Pickleball: Good for your body and mind!

From Andrea Cuc- Mayo Clinic - Jun 29th 2023

Disclaimer: We advise that you check with your doctor before you start any exercise to make sure you are medically cleared to do so.Have you heard of pickleball? Pickleball is a racquet sport that has elements of table tennis, badminton, and tennis. It’s played on a smaller court with solid paddles and a perforated plastic ball. Pickleball is not only a fun way to stay active, but it can provide physical and mental health benefits as well. Environmental factors, technology, age, health, isolation etc., can all be contributing factors to a sedentary lifestyle. Insufficient movement and activities can have a negative impact on our mind, body, and emotional health.

Exercise, such as pickleball, can be beneficial for cardiovascular health which in turn helps boost brain health. The heart pumps blood (oxygen and nutrients) to your brain and body. Exercise can lower blood pressure, strengthen muscles, improve flexibility and agility, help control weight, etc. Regular exercise can strengthen cognitive function and areas of the brain that enhance brain plasticity, prevent brain tissue loss, improve/maintain long term memory, regulate emotions, and improve self-controlled decision making. Exercise boosts levels of brain-derived neutrophic factor (BDNF), which is needed for brain cell functioning and growth. It also stimulates neurogenesis, which is the birth of new neurons. Pickleball, creates cognitive challenge by working the short term/working memory area of your brain through keeping track of the rules, the score, your position on the court, service order when playing doubles etc. Pickleball also requires hand-eye coordination, quick thinking, fast feet, and moving around the court in all directions. Developing hand-eye coordination is important in other areas of our lives such as better reaction times, balance/coordination, fine motor skills, reading, writing, and tracking moving objects.

Exercise also helps stimulate mood enhancing chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin and dopamine. Pickleball can also be a great way to socialize, which may lead to friendships (increase support network), and improved mood. Increased socialization can help with loneliness and depression. Other forms of exercise are also beneficial; however, some have limited social interaction so add some variation to your exercise routine by exercising with a friend or a group! If pickleball is not your sport, then find something else you enjoy to get yourself moving!

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