Top Pickleball Social And Health Benefits | Calories Burned

intense pickleball hit
Senior pickleball player hit a overhead smash while gritting teeth.

(Caveat: I am NOT a doctor or psychologist, but I have linked to scientific and medical studies below wherever possible. Please consult a physician if you have any questions.)

What are the main benefits of playing pickleball?

There are a range of physical, psychological, social benefits that contribute to your overall wellbeing, so let’s bring it all together and sum it up with a huge list of ways you can benefit from pickleball: 

  1. Improve agility, flexibility and mobility
  2. Gain strength
  3. Improve mood and decrease depression
  4. Stay social and maintain relationships
  5. Improve balance 
  6. Burn calories and help lose weight
  7. Improve cardiovascular health by working your lungs, heart and muscles
  8. Stress reduction
  9. Stay engaged in life through friendly competition and a focus on improving a skill
  10. Make new friends and decrease loneliness
  11. Keep you sharp
  12. Increase bone and muscle strength
  13. Create a goal to work towards
  14. Decrease blood pressure
  15. Give you a reason to work out and exercise
  16. Lower impact sport with fewer risks of injury when compared with sports like tennis and basketball
  17. Develop hand-eye coordination

In the end, any type of social exercise that you enjoy doing and that you do consistently is beneficial across a range of areas of your health and life, so pickleball definitely fits the bill. 

Why is pickleball good for seniors?

As competitive sports go, pickleball is relatively low impact so older folks can continue to compete while working on a skill without too much risk of injury. 

Further, pickleball levels the playing field between older and younger players when compared to other sports. You don’t have to have the stamina and agility of a 25 year old to play competitively against a 25 year old.

According to a study of middle aged and older adults in the International Journal of Research in Exercise Physiology, playing pickleball regularly “improves cardiorespiratory fitness and positively modifies key cardiovascular disease risk factors”. 

Social benefits of pickleball by forming and keeping relationships

According to the study “Understanding pickleball as a new leisure pursuit among older adults“, “playing pickleball can be an enriching leisure activity for retirees and may help them cope with the transition that retirement typically entails” 

It can be tough as you get older to keep up with regular relationships, so a pickleball league or group that you play with regularly can serve that need nicely. 

How does pickleball benefit your mental health?

Decrease risk of depression. A study of Pickleball tournament players found in Leisure Studies found that “serious leisure and depression were inversely related, which implies that commitment to serious leisure is associated with lower levels of depression in older adults.”

Translation? If you consistently play social sports such as pickleball you may decrease the risk of depression. A separate study by the same folks found similar findings in relation to increased subjective well-being correlated to playing pickleball.

For those who thrive on competition, pickleball can be that outlet and can give you a skill to improve. There’s nothing better for helping you feel accomplished and motivated than working towards a goal — it could be improving your skills to perform well at a tournament or it could be working towards improving your pickleball rating. 

It’s a great option to keep you going. 

Can i lose weight playing pickleball?

Is Pickleball good for weight loss? Absolutely. The thing is losing weight comes down to one very simple concept: calories in and calories out. Now there are hundreds of thousands of books that basically cover variations on that theme and different strategies for achieving it. 

The truth is you can lose weight by sitting motionless all day if you eat few enough calories.

But if you don’t want to be a couch potato any activity that gets you moving will by definition burn more calories.

Simply standing will burn more calories than sitting.

Walking more calories than standing.

And playing pickleball will burn more calories than walking. How much more? Glad you asked.

Calories Burned Playing Pickleball. How many calories do you burn playing pickleball per 30 minutes and hour? 

If you weigh 200 pounds and walk at a moderate pace (about 20 minutes a mile) for 1.5 miles, you will burn 160 calories and it should take you about half an hour.

If you weigh 140 pounds doing the same walk will burn 112 calories. (Check out a full chart for walking calories burned, here)..

According to a study in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise  playing pickleball results in significantly higher average and peak heart rates in comparison to walking. 

On average in a 30 minute session, the participants burned 229 calories per 30 minutes playing pickleball vs 161 calories burned per 30 minutes while walking. 

SO you should expect to burn about 68 extra calories per 30 minutes of playing pickleball when compared to walking! 

But hold up! There’s another study that found participants burned an average of 350 calories per 60 minutes of pickleball play.

So who to believe?

I’d say it doesn’t matter: depending on your body you’ll burn calories different than others but it’s a fact that if you’re playing a real game of pickleball you’ll burn more calories than less strenuous activities like walking. 

In addition to factors such as whether you’re a man or a woman and your body weight, the intensity you play at and the type of game you’re playing (singles vs doubles) will greatly vary the calories you burn. 

Playing a high intensity singles game will burn far more calories than a laid back doubles game. 

Is pickleball good exercise?

Setting aside calorie counting, is pickleball good exercise? 

In the end it’s all relative. Good exercise compared to what? And how do you define good exercise? Pickleball can be great for the purposes of improving flexibility, cardiovascular health, mobility, balance and strength. If you’re looking to get more of a workout from your game, play singles and play with as much intensity as you can handle — short of risking injury. 

I’d also use the qualification that “good” exercise is one you enjoy doing on a consistent basis and CAN do on a consistent basis. 

And pickleball can be played on a consistent basis — all year round, pretty much regardless of where you live. In the winter, if you live in a colder climate, odds are you can find an indoor court somewhere, so you can play all year. Unlike some other sports like golf that may be closed for the winter in your area, you can be sure to have a consistent, fun activity.

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