For the third year in a row, pickleball has been the nation’s fastest-growing sport. Selena Gomez “dinks” on the regular, as does Jenna Bush Hager. Even Michael Phelps has traded swimming paddles for pickleball ones.
And why not? Pickleball can boost your cardiovascular health, provided you get onto the courts at least three times a week and play with enough intensity — somewhere above 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. It can also help you practice your agility and hand-eye coordination, both of which decline with age.
For all its benefits, however, pickleball does not build much muscle. And depending on how hard you play, it may not deliver the recommended dose of weekly cardiovascular exercise.
“When you look at Serena Williams and see how strong she is, it’s easy to think that’s because of tennis,” said Jasmine Marcus, a physical therapist and strength coach in Ithaca, N.Y. “But she’s strong because of the strength work she does off the courts.”
Is pickleball enough?
If you were relatively inactive before picking up the game, experts say you can make some strength and fitness gains by playing several times per week. But you will probably hit a ceiling after about eight weeks.
“Your arms and legs will get a bit stronger from playing, but you’ll quickly hit a plateau,” Dr. Marcus said. “You need to continually challenge your body with more resistance.”
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