Older man in bright clothes holds pickleball paddle and ball in one hand

Pickleball is becoming more and more popular, especially among active adults who want to stay healthy.

The benefits of exercise are broad and well known. For active adults especially, studies have found that sports increase mental and physical health, improving everything from depression and anxiety to low self-confidence and negative views of aging. Additionally, the National Institutes of Health says that exercise is an important factor in healthy aging.

Pickleball is particularly well-suited for active adults. Over the last few years, it has been growing in popularity, and according to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), “the number of places to play has more than doubled since 2010.” In fact, many active adult communities highlight their pickleball courts as a desirable amenity.

Here are three reasons why pickleball is a great workout.

The Rules Are Simple

One of the top reasons why pickleball is a great workout is because the game is easy to play. Players don’t need training or lessons to have fun. The USAPA says that the game combines tennis, which usually requires more skill, with fun activities like ping pong and badminton.

The game is played with plastic paddles and a wiffleball—a plastic ball with holes. Like tennis, points can only be scored by the winning team when the receiving team fails to hit the ball back.

Pickleball Is Good For Active Adults

While pickleball may not be as fast-paced as tennis, it does provide a great workout for older adults. A small study of 15 older adults found that those who played pickleball for six weeks had improvements in their cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and maximal oxygen uptake. The researchers say that pickleball can help with cardiovascular disease risk factors. 

The nature of the game also adds to the benefits for older adults. The game is played to 11 points, which usually means it only lasts ten to fifteen minutes. This gives players ample time to catch their breath between games. The small court size also means players run less than in tennis, making the sport easier on the knees. Finally, the lightweight paddle requires less arm strength, and players don’t have to strain their elbows to play.

Pickleball Is a Social Sport

Another benefit of pickleball that might not seem like it has anything to do with health is the fact that the game is social. While players get a workout and move around the court, they can do so with a partner and against another person or team. Some active adult communities set up pickleball leagues or tournaments, where teams can compete against each other. Like other social activities, pickleball can benefit mental health and wellbeing.

A study published in Innovative Leisure in 2017 explored the lifestyle benefits of older adults who played in pickleball tournaments. Their findings suggested that pickleball is “recommended for older adults who are searching for a productive and fruitful retirement,” and it may be especially suited for women who want a social experience in addition to exercise. Another study in Leisure Studies from 2018 suggests that older adults who competed in pickleball, what they call a “serious leisure activity,” had lower levels of depression.

While many communities now have pickleball courts, you can find the best communities for pickleball enthusiasts here.