Home ยป Why is Pickleball So Popular with Seniors?

My Case for Seniors and pickleball

Very few seniors like to exercise. That’s my statement. That’s my opinion. That’s my fact. Let me prove it to you so we can move on with this article. The next time you go to your gym or health club, look around.

I mean really see. Take a carefully measured look around the club. First of all, how many seniors are actually present? Five or Ten? And how many participants are in the club total? Seventy to a hundred? So not many seniors to start with.

Now take a moment to actually observe them whether they’re on a cardio machine or doing resistance exercises. How many are smiling? How many look happy? And yes, I know, most people who exercise at a club may not appear ecstatic. But let’s look a little closer at those seniors while they exercise.

Are most of them on a cardio machine? A bike or treadmill? How intensely are they exercising? How many are slowly walking on a treadmill looking at their phone or TV screen? How many are sitting on an exercise bike pedaling at a languid pace as they check their phone for texts? If even two or three people are doing this, I am starting to make my point. They are mailing in their work out- Just going through the motions.

Now let’s remember that these are the motivated seniors. They are the ones who are actually at a health club. They paid for a membership, took the time, and found the motivation to be here. What percentage of seniors really do this?

Where are the rest of the seniors? I’m guessing they’re on their respective couches watching TV and eating chips. So why don’t seniors like to exercise? The answer is actually quite simple: Exercise is work. Exercise requires effort. Exercise is not fun. We have spent our lives doing things that are work-related. Our vocation. Raising a family. Paying the bills. So maybe at this point in our life, we feel entitled to have a little bit more fun.

Senior woman

We deserve it; we have paid our dues. We want fun activities. The key to getting exercise as a senior is to pursue a fun activity that’s healthy. And by healthy I mean caloric expenditure. I mean actually getting a workout. If the activity is fun, the workout is a byproduct, and we will continue the habit.

This is our goal; we want to find an activity that generates a workout and is also so much fun that we will continue to do it over and over again. This is where the problem starts. Too many of the favorite senior activities do not generate much of a workout. Most are really not sports but skills. Yes, they may be fun, but the health benefits are minimal. Let’s compare some of these activities:

Cards / Board Games/Video Games
Lots of fun, very few calories exerted. If you’re not in Vegas, these are pretty inexpensive activities, so that’s appealing. Skill levels can vary, so overall a low-stress way to spend some free time. The downside is, of course, that they are all sedentary.

Pool/ Billiards
An entertaining game that can be played by anyone. I suppose walking around the pool table is better than sitting on the couch. Pool requires some skill and can be difficult to just “pick up.”

Lots of fun and slightly more exercise than the previous activities. Picking up a ball and tossing it down the lane does require some caloric output. Let’s look at the actual workout numbers for bowling. Over a 60-minute period, a 150 lb person exerts 210 calories. A 200lb person exerts 290 calories. Also, bowling is not a cheap game; you have to spend a little money.

Bowling vs Pickleball

Again a fun activity requiring a lot of time. There is also some caloric expenditure from walking around the course and swinging the club. Obviously, this is minimized if you are riding a golf cart. How about some numbers for golf? During a 60-minute period, a 150-lb person exerts 380 calories. A 200-lb person exerts 480 calories. And let’s be real, this is an expensive game.

Doubles Pickleball
Now compare these to doubles Pickleball. Here are the numbers. During a 60-minute period, 150 lb person exerts 480 calories. A 200lb person uses 680 calories. This equates to a minimum of 100 to 200 calories per hour more than any of the other activities.

Doubles Pickleball

The caloric expenditure is real, and it’s greater than any of the other activities. Also, keep in mind that these are for playing doubles in a casual manner. Clearly, they would be much higher for singles or intense play. Multiply this by just two 2 hour sessions per week, and you can see how quickly the caloric expenditure will add up.

Doubles pickleball is an actual sport, and it is fun. It is inexpensive. Which means you will do it again and again. It is extremely social, so the whole family can be involved. If you can walk you can play Pickleball. No matter how old, no matter your weight. It is an easy sport for beginners. Meaning that anyone can pick up a paddle and be having fun in a relatively short period of time.

You may not be good, but you will be having fun. Which means you will play again. This is in dramatic contrast to both bowling and golf. Bowling requires a certain skill level, which often makes it difficult for beginners. And golf is a hard and frustrating activity for beginners. Many will play it once and never play it again.

Where can Seniors Play Pickleball?

Seniors playing Pickleball

The availability of pickleball courts is impressive. Just check any of the state pickleball organizations. Or call your local YMCA. Many YMCAs are now offering pickleball as an activity. Pickleball is also extremely affordable. Quite often, it is free.

Many municipalities are now converting some of their tennis courts into pickleball courts. These public parks offer free play to anyone who wants it! Indoor courts are not usually free, but they are not super inexpensive. Fees range from about $5 to $12 for an hour and a half to three hours of play. Clearly, this is much cheaper than bowling or golf by a landslide.

Are there any downsides to pickleball? Are there any negative aspects to this magnificent sport? Sure, if we’re being candid. Pickleball is so much fun that it can be quite addictive. You may find yourself playing all the time. Day or night, clinic, or free play, you might be drawn to the siren call of pickleball. And perhaps neglect other aspects of your life.

Did you forget to pick up the grandkids? Were you supposed to be making travel reservations for your upcoming trip? Did you forget to grab dinner for the wife and kids? Blame it all on pickleball. And go see a pickleball therapist. Which will probably exist in some Bizarro future world by the way.

For the rest of us, who can manage the fun-ness of pickleball (and yes, I just invented the word fun-ness), life will proceed in a wonderful fashion. We will breathe, eat and play doubles pickleball. Will we get healthier as we age? Realistically no, but we will slow the decay caused by father time. And we will continue to have fun during our senior years sharing this sport with our family and friends.

If you have not yet tried this superb game, you owe it to your future self to give it a go. And feel free to email me a thank-you letter after you do, but this is not necessary. Actually, any input is appreciated. Disagree? Contact me and let me know. I will gladly discuss it with you. May your service returns always be deep!

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