If you think you can’t pick up a new sport later in life, then guess again. Millions of people over 50 continue to join the Pickleball craze, the fun mash-up of tennis, ping pong, and badminton played on a small court.
Alex Godinez is one of them. The retired FedEx driver was a former lifelong tennis player who was so intense that he’d sometimes go for six sets in a day.
“It finally caught up to me. It was just too hard on my body,” says Alex, 60, who was introduced to Pickle Ball when he became a part-time resident of Palm Springs, California. The desert city is known for its large retirees community and an athletic, outdoorsy lifestyle that includes golf, hiking, and tennis.
“When I moved to Palm Springs, people were talking about pickleball and how much easier it is on your body. It has similar benefits as tennis, like aerobic exercise and balance, and it’s a great way to meet people. I’ll be playing pickleball the rest of my life.”
Estimates are that 3 million people in the US alone play the game, many in the Southwest, Texas and Florida, but throughout the country, as well.
Goofy Name, Good Workout
Pickleball might have a goofy name. But it still gives a great workout. You play it with smaller rackets than tennis and a plastic whiffle ball. Some people are trying to get it included in the Olympics. It’s becoming more and more visible in retirement communities and assisted living centers.
At the last pre-pandemic National Senior Games, Dick Johnson went from Idaho to New Mexico to be among thousands of older competitors. He found pickleball to be a nice transition after playing tennis for many years, and he now enjoys it with his wife, kids, and grandkids.
“I love the personal challenge playing pickleball gives me,” he said. “It keeps me motivated and helps me improve my skills.”
Older people are drawn to it also because it’s more manageable than, say, tennis or other games played on a bigger surface. But it still gives a good workout without a high risk of injury. And it provides a social outlet.
Fitness Keeps You Ready for New Fun
A 2018 study conducted by Western State Colorado University found that active agers playing pickleball three times a week saw improvement in blood pressure and cardiovascular fitness. Pickleball also helps with hand-eye coordination.
Plus, pickleball is easy to learn. And there are plenty of places to play. You can find one by searching on the U.S.A. Pickleball website.
The biggest draw for many older people is this: Pickleball is fun.
Just a fifth of adults get even the minimum amount of physical activity a week. And it’s been proven countless times that people stick with physical activity if it’s enjoyable.
Getting fit at the gym – with strength, endurance, and agility – will keep you able to enjoy new activities all throughout your life, whether it’s pickleball or something else. Let us show you how.
Holly Kouvo is a personal trainer, functional aging specialist, senior fitness specialist, brain health trainer, writer, and speaker.