What Is Pickleball And Does It Have Any Health Benefits?

It's not often that a brand new sport comes on the scene. But that's the case with pickleball, which has been sweeping across the United States, becoming one of the fastest-growing sports around. According to NBC News, pickleball has seen a 650 percent increase in participants since 2013.

Pickleball started in 1965 when Congressman Joel Pritchard had guests visiting at his home. Wanting to play badminton, but lacking the equipment, they created paddles and went to town hitting a whiffle ball, according to The Healthy. The name came from the family dog, Pickles, who made off with the ball at every opportunity.

Originally a game that garnered interested from an older population, pickleball has grown in popularity with people of all ages. Justin Maloof, executive director of the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), told NBC News that, "When the sport first caught on in the sunbelt states around 2009, it was at 55-plus centers and RBV communities." Since then, parks and rec departments across the nation have been building pickleball courts, often on modified tennis courts, which is drawing interest across the board.

Benefits are mental as well as physical

That's because it's easy to learn and fun to play. For anyone who has played tennis, badminton, or ping-pong, pickleball will feel very familiar. Played on a badminton-sized court with a modified tennis net, it can be a game for two or four players. Players use graphite or wooden paddles and a whiffle ball, and follow a set of rules established by the USAPA.

People of all ages can play pickleball, making it a fitness activity that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. It moves quickly, but the court is small enough that it functions like interval training, with short bursts of intense activity, according to The Healthy. It provides a whole-body workout, flexing major muscle groups in the arms, legs, and torso, and keeps joints mobile and active. It can also improve balance, which is required by players to cover the court.

Because the court is small, and games can be short, lasting 15 to 20 minutes, pickleball is a social activity. In this way, it provides a mental health benefit to players in addition to physical fitness. The strategy required to play also improves cognitive skills, challenging spatial awareness, problem solving, and reflexes.

To find a pickleball court near you, the USAPA provides a Places 2 Play search function on their website.