Why pickleball is the fun new fitness trend for older adults

Apr 28, 2023
Study's show that playing pickleball regularly helps those over 60 reach their recommended guidelines for healthy ageing. Source: Getty

Engaging in regular physical activity can sometimes seem like a tedious task, but it doesn’t have to be that way, especially for older adults.

Recent research conducted by North Carolina State University reveals that a group of seniors aged 65 and above successfully met their weekly requirement for exercise by simply playing pickleball.

“We know it’s an enjoyable activity, but what we didn’t know was: Are older adult participants getting enough moderate to high-intensity activity to reach the level critical for cardiovascular health?” says the study’s lead author Professor Jonathan Casper.

“This pilot study provides objective data to support that pickleball participation is an activity that promotes older adults’ physical activity and helps participants meet CDC and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendations.”

As part of the study, researchers looked at the physical activity patterns of 33 senior individuals who engaged in pickleball at least twice a week.

Using Fitbits, Professor Casper and his team measured the number of steps taken and the level of physical activity intensity over a period of two weeks. On days when the participants played pickleball, they took an average of 3,477 more steps and engaged in more “very active” or “fairly active” physical activity.

Every game of pickleball lasted for about 68 minutes, during which players indulged in moderate to vigorous physical activity. Moreover, the average time spent in three increased heart rate zones per session was 86.77 minutes.

According to Professor Casper, there are three important factors for successful healthy ageing.

“Number one is physical health, and staying not just physically active, but engaging in physical activity where your heart rate is raised, which is called moderate to vigorous physical activity,” he explains.

“There is also a social component, which is maintaining and creating social connections, and psychological health, or a feeling of well-being and life satisfaction.

“We were able to isolate their pickleball activity versus everyday activity, and our key finding was that pickleball was the sole reason most participants were able to meet CDC standards.

“Pickleball participation was what helped them reach that threshold.”

Australia’s National Ageing Institute recommends that older adults aged 65 years and over should aim to accumulate at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both spread throughout the week.

With its social component and potential psychological benefits, pickleball may be a great option for seniors looking to stay active and enjoy the many benefits of regular exercise.

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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