Pickleball: Health Benefits, How to Get Started, and How to Get Better (Everyday Health)
Posted: Nov 23, 2022 in In the News
This article orginally appeared in Everyday Health on Novemeber 23, 2022.
“You have an obsession that’s about to begin.” That’s how Amy Yarbrough, an Austin, Texas–based certified pickleball instructor, starts her talks to beginner pickleball players. “People really love to play pickleball,” she says.
The stats on the sport speak for themselves: The number of pickleball players across the United States has grown more than 11 percent annually in each of the past five years, according to USA Pickleball, the U.S. national governing body for the sport of competitive pickleball.
Approximately 4.8 million Americans play pickleball, with the sport attracting people of all ages, from kids to older adults, per the professional organization.
Pickleball is now considered America’s fastest growing sport, according to a 2022 report from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
Common Questions & Answers
What is pickleball?
Pickleball is a beginner-friendly court sport played with paddles and a perforated plastic ball. For most, it’s quicker to pick up than other racket-based sports (like tennis or badminton), and it is growing in popularity in the United States.
How can I find a pickleball court near me?
What equipment do I need for pickleball?
Is pickleball a workout?
Can pickleball help with weight loss?
What Is Pickleball?
Some describe pickleball as a cross between tennis, badminton, and table tennis. USA Pickleball defines pickleball as a court sport that’s played with wooden paddles and a perforated plastic ball.
“When beginners first play, they tell me that pickleball feels like playing Ping-Pong standing on the table,” says Ernie Medina Jr., DrPH, an American College of Sports Medicine–certified clinical exercise physiologist and a USA Pickleball Ambassador based in Loma Linda, California.
Though the sport’s popularity may seem like it’s reaching a fever pitch now, it’s been around since 1965, when three dads invented the game to occupy their kids. (The “pickle” in pickleball may have come from one of the families’ dogs, according to USA Pickleball.)
The game is fun to play — and it’s a real workout, too. Pickleball is considered aerobic exercise that incorporates movement by your entire body as you run around the court and rotate your trunk and upper body to hit the ball, says Nicholas Greiner, DO, a sports medicine doctor at Mercy Clinic in Ballwin, Missouri.
Pickleball works muscles from all over your body, including your lower body (legs and butt) as you run across the court, your hips and core (as you rotate your torso), and your upper body (to hit the ball), says Dr. Medina.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity per week, and pickleball play can fit into those parameters. Additionally, the CDC recommends performing two or more days of muscle-strengthening activities per week, such as lifting weights or using resistance bands. Therefore, pickleball can certainly count toward your weekly exercise goal — but for optimal fitness, it shouldn’t be the only type of workout you’re doing .
Potential Health Benefits of Pickleball
Pickleball, like other types of exercise, delivers some big health benefits.
Evidence (and the sport’s widespread popularity) suggests that pickleball is indeed a type of activity that keeps people coming back. Compared with walking for 30 minutes, people say they that enjoy pickleball 150 percent more, according to a study published in September 2022 in Science and Sports.
Some potential health advantages that research has linked to the sport include:
Better Cardiorespiratory Fitness
Because pickleball is an aerobic exercise, it improves the health of your heart and lungs.
A small study from the American Council on Exercise found that VO2 max (a measure of cardiovascular fitness and endurance) improved by about 12 percent among a group of middle-aged and older adults (40 to 85 years old) after they began playing pickleball one hour per session, three times per week for six weeks, and they also experienced a decrease of 5 points in their systolic blood pressure and 3 points in their diastolic blood pressure.
The previously mentioned Science and Sports study concluded that playing doubles pickleball elicits greater physical activity demands (in terms of average heart rate, peak heart rate, caloric expenditure, and perceived exertion) than walking.
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