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Pickleball serves up hidden health benefits

By The Health News Team | August 23, 2022
Active man playing pickleball

What do you get when you blend tennis, table tennis and badminton? According to “picklers,” you get a new, unique sport that has been drawing millions of people of all ages, skills and athletic builds to outdoor courts worldwide: pickleball.

According to USA Pickleball, the game is played both indoors and outdoors on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net. It is played with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes. Pickleball can be played either as doubles or singles.

The ease of learning this paddle sport along with its outdoor location — providing safe social distancing throughout the pandemic — are a couple of reasons why the game has quickly become a lifestyle for many. What’s more, pickleball serves up several hidden benefits that can improve your overall health while you have fun in a friendly setting.

The physical and mental health benefits of pickleball
While pickleball may be seen as a sport for seniors, it is popular among people of all ages, especially those who have been injured while participating in other sports or who are hoping to improve their heart health. Pickleball offers a variety of physical health benefits, including:

  • Less stress on your joints
    Various contact sports have a higher risk of joint injury and can wear out your joints or cause permanent damage over time. Pickleball is significantly easier on your muscles, tendons and joints. You do not need to worry about this sport having a negative impact on your body as you become older — yet another reason why older adults and anyone who has been injured playing other sports may be attracted to this game.

  • Lower risk of heart disease
    Boosting your heart health from the heart-pumping activity of pickleball can help control or improve many of the risk factors for heart disease, hypertension, stroke and heart attack. Moderate intensity exercise from pickleball can lower your blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and blood sugar regulation, and burn calories to help you maintain a healthy weight.

  • Improved balance and strength
    While getting a great, agile workout, the movement of your paddle — and entire body — can tone your muscles and improve your balance. Increased stability from playing helps you avoid falls when performing other daily activities. It can also help improve your ball control while executing paddle strokes on the narrow court.

Mental health
Beyond the physical benefits of playing pickleball, the game also offers an excellent opportunity for increased social interaction and improved mental health. Mental health benefits of playing pickleball include:

  • Reduced depression
    Exercise causes the release of feel-good chemicals, or endorphins, which can help elevate your self-esteem and confidence. They can also help people coping with anxiety and depression. When players are happier, sleep and eating habits are often improved as well.

  • Enhanced social connection
    Pickleball is a social sport that can be played by every member of the family, closing the generational gap for many. The social interactions promoted between those taking part in this group sport have proven to improve quality of life and helped create strong connections between players on and off the court.

“While pickleball is typically played with four people, the experience is organically group-oriented,” says passionate pickler and Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center Chaplain Jodi Varner. “For open play, a player might interact with 12 other people during four games as people swap in, out and rotate around. Through this sport, my husband and I have made some great friendships. Some of the players at our local courts have become like family and have expanded our social network greatly.”

As always, talk with your doctor before starting a new sport or exercise routine. USA Pickleball recommends hydrating before, during and after playing; and stretching before and after to avoid injuries. You should also avoid playing on wet courts and wear proper court shoes, eye protection, and sunscreen and a hat when playing outdoors.

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