Pickleball: Playing Your Way to a Healthier You by Daniel Flinn – One of the keys to longevity, along with good eating habits and other factors, is consistent exercise. In 1965, a Seattle family looking for a fun, inexpensive and beneficial way to exercise at any age invented pickleball. It has become the fastest growing sport in America. Played on indoor and outdoor courts with paddles and a whiffle ball on a surface the size of a badminton court, this sport has swept across the country attracting young and old alike. What makes it most appealing, especially to seniors, is its myriad benefits.
According to Spectrum Health Beat, “Playing pickleball can boost your mood and overall mental health, you burn calories, and fewer injuries occur due to the low impact nature of the game. Pickleball specifically works on your balance and agility while it also offers the same benefits of other regular exercise. These include reducing your risk of heart attack and chronic disease, toning your muscles and increasing your energy.”
Englewood snowbirds, George and Barbara Bates took up pickleball in Illinois several years ago and continued at the Englewood YMCA. Now in their mid-70’s, they love the social aspect of the sport. George, who spent 42 years sitting mostly in a chair for his work in mental health care says playing pickleball has increased his strength, stamina and flexibility. “I even lost 25 pounds in just a few months,” he added.
Make no mistake, pickleball is a people-friendly sport. Players intermingle, switch partners, and enjoy a very respectful competitive spirit that leaves no player behind. Just a few hours of instruction, and anyone can understand and play this sport. In fact, it’s not unusual to see players in their 80’s and 90’s on the courts. Advanced players are extremely gracious, helping beginners learn the sport.
So popular is pickleball that many housing associations are installing pickleball courts just as they installed tennis and shuffleboard courts in the past. The demand for this fast-growing sport is evidenced by the number of players waiting for open courts.
Courts are ubiquitous in the Englewood area. Those wishing to explore pickleball can find courts at the YMCA near Englewood Community Hospital, at the Englewood Sports Complex near Dearborn and Pine, and at Tringali Park on 776. Schedules are available at each location. While there is typically no reservation system in place, anyone who shows up to play will have no problem finding opportunities to join the fun.
Daniel Flinn is a retired high school and college English teacher. He can be reached at DanielRobertFlinn@gmail.com.