I didn’t begin my journey playing pickleball for health benefits but, soon after playing a few times I began to wonder - is pickleball good exercise?
So is pickleball really good exercise? After playing at my local YMCA and supplementing that with some friendly driveway pickleball using a portable net; the answer for me was a resounding yes! Playing three or more times a week can provide a great lower body, upper body and stamina assisting workout!
My brother and I began playing pickleball around the same time frame. And while at the time, he and I were going to the gym to "get in shape" we began to notice how playing pickleball two to three times a week aided in our quest to get more exercise.
This post discusses potential health information. However, it is not designed to diagnose or provide concrete clinical info on any serious health condition. I’m not a physician and I cannot give medical advise.
If you have any Pickleball health related questions, it is best that you contact your doctor. I have however experienced first hand, the health benefits to pickleball. And I’m here to simply share my story.
You’ve probably spent most of your entire life not knowing what pickleball even is. The name does have a strange ring to it.
Think of pickleball as the fourth Jonas brother - younger and less popular than other racquet sports (like tennis), but still a part of the family. Pickleball is sort of like a hybrid of tennis, badminton and in my opinion ping pong.
It has a similar court and net to tennis, except just smaller. The other main difference is the paddle you use to play with and the plastic ball you hit. In fact, the game started out with makeshift wooden rackets and paddle technology has grown tremendously over the past 5 years.
Want to know more about the fascinating inception of pickleball before it took off like a wild fire? Click here.
The point is, if it's your first time, don't get bogged down with all the fancy equipment.
I look at this way...If you're wondering if pickleball is good exercise and are playing the game for the first time to have some fun and stay active then... just get in the game!
Related: I bought and played with over 15 of the top rated pickleball paddles and fell in love with this one paddle! Click here to see my favorite paddle for 2020.
Is Pickleball Good Exercise? Let's Break It Down
Fun Fact: Did you know a good pickleball machine can replicate almost any shot AND be a good practice partner?
Proper exercise doesn’t always have to mean running a marathon or crushing weights in a gym.
Movement in a smaller space can be a great form of exercise and can also stimulate the mind.
Pickleball offers both of these benefits.
Many folks in their 50s, 60s and even 70s are replacing their gym membership with a membership to their local YMCA for a much more engaging workout. And it's named pickleball.
Even younger players in their 20s and 30s are supplementing their exercise time with more time on the pickleball courts.
In my opinion, one of the main reasons pickleball is still growing in popularity is because the younger generation love the exercise they get from it.
If it wasn't a challenge, younger players wouldn't play it.
For older, retired people looking to stay in shape or anyone for that matter, pickleball's smaller court offers a variety of health benefits while bringing in a social or "community" aspect to it all.
A pickleball court is roughly one third the size of a standard tennis court with dimensions measuring 44 feet long by 20 feet wide.
This shorter and smaller court can offer less stress on joints and muscles compared to a full size tennis court. But despite the smaller court, pickleball requires significant lateral movement and quick reflexes.
Some balls can be lobbed over your head, requiring you to sprint in short bursts to get to the ball. Other times it requires quick reflexes and side to side movement not unlike tennis - just with less stress and force.
You'll get in all the exercise you'd get with tennis, but on a smaller more "knee friendly" scale with less risk of overexerting yourself. It's a healthy medium.
Combine that with the fact that you'll be playing mostly with people your age and or skill level and you've got a highly addictive game that provides age appropriate health benefits for years on end.
Is Pickleball Good Exercise For Cardio Health And Heart Health?
If you’ve crossed the 40-year-old mark, you may have started to notice some signs of aging. I know I have.
It doesn’t matter if I tell people I'm 30 years old, my 42-year-old body still knows the truth.
And despite being active my whole life, going to the gym and trying to stay fit - I've just never been much of a runner.
So when examining the health benefits to pickleball, I wondered if I would get much of a cardio benefit from pickleball. Could it offer similar cardio benefits as going for a run?
Well in my case, since I rarely ran over a mile while on the treadmill at the gym - the answer for me was a resounding YES!
