EXPERT ADVICE: Pickleball


  • Opinion   Thu, Aug 11th, 2022   Mercedes Kay Gold



Exercise is one of the pillars of health. Wellness experts may differ in their top choices for building a body in balance, but we all agree staying active is non-negotiable in pursuit of living wholeheartedly. As a certified personal trainer, I see the results of exercising first-hand. The benefits are enormous, and I am ecstatic when clients make time to sweat. Whether you walk, spin, swim, practice yoga or lift weights, motion is mandatory. All Canadians from the ages of 18 to 64 need to be active at least 2.5 hours a week to reap the rewards. Youths between the ages of 12-17 require an hour a day of moderate-to vigorous- intensity based activities, but three days should be vigorous. Children aged 5-11 need to be physically active for a minimum of one hour daily. Canadian children aged 5-11 have tons of awesome options all year round locally, from jungle gyms to splash pads and skating rinks to hills for sledding. Exercise is essential at every stage of life. If you love your lazy boy and flipping channels, it’s officially time to change your ways and not just the channel.
There’s no time like the present to prioritize health. Let me introduce you to pickleball, a newer game but long past the fitness fad label. If you think pickleball is a silly game Grandma plays, think again! It’s a superb sport that can be enjoyed by all ages and all skill levels. The pickleball was invented in 1965 by three dads whose kids needed a new summertime fun time activity. The game is a mishmash of ping-pong, tennis and badminton. They designed the court, net size, paddle and even the ball using elements from all three popular sports. Pickleball can be played singles or doubles and both indoors and outdoors. It’s a relatively simple sport to learn, a lot of laughs learning the lingo, plus it won’t break the bank to get started!
Besides the entertainment and enjoyment factor, it checks all the boxes. As a trainer, I love the body-boosting benefits for every age and level. First up is the equipment. The string-free paddle is stupendous and the lightweight ball is ideal for helping alleviate stress on growing and aging bodies. The underhand serve is far less intimidating to learn than the traditional overhand serve in tennis. In regards to the human frame, serving underhand puts less stress on the tendons and muscles in the arms for those who are prone to tennis elbow.
Pickleball engages a wide range of muscles from top to bottom. Rotation works the abdominals and helps increase core strength. Holding and swinging your paddle incorporates back and shoulder muscles, making muscles stronger while increasing range of motion and flexibility. The notable improvement in the strength and shape of the biceps and triceps is top-notch. And let’s not forget all the time spent zigzagging across the court strengthens leg muscles and tightens the tushy.
Pickleball may be a slower-paced game than tennis due to the smaller court, but the ball stays in play longer. With less space to cover, it’s a great transition from tennis for those suffering from years of wear and tear on their joints or those with knee and hip replacements.
Being busy on the pickleball court has an awesome aerobic component. Engaging a myriad of muscle groups at the same time, the heart pumps nutrient and oxygen-rich blood throughout the whole body. Regular exercise lowers the resting heart rate, strengthens the heart and helps keep arteries clear.
As a nutritionist and a fan of lifestyle change over restrictive diets, pickleball is a fun way to support weight loss and maintenance goals. Being consistently active helps increase muscle mass, lose body fat and help support a healthy metabolism. It’s a lot more enjoyable to move and grove across the court than push the plate away!
All exercise boosts immunity, leaving you less likely to contract viral illnesses. Stepping onto a pickleball court is no exception. Staying active helps manage chronic conditions and reduce your risk of high blood pressure, type-2 diabetes, stroke and certain types of cancer.
Pickleball helps improve eye hand coordination as well as balance and strength from toddler to teen and beyond. It’s also helpful for maintaining mobility and lowering the risk of falls and injuries as we age. I love the ball is not as hard or heavy as a tennis ball, removing the fear of being hit.
Pickleball is growing fast in popularity throughout North America. It is estimated Canada has 75,000 pickleball players and Alberta has the most. Jump on the fitness fun bandwagon and soon, words like dillball, dink shot and flabjack won’t sound odd, and a falafel will be more than a favourite food. Have fun recreationally, join leagues, go professional or simply stay fit as a forever young senior. As a champion for health, I love seeing family fitness as well as singles and couples being social over a net! I bet next year, on August 13th, you will be celebrating Canada’s National Pickleball Day!
*Always consult your MD or ND before starting any new exercise.
Mercedes Kay Gold is a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer who loves helping others live their best life when not spending time with her children and grandson Theodore.