Do you know what the fastest growing sport in America is? It has a funny name, but don't let that fool you.
Pickleball is exploding in popularity here in Northeast Ohio. Besides being a lot of fun, it is also highly recommended by doctors.
“It's really got all the benefits that you need,” explained Dr. Roy Buchinsky, director of wellness at University Hospitals. “It's got the social benefits of playing with a group of people. It's got the health benefits where you're being physically active and of course that helps with everything from mood to sleep to preventing chronic diseases. It's also most beneficial for balance and agility.”
Falling is the number one reason adults over the age of 65 are hospitalized, according to University Hospitals. That makes activities like pickleball especially beneficial.
“This is a wonderful, wonderful game that has taken over the entire country,” said Judy Hauser, a volunteer coordinator for pickleball in Cleveland Heights.
The game is so popular, there are more than 40 places to play it in Northeast Ohio alone.
Retired University Hospitals physician and pickleball player Dr. Richard Stein says it is an excuse to practice what he preaches.
“It's a great sport,” he noted. “You can learn it in two minutes, if that. As a physician, I would tell people to exercise, get out and socialize, in a lot of words but it's a way of actually doing what you should be doing.”
Hauser got into the game at the recommendation of a friend and has been playing ever since.
“I'm active,” she said. “I'm meeting wonderful new people. I'm sure it's good for my eye-hand coordination. It's probably good for my muscles.”
Think of it as a hybrid between tennis, badminton and ping pong.
“Anybody can learn to play it,” Hauser explained. “And then you've got to learn to really play it, but anybody can get pretty good at it, pretty quickly.”
Pickleball has been around since the 1960's but has really blown up in the last eight months or so.
“I think you have to thank retired people,” remarked Hauser. “Because it started on the west coast, southwest and southeast and as people have gone to those areas for the winter, they've come back to places like Cleveland, Ohio and Vermont and other places and say, hey, there's this really neat thing that we did down in Florida or out in Phoenix or something.”
It can get pretty competitive, but mostly, it's just a lot of fun.
“You can be as aggressive or non-aggressive on the court as you want to be, so it can be very athletic,” said Dr. Stein. “You can really get your heart rate up or you can sort of just do it nicely, gently, more of a golfer's kind of game but it can really be a very competitive game, and to watch people get out there, there's a lot of sweat, a lot of yelling and it's a lot of fun.”
“Whether you're young or old, big or small, pickleball is good for all,” added Dr. Buchinsky.
If you want to get involved, visit the sport's website.