Pickleball, a dynamic combination of tennis, paddleball, and table tennis, has taken the sports world by storm, earning its reputation as the fastest-growing sport in America, with Australia not too far behind.
With an impressive 4.2 million players in 2020 - a 21.3% increase from the previous year—pickleball offers not only physical benefits but also a plethora of advantages for your mental, emotional, and cognitive well-being.
Here are 6 actual benefits that pickleball can deliver to the Aussie community!
1. Improved Blood Flow To The Brain
Engaging in energetic pickleball matches gets your heart pumping, leading to increased blood flow to the brain. This surge in blood supply delivers essential oxygen, glucose, and nutrients to your brain, promoting overall brain health. Specifically, the elevated blood flow benefits the prefrontal cortex (PFC), responsible for attention, planning, and impulse control. A healthier PFC translates to better focus, decision-making, and follow-through, ultimately contributing to a more fulfilling life.
2. Enhanced Cerebellum Function
The footwork and hand-eye coordination demanded by pickleball activate the cerebellum, located at the back bottom of your brain. This area plays a crucial role in cognitive flexibility and processing speed. By stimulating the cerebellum, pickleball heightens these mental functions, allowing for improved agility and mental adaptability.
3. Strengthened Hippocampus Function
Engaging in physical activities like pickleball protects the hippocampus, structures within the temporal lobes responsible for memory formation. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise, such as pickleball, increases the size of the hippocampus and improves memory. Moreover, pickleball challenges your memory by requiring players to remember the score and serve rotation—a mental workout that keeps your memory sharp.
4. Mood-Boosting Neurochemicals
Picking up a paddle with a sport like pickleball increases the availability of L-tryptophan, a natural mood-enhancing amino acid, in the brain. Decades of research support the positive impact of physical activities on mental health, including the alleviation of depression and anxiety. Physical exercise, such as pickleball, has even been deemed a first-line treatment for mild to moderate depression and an effective alternative for anxiety disorders.
5. Reduction Of Cognitive Impairment
Engaging in physical exercise, including pickleball, offers protection against cognitive decline and dementia. Extensive research indicates that regular exercise promotes brain health by stimulating the production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor and improving insulin sensitivity, cardiovascular health, inflammation levels, and stress response.
6. Maintenance Of Youthful Brain Function
Participating in a group activity like pickleball not only fosters social bonding but also combats loneliness and enhances mood. Animal research conducted at The Ohio State University demonstrated that social connections have a preserving effect on the mind. In this study involving older mice, those living in groups showcased better memories and displayed brains that appeared younger compared to their counterparts living in pairs.
The Pickleball Verdict?
If you're considering picking up a pickleball paddle to reap the physical, mental, emotional, and brain health benefits, it's always wise to consult with your healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program.