Running around to hit the ball gets the blood pumping and your heart racing. I've never tracked it but, I'm certain I run way more during a two hour stint of pickleball vs just running on the treadmill at the gym for a while.
Running some at the gym and supplementing that with more time on the pickleball court, has improved my cardio.
Between some short jogs on the treadmill and time on the pickleball court, I think I saw my overall stamina improve as well. Instead of wasting time on the treadmill getting more cardio time in that way - I decided to play more pickleball and was much happier!
Can You Lose Weight Playing Pickleball?
If you're starting to feel like your muscle mass is deteriorating, and you're seeing or feeling more "flab", pickleball can potentially help there too.
While pickleball cannot be solely relied on to help you reach your ideal weight, it can definitely assist you in the process. The constant moving around the court can boost the calorie burning process.
Maintaining the right body weight will also help you avoid those nasty back and joint pains.
More consistent activity on the court could potentially help tone you up as well. At least in certain areas. I'm not a clinician but general weight loss is possible if you're playing consistently.
On top of that, some toning up in your legs and arms is possible depending on how out of shape you might be.
Again, I'm not a personal trainer but the possibilities are there. All while enjoying a game that brings people together!
Are There "Low Impact" Benefits To Pickleball And Your Health?
As you age, regardless of how fit you are, you may start experiencing problems like joint pains, especially around your knees, shoulder and elbows. Or if you're like me, you battled back pain for a while.
If you're smart, and listen to your body, these pains won’t be able to stop you from engaging in a match of pickleball.
Even the best tennis players in the whole world, like Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic grunt and groan with the stress competition puts on their bodies.
Pickleball doesn’t require that kind of force. The lightweight ball and paddle make pickleball a great sport for seniors.
Are There Mental Benefits To Pickleball?
When you’re feeling good and in the heat of a match, you tend to forget about your everyday irritations and frustrations in life.
As we age, our lives are likely to become more busy and complicated. Let go of your problems on the pickleball court and free your mind for a bit.
Run around, hit a few balls, win a few matches and get those endorphins pumping!
Whether it’s a friendly match with your spouse or a game with some friends, make sure you’ve got a plan of action. A little friendly competition never hurt anyone.
Think of strategies to beat your opponent and keep your mental sharpness alive and well.
Whether you’re young or old, it can feel so rewarding to connect with people who share your interest in pickleball and get a workout along the way.
The sport was born as a social activity with exercise benefits built in to it. And that still is the case today.
What Muscles Does Pickleball Work?
If you've never played pickleball before, you might be surprised at how sore you'll be the following day.
I remember my first time, my shoulders were surprisingly stiff the next day. I was shocked. But swinging a 7.8 ounce paddle for two hours straight does test your arm strength in ways dumbbells can't.
But do you get a full body workout with pickleball? What muscles does pickleball work?
Well, in my experience after playing for five years, I find that pickleball works your arm muscles, shoulders muscles and gives your legs a good workout as well. But it's the weight of the paddle and the arm motion when swinging that really works your shoulder the most; specifically the deltoid.
It should also be mentioned that you get a great mental workout as well when trying to stay one step ahead of your opponent. So pickleball does demand your brain to flex it's muscle...so to speak.
Of all the muscle groups that pickleball works, the one that surprised me the most was actually my quick twitch muscle memory when reacting quickly at the net for dinks and drive shots.
You've got to be on your toes, both literally and mentally when at the net. So reaction time to read and respond to a well hit ball is crucial. You'll need quick hands like a cowboy reaching for the gun in his holster.
So if you don't have them, some practice at the net with a teammate will quicken up your hand-eye coordination and improve your reaction time.
Ultimately this will improve your quick twitch muscles and your mental sharpness.
Pickeball As Good Exercise - My Final Thoughts
Again, I’m a big fan of pickleball and a true believer that if you play regularly, you’re bound to feel the health benefits to pickleball.
At this point, I want to hear from you. Is pickleball good exercise for you in your weekly routine? If so, I’d love to hear about how pickleball has benefited your health.
Please leave a comment in the comments sections below and share your story, we’d love to hear from you! Sharing how pickleball has given you a great workout helps give back to the pickleball community and inspire more new players to give it a try.