Pickle Ball is quickly becoming a sensation — the bite-sized tennis courts are popping up in country clubs, city parks, and even suburban backyards. And for good reason, too. The game is easy to pick up (never heard of it? Think of a mix between tennis, ping-pong, and badminton), easy for men and women to play equally (physical strength doesn’t really matter), and an INCREDIBLE aerobic workout.
And it’s that last benefit that makes all the difference, especially for seniors. A new U.S. National Cancer Institute study revealed that seniors who played racquet sports lowered their risk of death by 16% over a 12-year span.
Walking, running, and swimming also greatly contributed to longer lifespans, but racquet sports like Pickle Ball really stood out to researchers. Perhaps because racquet sports can vary in intensity depending on the competitiveness of the opponents, or perhaps because it requires a different kind of concentration than the meditative state of walking; but regardless, playing a real sport with a ball and a net seemed to be the magic pill that seniors were searching for to live longer.
Pickle Ball can be played at a leisurely pace, or a breakneck pace, which is part of its appeal
“It’s never too late to start,” said lead researcher Eleanor Watts, a postdoctoral fellow. “So if you’re inactive and you’re older, you can still reap immediate, substantial rewards by increasing physical activity.” She also explained that exercise increases longevity by reducing body fat, lowering blood pressure, and easing inflammation in the body.
For the study, her team collected data on nearly 273,000 men and women between 59 and 82 years of age who were part of a diet and health study co-sponsored by AARP and the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Another unique aspect of the study was the data gained regarding cancer deaths. It turns out that regular physical activity — even a moderate 2.5 hours per week — reduced cancer death rates in seniors by close to 20%. This is the first study of its kind that measured both heart disease and cancer deaths as they relate to aerobic activity.
Dr. Benjamin Hirsh, director of preventive cardiology at the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., reviewed the findings.
“It is following the basics of diet and greater activity that matter tremendously,” he said. “The real challenge in medicine is trying to get patients to change their behavior. It is one of the most difficult challenges for physicians, even more than diagnosing and treating rare conditions.”