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Currently claiming the title of America’s Fastest Growing Sport, pickleball has become a popular game amongst all ages and fitness levels. It’s estimated that more than 36.5 million people played pickleball from August 2021 to August 2022 with courts popping up across the country.

Even pickleball-restaurant entertainment venues like Chicken N Pickle to Camp Pickle are opening to meet an ever-growing demand from people who love the game and its social benefits. And pickleball is a favorite sport and exercise opportunity for several of our doctors and other colleagues at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH).

Dean Watson, MD, Vice President and Chief Integration Officer at TMH, has been playing pickleball every Saturday for about two years. He’s part of a group of current TMH doctors, residents, retired doctors and others who enjoy each other’s company on the pickleball court. Their group includes players that range in age from their mid-20s to late 70s.

“It’s a great way to get your heart rate up and stay active,” Dr. Watson said, “but the best part is the fellowship, just being together with colleagues and friends every Saturday and having fun. We can get competitive sometimes, but we always laugh and have a good time.”

Combining practices and elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong, this fun game yields benefits that can impact your physical and mental health. While the game has enjoyed a surge among retirees, younger adults and kids are getting in on the fun, too. Here are five ways playing pickleball can positively impact your well-being:

1. Improves Balance and Coordination

With a smaller court and many quick movements, pickleball is a great way to improve your balance and coordination over time. The game’s lateral movements allow players to build strength while improving stability. Additionally, pickleball exercises your hand-eye coordination, which is especially good for older adults who may experience a decline in hand-eye coordination with age.

2. Promotes Social Activity

Whether you are playing pickleball as a single player (singles) or with a teammate (doubles), it is a great way to meet new people and have fun participating in a common interest. At Premier Health & Fitness Center, our members can attest to forming new friendships from the game thanks to numerous opportunities to socialize and connect with new people during the pickleball time slots.

“It’s been really fun to watch the growth of pickleball over recent years and to see how much our members enjoy it. At first, it was really popular amongst our older members, but in the last year, we’ve been seeing all ages show up on the courts. There are a lot of new friendships being formed through pickleball,” said Todd Del Calzo, Executive Director at Premier Health & Fitness Center.

Research shows that being connected with others can lead to a longer life and positive health outcomes.

3. Provides a Mood Boost

Feeling stressed? While it’s easy to witness the external benefits of pickleball, one of the unseen perks of the game is its effect on our mental health and state of mind. Physical activity is a great way to release endorphins, which are “feel good” brain chemicals that act as natural pain relievers and stress reducers. The competitive fun of pickleball also provides a minor distraction from everyday stressors like daily tasks and work.

4. Exercises Cognitive Thinking

As you play pickleball, you continuously have to think strategically. Whether you are predicting your opponent’s moves, making quick decisions or planning the placement for your next shot, all of this strategic thinking aids in sharpening our minds and exercises our mental agility. Cognitive stimulation is a key factor in protecting against dementia and cognitive decline as we age.

5. Improves Physical Fitness

An obvious perk of pickleball is its effect on our physical fitness. With a wiffle-like ball and a smaller court and racket, most people find pickleball to be easier to learn and lower impact than other racket sports while still providing health benefits.

We engage various muscle groups throughout the game, including our core, upper and lower body. Playing the game consistently can help build these muscles and contribute to your overall muscular strength. Pickleball matches are also a good way to increase your aerobic exercise.

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, we should get at least 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week (150 minutes a week).

Austin Clark, MD, is a second-year resident physician at the Florida State University College of Medicine Internal Medicine Residency Program at TMH. He started playing pickleball as a medical student about four years ago and has started “prescribing” patients to pick up the game, too.

“I encourage all my patients to seek out a physical activity that they will enjoy. Exercise should not feel like a punishment or something you dread,” said Dr. Clark. “I’ve seen patients that can’t stand going to the gym but love playing active games like pickleball. It gets your heart rate up without you even realizing it – you’ll be so focused on the game part that you won’t even realize you’re getting a good workout.”

Whether you’re an experienced athlete or new to sports, pickleball is a game that anyone can play at any age. The combination of mental and physical engagement makes it a sport that benefits your body and promotes a healthier lifestyle and overall well-being.

In the Tallahassee area, pickleball can be played at various locations including senior centers, community centers and local parks. Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare’s own Premier Health & Fitness Center has multiple indoor pickleball courts and time slots available throughout the week, so grab a paddle and explore the many perks of pickleball!

For more information about joining Premier, visit PremierTLH.COM or call 850-431-2348.

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Premier Health and Fitness Center