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What’s the Hottest New Sport?

Posted 7/18/2017 by UHBlog

The area’s fastest-growing sport, pickleball, is lots of fun for people of all ages – including seniors. Talk to us about ways you can go about living a fun, active and safe lifestyle.

What's the Hottest New Sport?

Falls are the leading cause of hospital stays for people over the age of 65, says Cyndie Bender, Director of University Hospitals Center for Lifelong Health. That’s why it’s important for you to get involved in activities that help you maintain your balance and improve your hand-eye coordination.

Playing pickleball, Bender says, is one of the best ways to do it. A combination of tennis, Ping-Pong and badminton, pickleball has suddenly become a favorite pastime among seniors.

“I have never seen a game become so popular in such a short time,” she says. “Pickleball has been around since the 1960s, but it has really taken off in the last eight to 12 months.”

In Northeast Ohio alone, she says, people over the age of 55 can play pickleball at more than 40 facilities, ranging from country clubs to fitness centers to municipal recreation centers.

Pickleball is played on a court that looks a lot like a tennis court – except it is about a third of the size – and the net is much lower. Two or four players use light paddles to volley a “whiffle” type ball back and forth for points.

“It’s easy, fun and there aren’t a lot of rules,” Bender says. “It’s a great game for balance, and it’s also fantastic for cardio health.”

A loss of balance and hand-eye coordination are largely responsible for more than three million falls among seniors each year, she says.

“Those falls lead to almost a million hospital admissions and about 25,000 deaths every year,” she says. “So preventing falls is really important. Pickleball is a fun, social activity that doesn’t require a lot of cost, and it’s so easy to play. More than 10,000 people will be turning 65 every day for the next 12 years. Those people are going to need to exercise regularly, so I think the popularity of pickleball is going to keep increasing.”

Three dads in the Seattle area improvised the game as an activity for bored kids about 50 years ago. Over time, the name pickleball – informally named after one inventor’s cocker spaniel – stuck, and the game developed a cult following.

Until recently.

Today, the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) promotes the growth and development of the game internationally.

“There are some hard-core games that are officiated, but most of the time it’s just a fun game to play with friends,” Bender says. “If you’re going to play, I recommend getting fitted for a good pair of tennis shoes, and remember to stay hydrated. This is a game that can lead to tremendous benefits for older adults and help them live a happy, healthy life.”

Cyndie Bender is Director of the Center for Lifelong Health in the Department of Post-Acute Relations at University Hospitals. You can request an appointment with a University Hospitals health care provider online.

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