Maybe it's true that life begins at 50 ... but everything else starts to wear out, fall out, or spread out. Phyllis Diller
Fitness and sports are mainstays for baby boomers. They pursue active lifestyles to feel better and look younger, meeting up at the traditional spots: Yoga and Tai Chi studios, the gym and weight room. Then, there’s the customary golf course and tennis court.
The Rise of Pickleball
Now, there’s a competitor sneaking up for attention for athletic middle-aged people – Pickleball. The combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong is played across North America in all 50 US states and in 6 Canadian provinces. Pickleball racquets are designed in the shape of oversized table tennis paddles. The net is lower than badminton and the court is smaller than in tennis. The big difference is the use of the wiffle ball.
“The wiffle ball is light so there’s less impact on wrists and other joints and the Pickleball racquet is easy to use,” said Hilary Young, a Senior Health and Wellness Expert and writer for Medical Guardian.
Young cited Pickleball as a low-impact sport for aging bodies, especially for people with arthritis and other joint issues. As well, it offers an effective cardiovascular workout and a social aspect with healthy competition. “Participants don’t have to run long distances,” said Young, “and it helps with reflexes, balance and agility.”
Pickleball is an alternative to established boomer sports like golf and tennis. “Golf is not for everyone and tennis is hard on older bodies” said Young. She described the upstart sport as beneficial for boomers who aspire for energetic, youthful activities but have lost flexibility. “It’s a wonderful mix of competition that’s kinder for the body,” said Young.
The Invention of the Game
The game’s invention in 1965 is credited to former Washington State Representative Joel Pritchard at his home on Bainbridge Island, WA, near Seattle. The spread of the sport has led to the formation of the US Pickleball Association (USAPA) which lists rules and regulations and offers official equipment. The global governing body is the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP).