Ready to try pickleball? Here’s what you need to get started

pickleball in action
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Spring has sprung, and outdoor sports fans are getting warmed up for lots of fun to come. That includes players of pickleball, a relatively new sport that’s consistently growing in popularity.

From its homespun beginnings in the 1960s to 58 member countries in the International Federation of Pickleball (IFP) in 2021, pickleball is taking its place in the world of racquet sports. The IFP is even preparing a push for the sport to gain recognition as an Olympic sport!

The unusual name doesn’t offer much info about what pickleball actually is: a sort of hybrid sport that mixes ping-pong, badminton and tennis.

The game uses firm, table tennis-style paddles to whack a modified wiffle ball over a net to score points. Players play singly or as a doubles team, as in tennis.

Pickleball courts are smaller than tennis courts, however, and rules prevent the game from getting too aggressive — the zone closest to the net, for example, is off-limits for forceful, impossible-to-return volleys.

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The smaller court, the light, bouncy ball and the relaxed style of play helped the game take off. By the end of 2021, more than 53,000 players had joined the USA Pickleball organization, a 43% increase over the previous year.

Why has this pastime spread like wildfire across the nation? That’s because the sport can be enjoyed by people of all ages and skill levels and can be played as doubles or singles. It uses a paddle and a plastic ball with holes that is known for making popping sounds when struck.

Another reason the sport has gained popularity is because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It offers a great way to catch up with friends, stay active and social distance all at once.

Is Playing Pickleball Considered A Workout?

So, you’ve picked up the best pickleball set and have been playing for a few weeks with friends. Is the sport a good workout? Well, it really depends.

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Sports medicine specialist Dr. Nicholas Greiner told Everyday Health that pickleball counts as aerobic exercise. It requires full-body movement to play, from short sprints sometimes needed to return the ball to rotating your trunk and upper body when you swing. The low-impact sport can certainly count toward the 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention each week. But it’s wise to round out your week with other activities, too, like strength training.

How To Get Started Playing Pickleball

Luckily, this inexpensive sport is easy to pick up and you can wear just about anything that lets you move freely while playing, like athletic shorts, T-shirts, sweatpants and sneakers. However, you can get away with wearing jeans if you’re just having a casual, more social game.

If you’re exploring the sport on your own, reach out to your local rec center or gym to see if there are pickleball groups available to join.

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How To Find The Best Pickleball Set

Rec centers often have paddles available for players to use, but you can also pick up a set of two to four paddles and balls to have at the ready.  Some sets also contain a portable net and a carrying case.

Look for high-quality paddles as lesser-grade ones can affect how you play. Most are made from wood, composite or graphite. If you’re after more control and maneuverability, look for a light paddle, but if hitting the ball with more force is more your speed, go for a heavier paddle. When shopping for a paddle, test out the grip to see how it feels.

If you’d like to pick up a set for yourself, check out our selection of the best pickleball sets to help you get started.

Are you planning to play pickleball this year? Would you play to stay in shape or to socialize — or both?

About the Author

Emily O'Brien

Emily is a freelance writer who loves connecting the dots among facts and finding obscure little details to weave in throughout her work. Whether she's interviewing Olympic athletes, small business owners, dessert cookbook writers, or world-renowned architects, she's passionate about shining the spotlight on good people doing remarkable work. More.

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