Is pickleball good exercise? yes and no.


Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, and people, including teenage prodigies and Hollywood celebrities, just can’t seem to get enough.

But how much exercise do you actually get while playing?

Canadian researchers explored the answer to this question by measuring the physical activity intensity of singles and doubles pickleball in older adults.

Peer-reviewed research published in the Journal of Aging and Physical Activity suggests that pickleballs can provide moderate exercise for middle-aged or older adults. I need to play 4.5 hours on .

If you’re counting steps, research has shown that an hour’s pickleball collects relatively few steps, about half as many as an average hour’s brisk walk.

Also, while the game hit a brisk level of activity a good 30% of the time for many players, it may not offer as much physical challenge for those who are younger or already in good shape. .

Federal Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week for adults. Moderate-intensity exercise is usually defined as exercising to the point where you can speak but not sing. Strenuous exercise, on the other hand, includes more strenuous activities such as jogging, fast-paced cycling, and singles tennis.

Played with paddles and perforated polymer balls, pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton, table tennis and racquetball. Pickleball players compete in tighter spaces than tennis players. A standard tennis court can fit up to four pickleball courts. Matches he played in 2 out of 3 games, each game he lasted 15 to 25 minutes. People of all ages play, but the sport has long been associated with seniors and retirees since his 1965 invention of the sport by three men from Washington State.

Researchers at the University of Manitoba outfitted 53 recreational devices to see if pickleball is as vigorous as jogging or playing tennis, or more like a more moderate activity like brisk walking. A pickleball player tracks heart rate with a smartwatch and measures steps with an accelerometer. Participants’ ages ranged from he was 29 to he was 73, and most were middle-aged or older.

They warmed up by walking or jogging around the court for three minutes at what they perceived as “moderate” intensity, and practiced hitting different pickleball shots for two to five minutes before the game. Gameplay lasted at least an hour, of which 22 played singles and the rest doubles. Time included short breaks when participants had to leave the court and wait for the next available court.

The study found that players averaged 3,322 steps per hour, based on accelerometer data showing step count, and that approximately 80% of singles pickleball plays were of moderate intensity. (The rest is light intensity.)

Doubles pickleball players are slow, taking only 2,790 steps per hour. During doubles play, participants spent approximately half the time doing moderate-intensity exercise and the other half doing light-intensity exercise.

However, player heart rate measurements indicated that both singles and doubles competitions may have provided more training than step counts indicated. Principal investigator and lead author of the study, Sandra Weber, associate professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Manitoba, said:Webber calls himself a “pickleball enthusiast” and at age 54 I play 3-4 times a week.

During singles and doubles play, most men’s and women’s heart rates reach about 111 beats per minute, a level that puts seniors in a moderate range of motion, Webber said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average heart rate of the participants reached about 70% of the expected maximum heart rate for both singles and doubles players. This meets the definition of moderate activity.

Both singles and doubles pickleball players spent approximately 40% of their time in the moderate heart rate zone, approximately 30% in light activity, and approximately 30% in the vigorous zone.

“I would say 70% of the time people were on the court was doing exercise that counted in their 150 minutes a week,” Webber said. “Based on our results, a person who plays pickleball for her four-and-a-half hours a week can meet physical activity guidelines.”

Michael Joyner, professor of anesthesiology and physiology at the Mayo Clinic, who was not involved in the study, said the heart rate response was the most meaningful, emphasizing it over the accelerometer data. The study presumably confirms “what your intuition is to reach somewhere between the upper limit of moderate physical activity and the lower limit of vigorous physical activity” during pickleball.

Ben Johns, 23, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, ranked #1 in the world by the Professional Pickleball Association in men’s singles and doubles, says pickleball has more agility and less downtime than tennis. said.

“In tennis in general, sometimes you might sprint toward the ball, but most of the time you know where the ball is going and you are moving at a non-instantaneous pace,” Johns said. He added that pickleball also has smaller courts and the sport often requires quick points near the net.

But pickleballs aren’t for everyone. As the sport grows, so do injuries. According to Webber, elbow tendon pain, popularly known as “tennis elbow,” is a common injury among pickleball players. There were some injuries, but it’s also possible that my partner’s paddle got in my eye,” he added.

Webber hopes to study other potential benefits of pickleballs, such as strength, flexibility, and bone health.

Based on her research and personal experience, Webber remains a supporter of pickleballs.

“Once you try it, most people are hooked,” she said.

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