This Is Why Pickleball Is Such A Great Workout For Older Adults

Everyone knows about sports like football, soccer, baseball, and tennis. While these sports can be fun, you don't see many older adults putting on cleats or stepping up to bat. However, one sport that is growing rapidly, especially among senior citizens, is pickleball (via AARP). Think of pickleball as a mix between tennis and ping pong. The court and paddles are smaller than a tennis court and racquet, respectively, while the ball is similar to a wiffle ball, plastic and with holes, making it much easier to hit, according to USA Pickeball. 

The sport was created in 1965 by Joel Pritchard, a congressman from Washington State, who created the game with two friends after being unable to find a full set of badminton racquets one day (via USA Pickleball). He ended up grabbing some ping pong paddles and a plastic ball and used a badminton net. Soon, Pritchard and his two friends created rules and the rest is history. Since that day almost 60 years ago, pickleball has steadily grown in popularity, especially among adults 55 and older who are 60% of the sport's core players, according to USA Pickleball. Pickleball is beginner-friendly, competitive, and provides health benefits for older adults.

Pickleball is a good aerobic workout with little stress on joints and muscles

Other racquet-based sports have been shown to be bad for the knees. Tennis, racquetball, and others can lead to osteoarthritis in overweight and obese people, especially in the knees and elbows, according to Healthline. Many of these sports are not the best exercises for older adults because of their intensity and risk of injury. However, that doesn't mean older adults can't have fun. 

One obvious benefit is cardiovascular. Pickleball is a form of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which involves someone performing aerobic exercise followed by periods of rest, repeatedly, according to Psychology Today. Running back and forth on the pickleball court is the perfect example. There are many benefits to HIIT, including burning more calories, increasing your metabolic rate, and reducing blood sugar, according to Healthline.

Another benefit of pickleball is the court which is nearly half the size of a tennis court leading to less running which, in turn, leads to less stress on joints, per Pickle-Ball Inc. Phillip Adler, manager of athletic training at Spectrum Health, also likes pickleball because it only uses an underhand serve, which reduces muscle strain and is low impact. "It's not without risk, but if you have rotator cuff issues or problems with your shoulders, pickleball is a good option to consider," Adler told Today Health. "The paddle is also lighter than a tennis racket at 7-ounces." Finally, there is also the mental benefit of pickleball which provides socialization and a feeling of community, according to AARP.