Pickleball set to dethrone tennis as the go-to ball sport for a healthier heart

Oct 20, 2023
Pickleball is the new fitness trend that's sweeping the world. Source: Getty Images

Pickleball is the new fitness craze that’s swiftly sweeping its way across the world. Invented in the United States in 1965, the sport has seen a truly massive rise in its popularity both in the US and abroad.

The sport is similar to tennis but has elements of badminton and table tennis. The court is much smaller than either tennis or badminton, the paddles are like table tennis paddles but larger, and the ball used has much less bounce than a tennis ball and has a weight closer to a shuttlecock.

While players of all ages are picking up the sport, pickleball has become particularly popular amongst seniors for several reasons. Studies have shown that over 65s can get their weekly recommended exercise simply by playing the sport.

The social aspect of the sport has also been a major factor in its popularity, players can meet new people in their local community or bond with their friends as they pick up the sport together. Its rise has been so dramatic that it has even eclipsed tennis in popularity amongst Apple Watch users in the US.

This finding comes from the Apple Heart and Movement Study, which utilised data collected from the Apple Watch to track trends in relation to cardiovascular health and fitness. One element of the study involved participants tracking their heart rate during various activities, which they can specify using the watch.

More pickleball workouts were recorded than tennis workouts in July 2023, a trend that has only continued since. The intensity of a pickleball game was found to be similar to that of a tennis game, with participants recording an average peak heart rate within 70 per cent of their estimated max heart rate during recorded workouts.

The benefits of heart rate raising physical activities on cardiovascular health have been well studied already. Pickleball also has a less steep learning curve than tennis, which makes it a great choice for people looking to take up a sport in order to increase their cardiovascular health.

Pickleball was also found to have mental health benefits as well. Some participants were quizzed using a depression screening tool called the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2). The odds of the PHQ-2 results suggestive of depressed mood were 60.1 percent lower among frequent pickleball players.

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, it appears that pickleball has quite a bright future ahead and its players only stand to be both happier and healthier because of it.

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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