Tom Daley Knows That Knitting Is Good For You. But Here's Why

Knitting can boost your physical and mental health – and give you a great new cardie.

Fresh from his gold medal win, diver Tom Daley is celebrating another achievement: finishing his Olympic cardigan.

The 27-year-old is a keen crafter and even has an Instagram account dedicated to his creations. During the Tokyo games, he’s been photographed in the stands with needles and yarn in hand, knitting his way through the tense moments.

The results are nothing short of fabulous. First, Daley knitted a pouch for his gold medal. Now, he’s unveiled the commemorative cardie.

“When I got to Tokyo, I wanted to make something that would remind me of these games. Something that I could say I had made in Tokyo, during the Olympics!” he said on Instagram.

“I did a @teamgb logo on the back, with a flag and GBR on the shoulders and Tokyo embroidered onto the front!”

The Olympian has previously credited knitting with helping him to stay calm under pressure, detailing how crafting helps to boost his mental health (it’s also cheering up his legion of fans, not least the revelation that he’s knitted his own swimming trunks).

“There are loads of things I’m doing to keep myself going, like yoga and visualisation, but I’ve also taken up knitting, which could be my secret weapon,” he told BBC Sport in 2020, as athletes faced the stress of a postponed Olympics.

“It’s part of my mindfulness routine, a way of escaping from everything for a while, and I’ve made all kinds of things like scarves and little hats for my son.”

The athlete may be onto something. A review of studies conducted by the network Knit For Peace found that knitting and crocheting has been linked to improvements in both physical and mental health.

The review cited 2007 research from Harvard Medical School’s Mind and Body Institute, which found knitting induces the body’s natural relaxation response and lowers the heart rate by an average of 11 beats per minute.

Because of this, your blood pressure actually drops when knitting.

What’s more, a 2012 study from the Mayo Clinic examined the effects of activities including knitting, quilting and playing games in 1,321 older people, nearly 200 of whom had mild cognitive impairment and were in the intermediate stage between normal ageing and dementia.

The researchers found that those who engaged in crafting, computer activities, knitting and reading books were 30-50% less likely to have mild cognitive impairment than those who did not.

The review of studies also linked knitting to:
• Reducing depression and anxiety
• Distracting from chronic pain
• Increasing a sense of wellbeing
• Reducing loneliness and isolation
• Increasing a sense of usefulness and inclusion in society.

A survey of the network’s members also championed the benefits of knitting.

The majority (70%) of respondents stated they believe knitting improves their health, with the main reason (86%) being that it helps them to feel relaxed.

One in 10 participants (10.7%) said knitting helps them deal with chronic pain, with almost one in six (14.3%) saying it relaxes their muscles while one fifth (21.4%) believe it helps relieve the pain of arthritis.

More than a quarter (26.1%) also attributed knitting to helping them reduce their blood pressure, usually because of the calming, therapeutic nature of the hobby.

Knitting can also help spread a little love in the world. Knit for Peace unites knitters across the UK who make creations that are distributed to over 200 outlets, including hospitals, women’s refuges, refugee drop-in centres, prisons, community groups, hospices and developing countries.

Meanwhile Tom Daley often sells his creations for charity. After completing his cardigan, he asked his followers to donate to money for The Brain Tumour Charity in memory of his dad Robert, who died in 2011 from a brain tumour.

If all that doesn’t convince you to give it a go, we don’t know what will.