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How Knitting Can Relieve Stress and Lower Blood Pressure

Updated on August 12, 2012

Stress Relief With Knitting

We all have stress in our lives. Likewise, there are many ways to cope with stress. You may choose to go out with friends, take a nap, exercise, take a hot bath, or engage in an enjoyable hobby. One hobby that many people don't associate with stress relief is knitting. Knitting has long been associated with old ladies who have nothing better to do with their time. But recently, knitting has caught on among younger people as well. There's a very good reason for that. Knitting gives people the opportunity to be creative and to unwind and relax at the same time. In fact, research from the Harvard Medical School Mind/Body Institute shows that the rhythmic clicking of knitting needles induces the relaxation response. This is the same relaxation response that is elicited when someone meditates. Except with knitting, you actually create something useful!

Knitting can relieve stress
Knitting can relieve stress | Source

Knitting and the Relaxation Response

Have you ever noticed that people who knit seem serene, relaxed, and happy? It's not a fluke. Research from 2007 at Harvard Medical School's Mind/Body Institute proved that knitting induces the relaxation response and lowers heart rate on average by 11 beats per minute. Blood pressure also drops when knitting.

First, what is the relaxation response and why is it so desirable?

In order to understand the relaxation response, you must first understand the fight or flight reponse induced by stress. When a person experiences acute or chronic stress, the body reacts with a series of autonomic nervous system responses designed to prepare the body to fight or run away from the danger. These include increases in cortisol, an increased heart rate and higher blood pressure. Obviously, the stress most people encounter on a day-to-day basis doesn't require fighting or fleeing and the bodies response is undesirable if experienced too frequently, which is often the case.

The relaxation response is the opposite. It produces changes to the nervous system that reverse the fight or flight response, lowering heart rate and blood pressure and decreasing the level of cortisol released by the body. The relaxation response can be induced with progressive relaxation techniques, meditation, some types of prayer, and knitting!

What is the benefit of inducing the relaxation response? Researchers have found many including better immune system function, pain reduction, better sleep, more energy, better brain function, and increased productivity. Who wouldn't want that?

Learning to Knit

If you already know how to knit, congratulations! You have a great tool for health. If you learned before but haven't knit for awhile or if you've never learned before, don't worry. It's not that difficult. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be happily clicking your needles, creating useful knit garments and relieving stress at the same time.

There are many ways to learn how to knit. Probably the best is to find someone who already knows how who is willing to teach you. This is how I learned. My mom taught me when I was six years old and I've been knitting on and off ever since. If you don't know anyone personally who can teach you, search for a local knitting group. In my area, I've noticed that there's a knitting group that meets at the local library. There are also many knitting "meet-up" groups. Finally, a yarn shop might have knitting groups or lessons available.

If you can't find anyone or don't have the time to go out to a formal group, the next best way to learn to knit is via the Internet. There are so many great knitting websites out there, many with videos to help you every step of the way. For example, when I recently picked up my needles again, I had forgotten how to cast on. I went to a video on and was able to re-learn the technique.

Once you learn to knit, your best bet for inducing the relaxation response it to work on a piece that's easy, almost mindless. You should pick something like an easy scarf instead of an intricate, multi-color garment. Until you get more experienced knitting, those types of projects might be more frustrating than relaxing, giving you the opposite response you desire.

Enjoy yourself, reduce stress, and increase your health while you create something beautiful! Happy knitting!


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    • harshree profile image

      Harshree 4 years ago from India

      That is a real good explanation of stress. I agree that knitting relieves stress. Whenever i knit something it is as if i seem to forget the world around me. For me its the joy of creating something that matters the most. Its been a long time I'll have to reach out for my knitting basket. :-)

    • SilkThimble profile image

      SilkThimble 5 years ago from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

      Excellent! I've certainly found that knitting (and other handwork) is a great stress reducer.

    • profile image

      A.CreativeThinker 5 years ago

      Yes, it is a very relaxing craft. Many crafts are quite relaxing and enjoyable. Very nice hub. Thanks for sharing.

      Take Care :)

    • Wheels2sticks profile image

      Wheels2sticks 5 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

      The learning part might not be a stress reducer, but once you have learned, you're good to go.

    • SD Dickens profile image

      SD Dickens 5 years ago

      Thanks for reading craftdrawer...I believe this also applies to crochet!

    • craftdrawer profile image

      craftdrawer 5 years ago

      Good information!!! I enjoy crochet myself!!!