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Pickleball for Seniors: Health Benefits

Fun, social, and easy to learn, pickleball is growing in popularity throughout the United States and Canada. With simple rules and inexpensive equipment, pickleball can be enjoyed by all ages and is a great physical activity for seniors.

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a game similar to badminton, tennis, and ping pong. It is played on a badminton court using a tennis net, a plastic ball, and large paddles similar to ping pong paddles. It can be played as singles or doubles. The playstyle is similar to tennis, but if you can’t serve like Federer, don’t worry! Pickleball uses a simple underhand serve to start each point. Here is a short video from the USA Pickleball Organization demonstrating how the game works:

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Pickleball was invented in 1965 by Washington State congressman Joel Pritchard and his friend Bill Bell. After a day out golfing, the two returned to Pritchard’s home to find the family sitting around with nothing to do. They had a badminton court but no racquets, so they improvised using ping pong equipment, and after a weekend of experimenting, pickleball was born.

So why is pickleball called pickleball? Accounts vary, but the most popular theory is that Joel Pritchard owned a dog named Pickles, who would often run away with the ball during play. When the game began to grow in popularity and needed a name, the cute dog won the day, and pickleball became the new sport’s official name.

When Did Pickleball Become Popular?

The United States Amateur Pickleball Association was formed and published its first rulebook in 1984. By 1990, pickleball was being played in all fifty states. The simplicity of the game and similarity to other racquet sports helped it grow in popularity.

Health Benefits of Pickleball

The benefits of pickleball are many. It is light, aerobic exercise without much risk of injury. Research has shown that seniors who play pickleball three times a week for an hour each time saw improved blood pressure and cardiorespiratory fitness. Pickleball injuries are rare and generally only occur in the more intense players. Pickleball is also a social sport - you need at least two people to play a singles match and four to make it an even more exciting doubles match. So pickleball for seniors can not only improve physical health but mental health as well by providing a social activity. Staying social is so important for seniors, as it helps ward off loneliness and depression.

Pickleball’s popularity is only going to keep growing as people look for easy to learn, social sports that don’t require intense physical fitness to succeed. You can now find pickleball courts all over the country, both indoor and outdoor, so it can be played whatever the weather. Find a friend, find a court new you, and join the pickleball craze!