Though knitting and crafting haven’t always been considered cutting-edge, they’ve certainly increased in popularity during the last few years. Now, hobbyists and budding entrepreneurs of all ages have embraced this creative outlet for both personal and professional reasons. But beyond the potential for artistic expression and money-making, these endeavors provide a whole host of benefits. In fact, taking up knitting and crafting -- or even playing games and partaking in other leisure activities -- have been proven to provide a real boost to one’s health.

health benefits of crafting

Many different types of leisure activities can make you feel happier, more fulfilled, and less stressed. It turns out that improving our emotional state can do wonders for our physical state. In a psychological study of 1,400 people, it was discovered that those who engaged in enjoyable leisure activities experienced lower rates of blood pressure and cortisol (also known as the stress hormone), as well as having lower body mass indexes (BMI).

Considering the negative effects that high blood pressure, obesity, and stress can have on the body, many folks may see crafting as a welcome alternative or complement to medication. That’s exactly what U.K.-based organization Knit For Peace hopes the National Health Service will realize, as their study found that knitting could reduce blood pressure, stave off depression, and slow the onset of dementia.

Those findings are echoed in other reports. The British Journal of Occupational Therapy recently published a study involving 3,500 participants diagnosed with depression. The study proved that 81% of those participants reported increased happiness levels after knitting. And a  different study from 2009 that examined anxiety in eating disorders showed that 74% respondents felt that knitting had a calming, therapeutic effect. Both the Mayo Clinic and AARP agree that crafting and knitting can build up neural networks, reduce stress, and combat depression -- all three of which are connected to dementia risk.

But it’s not only knitting that can help us feel better both emotionally and physically. A small survey found that when participants -- who wore heart monitors for three days -- engaged in leisure activities, they were 34% less stressed and 18% less sad. And the Journal of Neuroplasticity published a study that found crafting, knitting, reading, and playing games actually reduces mild cognitive impairment between 30% and 50%.

Suffice it to say: picking up an enjoyable hobby is an investment in your health. If you’re feeling the negative effects of stress or you want to help an aging loved one improve their physical, mental, and emotional well-being, the solution might be simpler than you think. Participating in a craft hour, learning how to knit-one, purl-two, or playing a nightly game of cards might be exactly what the doctor ordered.