From Crunchy Snacks to Whacking Smacks, Unraveling the ‘Health’ Dilemma of Pickles vs. Pickleball
Pickleball shares many health benefits with badminton and tennis. No matter your age or physical condition, you can play pickleball to burn calories and improve your coordination, reflexes and balance. Learn more about the health benefits of pickleball, and find out how to get emotional and mental health benefits from playing this sport.
The Health Benefits of Pickleball
A comprehensive approach to well-being includes activities that support physical, mental and emotional health. Pickleball is an accessible form of moderate aerobic exercise that has a comparatively low risk of injury. All you need to get started is access to a pickleball court, paddles, wiffle balls, active clothing and footwear.
Pickleball courts are badminton courts, which are 20 feet wide by 44 feet long, divided by a net. These courts are smaller than tennis courts, meaning players do not have to cover as much space in doubles and singles matches. Each game starts with an underhand serve and continues until a fault occurs. Faults include serves that do not clear the kitchen line, shots that go out of bounds or shots that hit the net.
While pickleball has been the focus of a few studies in recent years, scientific findings about the specific benefits of this sport remain limited. The larger body of research on tennis and similar sports offers additional insight into some aspects of playing pickleball. We make no health claims about pickleball but offer insight based on relevant studies and the rules of the game. Find out more about seven potential health benefits of pickleball.
1. A Fun Way To Burn Calories
Pickleball has an average calorie burn rate between badminton and tennis that varies based on the player and the duration and intensity of play. The length of pickleball matches and games also falls between these sports. Badminton games are about 15 minutes long, and matches of two or three games take 30 to 45 minutes. Tennis games average 30 minutes, and best-of-three matches take about 90 minutes. By comparison, pickleball games take 15 to 25 minutes, and best two-of-three matches range from 45 to 90 minutes.
Health experts recommend that adults engage in moderate aerobic activity for at least 150 minutes per week or vigorous activity for 75 minutes per week. You can get all of the benefits of playing pickleball through about five matches or a combination of other forms of moderate to intense physical activities and pickleball games.
At a social level of intensity, the average badminton player burns 200 to 300 calories. Playing at competitive intensity can increase the calorie burn rate to 350 to 475 calories. A doubles tennis match can burn 600 to 800 calories, while a singles match can burn 800 to 1,000 calories. Most pickleball players can expect to burn up to 500 calories during a doubles match or up to 700 calories during a singles match.
2. Improved Hand-Eye Coordination
Pickleball can improve and maintain coordination between your hands and eyes. Hand-eye coordination is a cognitive-spatial or proprioceptive skill. This sport requires you to follow the trajectory of the ball with your eyes to predict and respond to ball movement. You can improve your hand-eye coordination by doing various drills.
Try tossing a tennis or wiffle ball with a partner or bouncing a tennis, wiffle or pingpong ball against a wall and catching it. You can also bounce the ball on your paddle with your palm up and increase the difficulty by turning the paddle over between each bounce. Learning to juggle is another fun way to cross-train.
Practicing a strong gaze during games can also enhance the health benefits of pickleball. Watch the ball as you prepare to hit it, and keep your eyes on the ball as it travels back and your opponent hits it. Tracking the ball encourages your eyes to shift between near and far focus and can help you react quickly.
3. Sharper Reflexes
The sharpness of your reflexes also affects your overall level of coordination. Reaction time refers to how long it takes for your mind and body to respond to a stimulus. According to an analysis of pickleball players, the ball can travel as fast as 30 to 40 miles per hour when both players are standing at the non-volley zone, giving each player about one-fourth of a second to respond.
You can also take measures to ensure your reflexes are fast and even shorten your reaction time. If you have yet to have a recent eye test, schedule an exam to make sure you have the best visual acuity possible to improve hand-eye coordination and reflex responses. You can also do volley drills on the court from kitchen line to kitchen line or from inside the kitchen.
It is also worthwhile to check your stance, optimize your paddle grip and refer to the best tips at Pickleball Portal to make sure that you are at the top of your game. Getting better at pickleball can help you get the health benefits of pickleball.
4. Better Balance
One of the factors that pickleball has in common with tennis is improving musculoskeletal function from the regular use of muscles throughout the body. According to a 2019 study, tennis players had better upper and lower body function than people who do not play tennis.
Tennis and pickleball both involve hybrid high-intensity interval training. This type of activity can improve postural stability or balance. There are several reasons players achieve these benefits of playing pickleball, such as a player’s need for side-to-side or lateral motion that is not as common in everyday life.
Pickleball players have to follow the ball and move quickly in response to direction changes. Improvements in coordination and response time support better balance on and off the court. Combined, these health benefits of pickleball can improve bone health and muscle function and reduce senior players’ risk of falling.
5. Low-Impact Activity
The low-impact conditions of play make pickleball one of the most beneficial forms of exercise. Singles pickleball matches are physically challenging while being a lower impact activity than tennis single games. Doubles pickleball matches further limit the extent of court coverage for each player down to two to four steps for most points.
Reduced impact on lower body joints, such as the hips, knees and ankles, can make pickleball a safer choice for people who are older or those with chronic injuries. There are still some minor risks, including bruising, ankle sprains and Achilles strains. Taking time to stretch and warm up prior to playing a match and wearing proper footwear can help prevent issues and increase the health benefits of pickleball.
Pickleball also has less impact on the upper body than tennis. Underhand pickleball serves are less likely to cause shoulder problems than overhand serves. Furthermore, pickleball poses less of a risk of contact-related injuries involving the ball or other players. The soft and lightweight material of the balls reduces this risk, as do clear court markings that allow plenty of space for each player to move during doubles matches.
6. Social Connection
Socialization is another holistic health benefit that pickleball shares with other paddle and racket sports. Playing a singles match with one opponent or a doubles match with four players in total offers opportunities for lighthearted competition and conversation.
Many studies indicate the importance of social interaction for older adults. A combination of physical activity and opportunities to socialize explains the rising popularity of pickleball in this demographic. Older pickleball players can also participate in senior tournaments to become part of a larger community.
Players of all ages can appreciate the interactive health benefits of pickleball. This sport offers a low-stakes way to meet new people and spend quality time being active with family and friends. Pickleball can be an inviting group activity on almost any occasion.
7. Time Spent Outdoors
Research suggests that exercising outside can be even more beneficial than indoor workouts. Studies show that moderate physical exercise outdoors accompanied by exposure to sunlight or green plants improves mental wellness and makes it easier to manage common symptoms of mood disorders.
Outdoor sports provide direct stimulation in addition to “soft fascination,” which occurs when your surroundings hold your attention without demanding constant intellectual processing. While your primary focus is on the ball during a pickleball game, your mind also factors in other features of your surroundings.
Spending time exercising outdoors can lower anxiety levels, prevent loneliness and provide an outlet for processing stress. Many pickleball courts are located outdoors at parks or recreation facilities. No matter where you play, you can get a wide range of benefits of playing pickleball on a regular basis.
How To Get the Health Benefits of Pickleball
You can experience all the health benefits of pickleball by playing a few matches every week. This sport can be a fun way to get moderate exercise and provide opportunities to spend time with your friends or family and make new social connections. Visit the tips and strategy page to improve your game.