Pickleball is one the fastest-growing sporting activity in the US – and now it’s spreading here in the UK
Pickleball. If you’ve not heard of it, you don’t know the fun you’re missing! It is derived from the sport of rowing where the slowest craft is the ‘pickle boat’. The sport was invented outside Seattle in 1965 and has grown steadily since. It comes with some surprising health benefits.
Combining elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis, pickleball is played on a badminton-sized open court and with a lower net than tennis. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, over a net. The soft, light ball keeps the game from being too fast for those of us with slowing reflexes.
The court is smaller than a tennis court (44ft x 20ft) which means there is less running and more emphasis on hand skills. It is easier to keep the ball in play, allowing for longer play but the smaller court means that most points do not require too much movement – about two to four steps – so you are not over-exerted during any one point. The smaller court also means less running and less wear and tear on knees, hips, ankles – our joints. The paddle doesn’t have strings and with the soft ball makes this a low intensity instrument with minimal stress on the tendons and muscles of the arms.
Serving is underhand again making the game easier to play and less taxing on the arm. Like all racket sports, pickleball helps with hand-eye coordination and improves flexibility and balance and boosts the cardiovascular system, which helps prevent many of the unwanted problems of older age like hypertension, stroke and heart attack.
As an aerobic exercise, it helps improve your lung function, control your blood sugar levels and regulate your blood pressure. The caloric burn of pickleball is somewhere between badminton and tennis. It’s estimated that a game can burn up to 600 calories an hour, making it an excellent way to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight.
It can relieve stress. The endorphins released with all exercise are useful in elevating self-esteem and combating depression. And, as an added welcome bonus, the kit is cheaper than tennis. It’s fun and social. Because it requires at least two players, pickleball is a social sport. It’s a great way to meet people and make new friends, especially if you join a club or league. Not only will you get to socialise, but you’ll also get some exercise in the process. A real win-win.
You can play anywhere and it’s a sport for all ages from nine to 99, and you do not have to be the world’s most gifted athlete to take part and enjoy it.