What pickleball’s many new fans may not be aware of is that playing the sport is an excellent way to fend off or manage osteoporosis. “It is essential to exercise when you have osteoporosis,” Evan Johnson, PT, director of Och Spine Care Outpatient Physical Therapy at NewYork-Presbyterian recently told Well+Good. “Exercise, along with diet and medication, can stimulate bone growth, increase bone density, and prevent future bone thinning.”
- Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, founder and director of Real Nutrition
- CJ Johnson, pickleball coach and certified personal trainer
- Evan Johnson, PT, director of Och Spine Care Outpatient Physical Therapy at NewYork-Presbyterian
- Justin Norris, certified strength trainer and co-founder of LIT Method
Pickleball in particular is beneficial for the building and maintaining the strength of your bones, and protecting them from fractures. Here are four major reasons why.
1. Pickleball gets you outdoors
Vitamin D is essential for strong bones—without it, our bodies can't absorb calcium. Getting out in the sun for 15ish minutes each day can get you your daily dose, Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Real Nutrition has told Well+Good. Of course, unless you're just popping over to the court for one quick pickleball game, you're likely going to be out there for longer than 15 minutes: “Just be careful with the sunscreen!” says CJ Johnson, a pickleball coach and certified personal trainer.
2. Pickleball improves your balance
Slips, trips, and falls can be catastrophic for folks dealing with bone-health issues like osteoporosis or osteopenia. Working on your balance can help reduce the risk of losing your footing.
In pickleball, “you’re going in lots of different planes of motion, including a lot of lateral (side-to-side) and backwards movements,” says Justin Norris, certified strength trainer, co-founder of LIT Method, and pickleball enthusiast. Our bodies are typically used to moving forwards only, since that’s how we tend to get through most tasks of daily life, like walking or climbing stairs. “Getting more variety in the way that you’re moving is definitely going to help with stability,” Norris explains.
3. Pickleball is low-impact, weight-bearing exercise
In terms of the kinds of exercise proven to slow bone loss, the gold standard is weight-bearing, low-impact movement. You want enough load to stimulate bone growth (swimming or cycling won't do it), but high-impact activities like running or jumping can be dangerous for thinning bones.
By its very nature, pickleball offers the best of both worlds. As Johnson says, “Because the court is smaller and you’ll most often be playing with a doubles partner, you don’t have to run. You’ll move intentionally or power walk, but those are both low-impact.”
Low-impact doesn’t mean unchallenging, though. In a typical recreational pickleball game, your heart will be pumping for around 15 to 25 minutes at a time. Throughout, you’ll be improving your cardiovascular fitness through weight-bearing movement around the court—and (hopefully) hitting the ball.
4. Pickleball is a fun, social sport
For Norris, the fun factor of pickleball is what makes it such an effective weapon in the battle for long-term bone health: “Research always shows that people who participate in group activity, or who have personalized coaching, increase engagement and retention,” says. After all, the most effective workout for bone health is the one you enjoy so much that you’ll consistently feel motivated to do it. Consider this your official sign to go out there and find your pickleball people.
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