Posted on Apr 27, 2023, 4 p.m.
Current recommendations suggest that older adults should get at least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75-150 minutes of vigorous-intensity physical activity each week. Unfortunately, most people are not reaching this goal. Looking to help bridge this gap researchers from NC State University investigated pickleball as a way to get older adults to engage in exercise while being socially active and having fun.
Fun, easy, social, and potentially heart-friendly. According to the pilot study published in the Recreational Sports Journal, pickleball helped a group of adults aged 65+ reach the recommended weekly amount of moderate to vigorous exercise. The participants played pickleball at least two times per week wearing Fitbits to allow tracking of participant steps as well as intensity of physical activity.
“We know it’s an enjoyable activity, but what we didn’t know was: Are older adult participants getting enough moderate to high-intensity activity to reach the level critical for cardiovascular health?” asked the study’s lead author Jonathan Casper, associate professor of parks, recreation and tourism management at NC State. “This pilot study provides objective data to support that pickleball participation is an activity that promotes older adults’ physical activity and helps participants meet CDC and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommendations.”
According to the researchers the participants averaged 3,477 more steps on the days that they played pickleball as well as spending more time being engaged in very active and fairly active physical activity. Additionally, the participants averaged over 68 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity during each pickleball game, averaging 86.77 minutes in three heart rate zones during each game.
“There are three important factors for successful healthy aging,” Casper said. “No. 1 is physical health, and staying not just physically active, but engaging in physical activity where your heart rate is raised, which is called moderate to vigorous physical activity. There is also a social component, which is maintaining and creating social connections, and psychological health, or a feeling of well-being and life satisfaction.”
“We were able to isolate their pickleball activity versus everyday activity, and our key finding was that pickleball was the sole reason most participants were able to meet CDC standards,” Casper said. “Pickleball participation was what helped them reach that threshold.”
In this study, pickleball was the reason that the participants met the recommended physical activity guideline, according to the research team who hope to compare pickleball with other sports older adults play in future studies to help better understand the differences in physical activity, social-psychological benefits as well as injury risks. Being aware of these results is also hoped to help inform sport and leisure providers/coordinators with evidence that pickleball participation can help older adults become less sedentary and meet guidelines on physical activity.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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