I have a friend of mine that is very much into knitting. The fact that he is a welder by trade made this a little strange to me, but he loves it and eventually I will quit asking him how the “baby bootie business” is going. According to him, knitting is how he relaxes, so who am I to fault him? It reminds me of a friend I had when I played football who quietly admitted to taking ballroom dancing classes. No, there is nothing wrong with a man taking dancing classes, but the fact that he was 6 and a half feet tall and weighed 300 pounds didn’t exactly inspire mental images of a graceful waltzer.
Sure enough, 4 or 5 weeks into the class, this guy went from moving like a tank in a mudhole to gliding around the field like a caffeinated ferret on ice. Dancing taught him footwork in a way that actually made him more nimble. I did a little reading, and as it turns out, the simple act of knitting is great for your mind, your body, and your soul. Even if you aren’t a welder.
Knitting is like a full-body workout for your brain because there are so many elements involved. Knitting causes you to use the parts of your brain that are associated with motor function, memory, spatial navigation, timing, movement, attention to detail, and planning. Between all of these separate functions your brain uses the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, occipital lobe, temporal lobe, and the cerebellum. Your brain is like a muscle, so the best way to prevent cognitive decline is to use it, and knitting puts your entire brain through its paces.
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The dexterity involved in knitting is great for your hands. Using your hands in a manner that puts a little strain on them, without wearing them out is perfect for maintaining good joint health. Gentle use of your fingers builds the cartilage and ligaments up without destroying them like more strenuous activities can. Dr. Alton Barron points out, “If you let a joint sit, not only will it get stiff, but the actual cartilage will lose its structural integrity and break down. Most of us grow up thinking the more you use something the more it wears out, but that’s not the case with cartilage.”
Once you get into the groove of knitting, the repetitive, rhymic nature actually has the same effect on your brain as meditation. This is a phenomenon associated with any activity that requires basic to intermediate motor skills and passive memory. Basically, the brain shuts out everything else and just focuses on what it needs to do to get the task done. With knitting, you also get the sense of accomplishment that comes with creating something useful from raw materials. So essentially, it’s like meditating and getting a blanket when you are done.
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I know I may give my burly, bearded, welder buddy a hard time for knitting, but secretly – I really think he is on to something.