Do you have a stash of yarn haunting your closet, woodworking tools sitting unused, or a sewing machine gathering dust? As your life has gotten busier, have you set aside crafting because you don’t feel justified taking the time for a “leisure” activity?
Personal experience has always told us that crafts and hobbies are enjoyable and relaxing, and research is now showing specific ways they benefit our health.
A Japanese study recently compared groups of people with hobbies and without hobbies. The group with hobbies had healthier blood flow, suggesting that their hearts were healthier and they had a lower risk of heart attacks or heart disease. Another group in London found that individuals who participated in arts events were more likely to engage in other heart-healthy behaviors, such as exercise, healthy eating, and positive mental wellness.
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder where patients eat far too little, and often have a lot of anxiety associated with eating and body image. In 2009 a Canadian group studied the effects of knitting on the treatment of women with anorexia admitted to a treatment center. It was a small study of 38 women, but 74% of the women reported that knitting decreased their fears, had a calming effect, and helped clear their mind of a preoccupation with eating.
Crafts may have specific benefits for older adults. A study of hand dexterity showed an improvement in adults age 60-77 who had a comparatively high level of crafting expertise. Younger adults had good dexterity whether they crafted or not. At least one hour of reading or hobbies a day is associated with a decreased risk of developing dementia.
Project Knitwell (projectknitwell.org) is at the forefront of therapeutic crafting. They have helped study the effects of knitting on nurse burnout, with promising results. They send volunteers into hospitals to teach patients and their family members to knit while recovering and waiting at the bedside. Participants find that knitting gives them something to focus on, allowing them to relax and manage the stress and anxiety of serious illness.
So get out those craft supplies, or take a class to learn a new skill! Crafts and hobbies are good for your mental and physical health.
(For more information: Locally, you can sign of up for classes at Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and the Nampa Rec Center. Online, craftyarncouncil.com/health has information on personal health experiences.)
Megan E. Kasper, MD
Dr. Kasper is an OB/GYN physician. To Schedule an appointment with Dr. Kasper, please call 463-3138