Several studies indicate that sewing is good for you, mentally and physically.
Why, you ask? One, because sewing allows you to relax from the everyday pressures of life; and second, because it enhances your self esteem when you demonstrate your creativity. Sewing may also be good for your heart!
A clinical study commissioned by the Home Sewing Association (HSA) reveals that women who sew – both skilled as well as novice sewers — experience a significant drop in heart rate, blood pressure, and perspiration rate when compared to women who participate in other leisure-time activities. Studies have shown that engaging in an activity like sewing reduces your overall heart and blood rates and promotes relaxation. Their belief is that sewing involves the muscles and the mind, promoting healthier body synergy, and that because sewing has been so successful at promoting relaxation among women who sew that it may be better than therapy. Heart rate, blood pressure, and perspiration rate are three key factors in the measurement of stress. The study’s results appear to indicate that sewing helps women to relax while they focus on a creative activity.
Thirty women participated in the study, which was designed by New York psychologist and biofeedback expert, Robert H. Reiner, Ph.D., who is on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry at New York University Medical Center. The study was conducted in a controlled laboratory environment at Dr. Reiner’s outpatient institute, which specializes in cognitive-behavior therapy.
Two groups of women — fifteen experienced sewers and fifteen non-sewers — were measured for blood pressure, heart rate, epidural skin response (perspiration) and peripheral skin temperature. Biofeedback methodology was used to monitor each woman both before and after she engaged in five different home-centered leisure-time activities that required similar eye-hand movements. The sequence was randomly rotated to ensure that participants would not be positively or negatively affected by the order in which they performed each activity.
The five pastimes included playing a card game, painting at an easel, reading a newspaper, playing a hand-held video game, and sewing a simple project. Biofeedback technology measures physiological changes such as heart rate, blood pressure, perspiration rate, and skin temperature, which are key indicators of the level of stress a person is experiencing at any given moment. According to Dr. Reiner, because our bodies are constantly changing in relation to the environment, biofeedback can instantly indicate an increase or decrease in these physiological indicators. In this sewing study, women underwent biofeedback monitoring through the placement of special fingertip electrodes, which were connected to a computer. Blood pressure was taken with a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope.
Study Results Indicate that Sewing is the Most Relaxing Activity. “The study appears to indicate that sewing is the most relaxing of the five activities reviewed due to the statistically significant drops observed in heart rate, blood pressure and perspiration rate after women sewed,” says Dr. Reiner. “While sewing was the most relaxing activity, we were quite surprised to discover that heart rate actually increased for all participants while they were engaged in the other four activities, including reading the newspaper,” Dr. Reiner explains.
The study revealed that the average heart rate for experienced sewers dropped by about 11 beats per minute after sewing. For novice sewers, the average heart rate dropped by about 7 beats per minute. The average heart rate for all the other activities actually increased for all participants anywhere from 4 to 8 beats per minute.
“The importance of a hobby or creative pursuit cannot be over-emphasized,” claims Dr. Reiner. “If we don’t allow our bodies to rest from the pressures of everyday life, we are placing ourselves at risk for heart disease or other illnesses. Creative activities and hobbies — like sewing — can help a person focus on something productive and get away from their worries for a while,” says Dr. Reiner.
While prior research has identified meditation, deep breathing, and observing fish in a tank as anxiety reducers, this is the first time an attempt has been made to investigate the efficacy of sewing as a “stress buster.” Further research would be necessary to determine whether there are any long-term health benefits of sewing, but the subjects in this study did experience short-term reductions in heart rate, blood pressure and perspiration.
Recently, an article in Entrepreneur Magazine states that sewing related businesses are on the
rise nationwide. They have identified several businesses across America, that offer a variety of sewing related products and services that are pushing some first year sales projections beyond expectations.
With sickness and disease on the rise, and studies indicating that sewing is an activity that reduces your overall heart and blood rates and promotes relaxation, wouldn’t it be great if we really promoted sewing to create a healthier body synergy to reduce medical problems? And, it looks like starting a sewing-related business is a profitable source of income, while helping others reduce stress, heart disease or other illnesses.
If sewing offers so many benefits, it’s a good thing that sewing is surfacing again. For some of us, it never diminished. Some call it a sewing trend, but for most of us, sewing is more than a movement, it’s a custom…tailor-made… tradition.