During a recent episode of the mindbodygreen podcast, Buettner mentions a Mayo Clinic study that set out to measure life expectancy gains between different sports, with racket sports coming out on top—specifically, 9.7 years for tennis and 6.2 years for badminton, compared to 3.7 years for cycling, 3.4 years for jogging, etc. “I take a little liberty with this,” Buettner admits, since pickleball is technically a paddle sport, but it involves pretty similar movements and strategies.
Plus, another recent study on the sport found that pickleball had significant improvements in personal well-being, life satisfaction, depression, stress, and happiness in older adults—so we can extend those benefits to mental health as well. These studies are observational, so there isn’t a definitive causation here. However, experts suggest these findings may be related to the sense of community found in pickleball.
“You can’t help but make friends,” Buettner says about pickleball culture. This helps address the growing loneliness epidemic in America—one that has grave implications for longevity. “If you’re lonely, it shaves eight years off your life expectancy,” Buettner claims.
In addition to having fun with your friends, he adds, you’re also engaging in low-to-medium intensity physical activity and boosting your heart rate. “An hour later, you don’t realize you just had a really good workout,” he shares.
So the secret sauce here may not be the sport itself (great news for those who just don’t enjoy it), but rather the hobby that fosters a sense of community and belonging while keeping you active. Sounds like a recipe for a long, healthy life, for sure.
Many gyms, parks, and community facilities have pickleball courts these days, given the increasing popularity of the sport. However, you don’t need a set place to play pickleball—you can make do with your front or backyard, as well as some open public space.