Pickleball: Good for your body and mind!
Disclaimer: We advise that you check with your doctor before you start any exercise to make sure you are medically cleared to do so.
Have you heard of pickleball? Pickleball is a racquet sport that has elements of table tennis, badminton, and tennis. It’s played on a smaller court with solid paddles and a perforated plastic ball. Pickleball is not only a fun way to stay active, but it can provide physical and mental health benefits as well. Environmental factors, technology, age, health, isolation etc., can all be contributing factors to a sedentary lifestyle. Insufficient movement and activities can have a negative impact on our mind, body, and emotional health.
Exercise, such as pickleball, can be beneficial for cardiovascular health which in turn helps boost brain health. The heart pumps blood (oxygen and nutrients) to your brain and body. Exercise can lower blood pressure, strengthen muscles, improve flexibility and agility, help control weight, etc. Regular exercise can strengthen cognitive function and areas of the brain that enhance brain plasticity, prevent brain tissue loss, improve/maintain long term memory, regulate emotions, and improve self-controlled decision making. Exercise boosts levels of brain-derived neutrophic factor (BDNF), which is needed for brain cell functioning and growth. It also stimulates neurogenesis, which is the birth of new neurons. Pickleball, creates cognitive challenge by working the short term/working memory area of your brain through keeping track of the rules, the score, your position on the court, service order when playing doubles etc. Pickleball also requires hand-eye coordination, quick thinking, fast feet, and moving around the court in all directions. Developing hand-eye coordination is important in other areas of our lives such as better reaction times, balance/coordination, fine motor skills, reading, writing, and tracking moving objects.
Exercise also helps stimulate mood enhancing chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. Pickleball can also be a great way to socialize, which may lead to friendships (increase support network), and improved mood. Increased socialization can help with loneliness and depression. Other forms of exercise are also beneficial; however, some have limited social interaction so add some variation to your exercise routine by exercising with a friend or a group! If pickleball is not your sport, then find something else you enjoy to get yourself moving!
Fun fact: Did you know pickleball has been an official sport in the Senior Olympics since 2012?
One of our HABIT alumni is a big pickleball fan and agreed to be interviewed for this post to share his experience and love of pickleball! This is Darrell and he and his lovely wife completed HABIT with us in December of 2021.
AC: When did you start playing pickleball and why? Was it difficult to get started?
I have played racket sports (table tennis, tennis and now pickleball) since I was 16. I played in some table tennis tournaments when I was younger. I started playing pickleball in 2017. We have a club and pickleball courts were we live. I was walking by the courts one day and I saw people playing a racquet sport I wasn’t familiar with. They invited me to come and play, I joined the club a few weeks later, and the rest is history! I continued to play pickleball because it’s good exercise, and the court is smaller than a tennis court so it didn’t exert me as much as tennis did. I also met some great people on the court and in the pickleball club.
AC: How often do you play and for how long?
I was playing a pickleball a 2-3 times a week for a few hours. I would like to play twice a week but my physical health has not allowed me to play that often more recently.
AC: How do you feel pickleball has helped you?
Pickleball has helped me maintain physical health, cognitive health, and socialization.
AC: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in the sport but has never played it before?
I advise anyone to contact the USA Pickleball organization and find where your closest club is and jump right in!