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What’s fun, social, easy to learn, beneficial for your physical health as well as your mental health, and appealing to people of all ages, skill abilities, backgrounds, and beliefs?  The answer…Pickleball!  Some people even say they are addicted to pickleball because they love it so much!  According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, participation had a 40% increase from 2019 – 2021.  Their data also shows that approximately 21% of the sport’s more than 4.8 million participants in 2021 were between 6 and 17 years old, with close to 30% between 18 and 34. The fun factor was highlighted in a study published in the Science and Sports journal in 2022.  Playing pickleball for 30 minutes was enjoyed by people 150% more compared to walking for 30 minutes.

In addition to fun and enjoyment, there are quite a number of health benefits to be gained by participating in pickleball.  For example, due to the ease of learning to play, it promotes both self-efficacy and self-esteem.  Positive mood can also be boosted due to the potential for the release of endorphins.  Pickleball has earned a reputation for being one of the most inclusive and community-building activities in the United States.  As participation and popularity continues to grow, so does one of the key elements of the sport, the socialization aspect. Developing and nurturing one’s social health can aid in combating loneliness, and according to the CDC, loneliness can lead to a higher risk of depression, dementia, heart disease, and stroke.

There are also physical health benefits to be gained from playing pickleball. Research shows that it can help improve hand-eye coordination, general movement, and muscular strength. A 2018 study in the International Journal of Research in Exercise Physiology indicates that pickleball can help improve cardiovascular health for middle-aged adults.  Another study from the American Council on Exercise showed that VO2max improved by approximately 12% for people in that same age group.

Pickleball can be played any way you like it.  Be it casual, easy, and just for fun, or more serious, vigorous, and competitive, or any combination in between, the choice is yours.  There are several opportunities to play or even just learn pickleball here at Duke.  There are 6 dedicated permanent courts on Duke’s East Campus available for members of Duke Recreation & Physical Education.  Additionally, there are PE pickleball activity courses, intramural competitions, an undergraduate pickleball club, and other groups on campus dedicated to the sport.  If you’re not familiar with pickleball yet, check it out and take the risk of becoming one of the millions of people who have developed an obsession for this amazing and incredibly fun sport!

Image Credit: Duke Recreation & Physical Education, Fall 2021

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