Apple and Pickleball team up to study health benefits

Reporter: Amy Oshier
Published: Updated:

The meteoric rise of pickleball is getting attention from the medical community. It was first adopted by older Americans looking for a social sport to get them moving. Now, Apple is studying its health analytics.

Young and old, men and women—it seems all the ‘cool kids’ are playing pickleball. Almost 5,000 people are paddling it out at the Minto U.S. Open Pickleball Championship, which is being held this week in East Naples.

“I’d say your average age right now is probably mid-30s. And about eight years ago, it was probably 15 years more than that,” said Dominic Catalano. Over the past 22 years, he’s been a player, coach and now a pickleball commentator.

“I’m on the road with the tour the, the ATP tour doing commentary. But when I get out here, the competitive juices definitely get going again.” Catalano has marveled over how fast the sport has grown.

Pickleball packs a powerful punch. For years, people considered it a kinder, gentler cousin to tennis. Now, it’s enjoying center court.

You know a sport’s arrived when it gets a dedicated icon on the smart watch. Researchers from Apple have teamed up with Brigham and Women’s Hospital to analyze sensor data from the Apple Watch fitness app.

It found that the average peak heart rate was nine beats faster during tennis. However, pickleball workouts were about 10 minutes longer than tennis workouts. Heart rate zones for both sports were equal, peaking at 70% of max.

It’s no surprise to Sheila Christ. She came from Nebraska to compete in the Open. She attributes pickleball play to keeping her in shape.

“It’s remarkable the aerobic aspect of it,” Christ said. “I feel like also with the muscle memory, and the repetition of the shots, I just feel like I’m a lot more fit from working out from playing pickleball.”

Paul Williams gets hyped watching or playing the sport. “There’s a lot of good athletes out there. A lot of good competition. Highly recommend anybody that’s looking to get into it. Just jump in.”

Joining the estimated 36 million people already playing the sport. Scoring points for their health.

Southwest Florida is often called the epicenter of the sport, with the U.S. Open being played here.

The finals are this weekend.

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