Knitting to stay brain fit—and three more reasons why the hobby is good for you

Dr. Yonas E. Geda, a psychiatrist at the Mayo Clinic, interviewed 1,321 people aged 70 to 89 about their cognitive activities. The study* showed that seniors who enjoyed creative pursuits such as knitting or crocheting were up to 50 per cent less likely to experience mild cognitive impairment. Researchers believe that knitting supports the brain’s neural pathways development, which in turn improves thinking skills. Knitting also enhances pattern recognition and hand-eye coordination, enhancing fine motor skills and focus.

Knitting makes you happier

British physiotherapist Betsan Corkhill began landmark research into therapeutic knitting and found in a 2010 survey of 3,500 knitters that 81 per cent reported they felt happier after knitting. Even in the respondents who were clinically depressed, 54 per cent felt more positive after knitting. What’s more—and anyone who has finished even a small knitting project will agree—the knitters felt even happier when they completed their project and put it on display.

Knitting is therapeutic

Corkhill also founded*, a British organization that promotes the healing and social benefits of knitting, including pain management. Knitting provides a calming and rhythmical distraction to those who suffer from chronic pain. “Pain originates in the brain, not in muscles and joints,” Corkhill says. “The brain has to pay attention to signals coming up from your body. If you’re lonely or bored or unhappy, you’ll experience more pain than if you’re socially active and occupied and that’s very well accepted,” she explains.

Even those with arthritis can still knit. The Arthritis Foundation* has a number of tips on knitting with arthritis, including holding your hands in warm water before picking up your needles.

Knitting keeps you socially active

Ask any resident who belongs to one of the numerous Chartwell Retirement Residences knitting circles, and they’ll tell you that knitting with others is an engaging and productive way to build community and make a difference in others’ lives. For example, the knitting group at Chartwell Chatsworth in Kelowna, BC, recently donated a dozen knitted blankets to a local charity for homeless people. Corkhill’s knitting research study further proved that, “knitting in a group impacted significantly on perceived happiness, improved social contact, and communication with others.”

Chartwell’s LiveNow life enrichment programming offers residents numerous ways to form friendships, keep active and stay healthy and engaged. To learn more about our recreational programming, or to download a sample activity calendar, click here.

*The following sources provide references for this blog, in order of appearance:

  1. National Library of Medicine. "Engaging in cognitive activities, aging, and mild cognitive impairment: a population-based study"(2011), Online:
  2. SAGE journals. "The Benefits of Knitting for Personal and Social Wellbeing in Adulthood: Findings from an International Survey"(2013), Online:
  4. Arthrits Fooundation. "Smart Tricks to Make Needlework With Arthritis Finger-Friendly", Online: