I didn't need to see the research on the restorative features of knitting to know it's really good for me. But it's nice to know about all the healthy benefits my favourite hobby brings my way. And it's not news to me that chronically ill people with time on their hands and worry in their brains feel better when they knit.
I have ME/CFS, and this has been my experience off and on over the past decade or so as I've applied my limited physical and mental resources to yarn and needles, making something out of nothing.
Having something concrete to show for my hours in a chair bucks me up like nothing else. Being able to present a gift to someone I love, especially when other resources are few and far between, is the icing on the cake.
Knitting's repetitive and rhythmic movement has been found to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. Always a good idea since this has restorative effects on our minds and bodies.
Dr. Herbert Benson of the Harvard Medical School theorized in the 1960s that meditative practices (like knitting) triggered a "relaxation response" decreasing blood pressure and heart rate, as well as decreasing symptoms of anxiety, depression and insomnia, according to an article on Sacbee.com.
Dr. Barry Jacobs of Princeton University discovered in animal research that the calming neurotransmitter serotonin is also released by repetitive movement, according to an article on Psychologytoday.com.
Sacbee.com reported that Carrie and Alton Barron, M.D.s, authors of “The Creativity Cure: Building Happiness With Your Own Two Hands,” said knitting can enhance cognition, with increased activity in 60 percent of your brain, and the health of your hands, along with decreasing anxiety and depression.
Carrie said that your mind is kept busy with "the rhythmic, mathematical nature of knitting" and has less room for worry.
Alton Barron, orthopedic surgeon and president of the New York Society for Surgery of the Hand, recommends knitting as a way of preventing arthritis and tendinitis. He said that the finger action while knitting keeps joints hydrated as fluid is forced to move in and out of the cartilage.