man smiling while playing pickleball at the gateway region ymca

Pickleball is a sport that's been rapidly growing in popularity in recent years. It combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong, and is suitable for players of all ages and skill levels. Beyond the fun it offers, pickleball brings a multitude of health benefits that make it a perfect choice for those looking to stay active and fit.

1. Cardiovascular Health

One of the primary benefits of playing pickleball is the cardiovascular workout it provides. The game involves a lot of movement and sustained rallies, which can elevate your heart rate and help improve cardiovascular health. Pickleball can even be classified as a form of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout due to the quick bursts of sprinting required to play the game. U.S. News and World Report found that “pickleball players who played at least three days per week … can expect to see improvements in fitness and heart health; namely a 12% increase in cardiorespiratory fitness, a 3.5% reduction in blood pressure and a 5% improvement in good cholesterol.” Regular play can assist in reducing the risk of heart disease, improving circulation, and maintaining a healthy heart.

2. Weight Management

Pickleball is a great activity when it comes to burning calories. In fact, an hour of pickleball can burn anywhere from 300 to 500 calories, depending on the intensity of play and the type of player. Burning all those calories makes pickleball an effective tool for weight management.

3. Improved Balance and Agility

The sport requires quick lateral movements, changes in direction, and hand-eye coordination. These elements help enhance your balance and agility, which in turn reduces the risk of falls and injuries, particularly beneficial as you age. Learn from Paddletek on how agility is used in pickleball and some drills you can practice to improve your agility for better pickleball play.

4. Muscle Strength and Endurance

Pickleball engages a variety of muscle groups, including those in the legs, arms, and core. Over time, this can lead to increased muscle strength and endurance. Players often find themselves more toned and physically fit as they continue to play. A Utah State University study found a 18.7% increase in knee extension power and 7.5% increase in vertical jump height after only 6 weeks of pickleball play.

5. Social Interaction

Health isn't just about physical well-being; mental and emotional health are equally important. Pickleball is a social sport that fosters a sense of community and friendship. Whether you’re playing with one other person, or have found a club or league you love, pickleball is great when it comes to combating loneliness and boosting social health because of all the friendships you make along the way.

6. Stress Reduction

Picking up pickleball as a hobby is a great way to keep your mind busy and focus on the game, reducing any stress you may be feeling in your daily life. Simply put, engaging in physical stress allows you to avoid mental stress. One study was even able to conclude that 69% of seniors who play pickleball claim it boosts their mental well-being. Plus, any form of exercise releases endorphins, which are natural mood lifters, further reducing stress.

7. Cognitive Function

Pickleball requires quick thinking, strategy, and focus, all helping to improve cognitive function. It also involves learning new terms, rules, and skills. Beyond just pickleball, exercise is great for your brain as it improves blood flow to the brain, activates the cerebellum, and strengthens the hippocampus, all working to combat cognitive decline.

8. Joint Health

Compared to high-impact sports or more intense cardiovascular exercises like running, pickleball is relatively gentle on the joints. It's a great option for those who want to stay active without putting excessive strain on their knees and other joints. It’s an easy sport to adapt to your own skill and ability level. Pickleball even helps to manage arthritis and other health concerns.

Pickleball at the Gateway Region YMCA

Pickleball is more than just a fun and exciting game; it’s great for your physical, mental, and social well-being, leading to a longer and healthier life! If you’re new to the game, check out our blog on how to play pickleball, providing some helpful tips for new players. Find a YMCA near you to explore open play pickleball schedules. What are you waiting for? Grab your paddle and head to the court - your body and mind will thank you for it!