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Is Pickleball Good Exercise?

Author: Andrew Gilman | August 11, 2023

Pickleball is an excellent way to burn some calories, enjoy the sunlight, be outdoors, improve your aerobic fitness, and most importantly, have some fun.

There are a lot of benefits to playing pickleball, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced player. And yes, pickleball is a great way to get some exercise.

While it doesn’t take an extreme level of fitness for the average player to enjoy playing, pickleball is considered a good workout with plenty of health benefits.

Health Benefits

Pickleball combines elements of aerobic exercise, anaerobic exercise, and cardiovascular activity, making it a comprehensive workout that can benefit anyone’s overall fitness.

And anyone who’s played knows the amount of movement involved, and while it’s not constant or non-stop movement, it’s very simple for anyone, particularly beginners, to elevate their heart rate.

Pickleball also requires strength and endurance. Playing requires you to use various muscles in the legs, core, arms, and shoulders. The more you play, the more these areas will benefit. In addition, the more experienced you are, the more your glutes will get a workout, too, as there are continual squats in and around the non-volley zone.

Balance and coordination are also something any player will benefit from, adding to the fact that pickleball is a good activity for exercise. The sport requires quick movements, lateral shuffling, and precise hand-eye coordination. All of that contributes to improved balance and agility. 

One of the other benefits of the exercise you get when playing pickleball is flexibility. The swinging motion of the paddle, lunging, squatting, and reaching can increase and enhance flexibility and range of motion in the joints.

All of these are excellent for anyone, but particularly for elderly population. Pickleball doesn’t have to be extraneous to be fun, so any amount of movement, especially when utilizing a variety of different muscle groups, is beneficial to those who don’t move quickly or aren’t as agile. Because of the unique rules in pickleball, overall quickness is helpful, but not required. The nature of pickleball makes it approachable and playable for anyone.

Pickleball is a low-impact sport, meaning there isn’t as much pressure on the joints, especially when compared to running, basketball, or other sports. This is another reason the sport is suitable to be played by nearly anyone and can be enjoyed by all. 

Calories Burned Playing Pickleball

In addition to the agility exercise, mobility, and cardio benefits of pickleball, it’s also a good way to burn some calories.

Obviously, the number of calories burned during play can vary significantly, depending on a number of factors, such as weight, the intensity of play, and the length of time you are playing. 

A 150-pound person burns an estimated 250-350 calories playing a casual or recreational game. In a moderately intense session, with more movement, faster pace, and longer rallies, that same person will burn approximately 350-450 calories in an hour. In a competitive, highly intense session, with even quicker movements and even longer rallies and matches, one can burn up to 600 calories in an hour. 

Playing doubles or singles also affects caloric count and weather, heat, and sun, as well as breaks between games impact the amount of calories burned.

While people tend to focus on the physical benefits of playing pickleball, the mental benefits are also plentiful.

Just being outside is a mood stimulant and can help change perspective, especially if a person spends the majority of their time inside. The benefits of sunlight have been widely touted and fresh air can do wonders for overall feelings of well-being.

Pickleball can help the brain, too. The sport requires strategy, decision-making, and quick reactions, providing mental stimulation and improving thinking and general cognitive function.

Playing pickleball is an excellent way to engage with others socially, too. Playing often means games in a doubles format, which can enhance motivation, enjoyment, and keeping a regular exercise routine. Many players meet new groups of friends through pickleball and report that pickleball is as much of a social activity as it is recreational.

Pickleball is broadly recommended as a great way to get exercise. However, there are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to step on court. Firstly, it’s important to warm up properly before playing and stretch before and after enjoying a few games. Secondly, remember to drink lots of water and wear proper footwear and clothing while enjoying pickleball. Check with your doctor before playing if you have any pre-existing medical conditions or concerns. 

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