7 Health Benefits Of Playing Pickleball For Seniors

“I got involved in pickleball to lose some weight, and I had no idea what an awesome sport I had stumbled across,” says Tim Laurent, a certified pickleball sports coach.

USA Pickleball says this racket game is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. It has grown by over 11 percent annually for the last five years. According to an official report in 2023, about 4.8 million Americans play this game, from kids to older adults.

Leisure and relaxation are the core attractions of any game. Beyond amusement, pickleball offers an excellent aerobic workout. Comparatively, it does not place much stress and strain on the joints and muscles as in soccer or baseball.

This article explores the health benefits of pickleball and how to start playing this paddle sport. 

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a paddle-like racket game played indoors or outdoors. It’s very similar to tennis and badminton, Pickleball can be played in singles or play doubles. It’s easy to learn and enjoyable to play. 

USA Pickleball is the official governing body for this court sport. 

The ball is hit back and forth by opponents on either side of the net until one of the players or the team commits a rule infraction. Players with a solid-faced paddle hit a perforated, hollow plastic ball over the net. 

Its beginnings date back to 1965 as a children’s backyard game on Bainbridge Island, Washington, US. Currently, it’s the official state sport of Washington. The game is played in over 25 countries but is popular in the U.S. and Canada.

The 5 basic pickleball rules are:

  • Players must serve at the baseline,
  • No volleying in the kitchen
  • There must be one bounce per side,
  • Serves cannot land in the non-volley zone,
  • The game ends at 11, 15, or 21 points.

Some sports coaches describe this game as a cross between table tennis, badminton, and tennis.

“It gives me the feeling of playing ping-pong while standing on a table,” says Ernie Medina, a certified clinical exercise coach from the American College of Sports Medicine.

Why is it called pickleball?

The origin of the name pickleball differs on two different accounts.

The game was founded and played by three friends, Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum, and Bill Bell, on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

One account says that Ms. Joan, Joel Pritchard’s wife, began to call their game pickleball because it reminded her of a pickle boat. The crew of a pickle boat was chosen from the leftover rowers of other boats. But according to Barney McCallum, they named the game after Pritchard’s dog, Pickles. This dog used to run off with the ball while they played the game.

The origin of this game’s name may be true on both of the above accounts. Joel Pritchard and his friends popularized this game under the same name. The name became a standard as this game was featured in local tournaments as “pickleball.” 

7 Health Benefits Of Pickleball Game 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity for adults or 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Playing pickleball for 3 to 4 hours can meet your weekly exercise goal.  It greatly improves your mental and physical health. 

Pickleball’s health benefits include the following:

1. Helps improve heart health

Regularly playing pickleball for one hour three days a week reduces blood pressure and inflammatory cholesterol. A study from the American Council on Exercise showed VO2 max improved by around 12 percent in middle-aged and older adults. 

It’s an excellent exercise for better cardiovascular health and cardiorespiratory fitness. It reduces the chances of heart attacks, hypertension, and strokes.

2. Helps weight loss 

Unlike gym workouts, it’s a low-key sports activity suitable for people of all ages. While actively playing on the court, pickleball can help burn up to 300 calories per hour. This game, like aerobic exercise, can help you burn fat and lose weight. 

3. Lower blood pressure

Playing active games lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Pickleball is an excellent activity for bringing down blood pressure. 

4. Reduces stress and enhances mood 

Playing games helps release hormones and endorphins necessary for reducing stress, depression, and anxiety.

It elevates your mood and improves your mental health. Overall, you are rewarded with a calm and peaceful mind.

5. Easy on the joints and muscles

A pickleball court is significantly smaller than a tennis court. Players keep the ball longer with fewer steps and at a slower pace.

Unlike tennis, you have a lower strain on your joints, muscles, and hips while playing this game. Also, there is less chance of injury and bruising.

It’s greatly beneficial for middle-aged and older people who are prone to injuries.

6. Improves balance, agility, and strength

Even older people can gain balance, strength, and flexibility by playing pickleball. It’s an aerobic exercise that keeps you physically fit and strong.

It promotes cardio and muscle endurance without causing muscle strain or joint inflammation.

It improves hand-eye coordination in children and older people.

7. Improves confidence and social connections 

Many feel isolated and lonely, with less chance to spend time with friends. Pickleball is a social sport because it requires at least two players.

Being a part of the pickleball community allows you to mingle with like-minded people.

It opens avenues to meeting new people and partners while playing this game and you can reap rich psychological and social benefits. Social activities like playing games in groups boost self-esteem and confidence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is pickleball a good workout?

The peer-reviewed study, published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, says that pickleball is a moderate workout suitable for older people. One must play at least 4 to 5 hours to meet the required weekly workout. You can quit your treadmill exercise by playing pickleball three days a week. 

What muscles does a pickleball work?

It helps most of the muscle mass in the biceps, triceps, and forearms because there’s much bending over. This game may also help pickleball players strengthen their quads and hamstrings.

How many days a week should I play pickleball?

Playing pickleball every day is unnecessary, especially if you’re a beginner. To reap the greatest health benefits, devote 90 minutes daily, three times weekly. Or you can play it every other day, for it gives your body enough time to recover in between games.

Is pickleball better than walking?

A 2016 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggests that 30 minutes of pickleball may help burn 40% more calories than 30 minutes of walking. It produces the same results as a moderate-intensity workout.

Is pickleball safe for knees?

A pickleball game exerts much less strain on the knees than playing tennis. However, playing this game for a long time can cause excessive knee twisting and pivoting movements. Some develop sharp, stabbing pain or temporary weakness in their knees. 

How many calories do you burn in an hour of pickleball?

Pickleball is a sport played in singles or doubles. According to some studies, on average, you can burn 350 calories when you’re playing pickleball for an hour. 

Is pickleball a HIIT workout?

Pickleball involves some high-intensity movements, similar to HITT. Overall, the game is considered a low-intensity workout with less strain on muscles and joints. Start playing this fastest growing sport. 

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