craft - knitting in particular - later this week, but it warrants a quick mention that ailments like arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis can be both helped and hurt by handicrafts. While overuse is a very real concern, keeping the hands moving warms them up through exercise and keeps them from getting too stiff. This can reduce the feelings of pain and be a relief for some folks who experience chronic aches!

Finally, as we live in an age of technology, the fiber arts are a great diversion from screens which can reduce eye strain. (As long as lighting is good, the contrast between needles and yarn is high, etc. We’ll cover that soon too!)

So, take a break from your screen and pick up that project! You could be improving your physical well-being more than you thought possible. If you’re interested in determining how your crafting is affecting your personal health, keep an eye out for a tool we’ve been working on. We hope to have it ready for you in the coming weeks!

*Disclaimer: we are not medical professionals and none of the content above is intended to act as or replace professional guidance. If you are experiencing pain, please consult with your healthcare provider!

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