Knit Yourself A Better Brain!

January 12, 2010 at 2:34 pm Leave a comment

imageKnitting: it’s been a  traditional activity for older women for as long as I can remember. In fact, the first three or four decades of my life were punctuated with slippers, scarves, potholders and afghans crafted out of from yarn by the eldest generations of my and my husband’s families.  A couple of times a year, I’d dutifully open a package containing yet anther set of curiously colored  pom-pom’d slipper-socks that I’d never wear,  nod and smile, and offer a kiss on the cheek.

The gifts were  quirky curiosities of an older age, accepted with the same love they’d been made with – even if I never wore the things.

But you know what? Every one of those needle-working women had a sharp mind into their 80’s and 90’s.   Back then, I would have never connected the dots between knitting and a healthy brain.  Now, I wonder if a bit of yarn doesn’t run between them, and if the resurgence in popularity of knitting and crocheting might hold promise for a sharp-witted older generation of women.

Why Could Knitting Be Good For The Brain?

  • Ongoing Brain Exercise: Knitting and other forms of needle work provide endless options to learn new stitches, patterns and combinations (as well as giving form to your own ideas), providing your mind with a general workout, building new neural pathways, and generally improving the health of the brain.
  • Spatial Visualization Skills: The process of turning lengths of yarn into a complex, three dimensional shaped object makes the brain focus on visual-spatial skills, keeping them sharp… skills which are often among the first cognitive functions to fail in Alzheimer’s.
  • Motor Skills: Needle-work keeps crucial motor skills and hand-eye coordination in tip-top shape, another set of skills believed important to maintain for brain health.
  • Stress Reduction: Knitting and crocheting are often described as a meditative, relaxing task that helps shed the effects of stress….  and stress reduction is a key to maintaining a healthy brain.
  • Social Opportunities: Many people find knitting circles and groups to be a good social outlet, sharing supplies, patterns, and just companionship while they work. And keeping busy with a knitting project can serve as social grease when with younger family members.
  • Meaning, Purpose and Serving The Community: Simply having a project to finish helps keep us engaged with life, and provides an extra nudge of daily motivation, keeping us out of depression and isolation.   And many people use their yarn-crafting as service for the community… knitting toys for under privileged children, afghans and lap-robes for nursing homes and hospitals, or donating crafts to be sold at charity auctions.

Modern knitting has moved  beyond those pom-pom slippers and pot holders my great grandmother made. There are patterns out there for wonderfully complex and beautiful works of art, and a wide variety of organic, hand spun and dyed yarns in astoundingly beautiful shapes colors and designs. As a hobby, needlecrafts are enjoying a resurgence with baby-boomers and younger generations, and it may well help some of them stay sharp into their elder years.

Mind you, there is no research I know of that proves knitting your grand baby a blanket and booties will prevent cognitive declines, or that crocheting an afghan for a cancer patient can postpone Alzheimer’s symptoms.

But viewed through the lens of modern neuroscience and the recommendations of brain health experts, it’s almost a no-brainer to recognize that traditional past times like knitting and other needle work are good for the brain, making them beneficial hobbies not just for seniors, but for anyone at any age.

Entry filed under: Be Mentally Active. Tags: , , , , .

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About This Blog


A healthy mind and brain is key to a healthy, active life. Come along for the ride as we explore the basics of brain health, with topics including:
  • Physical Exercise
  • Cognitive Training
  • Stress Management
  • Social Interaction
  • Sleep
  • Nutrition
  • A Sense of Purpose & Connection
Authored by Tori Deaux
Sponsored by Dakim Brain Fitness

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