If you haven’t played pickleball yet, the odds are high that you’ll get the chance to play soon. This fun, friendly game between groups of two or four is officially the fastest-growing sport in the U.S.
We know regular exercise benefits sleep, but does that mean playing pickleball can help you catch more or better shuteye?
To find out, we talked to Rachel MacPherson, a certified personal trainer and pain-free performance specialist. Below, we dive into the basics of pickleball, its sleep and health benefits, and how to play for better sleep.
What is pickleball?
The folks at USA Pickleball describe the sport as “fun, social, and friendly.” Games look like a mashup between tennis, badminton, and ping-pong. Though pickleball courts exist, you can also play the game on a badminton court or modified tennis court.
To play, two or four people face off on opposite sides of a netted court. They use paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball once it’s served and allowed to bounce at least once on each side.
Typically, the player or team to reach 11 points first wins. Teams get a point when the other side messes up by missing the ball or knocking it out of bounds.
Benefits of pickleball for sleep and health
Playing pickleball is fun, but it’s also great for your sleep and overall health. If you keep it up, your body and mind will reap the benefits of regular exercise.
“Noticeable health benefits of starting a regular fitness routine like pickleball include better sleep, better mood, and reduced stress levels,” says MacPherson.
She says the sport can also improve your heart health, which will help everyday tasks feel easier. If you start playing pickleball after a season of no physical activity, you might also notice the sport improves your arm strength.
Researchers have pinpointed a clear relationship between sleep and exercise. In a 2017 review of 34 studies, 29 found that exercising can improve sleep quality and duration.
MacPherson says regular physical activity helps you sleep better because it improves your energy balance, helps you destress, and even increases your body’s feel-good hormones.
In other words, you’ll feel happier and more relaxed after playing pickleball or participating in another physical activity. When you’re more relaxed and less stressed, you tend to fall and stay asleep more easily.
Even better: The relationship between sleep and exercise goes both ways. “Exercise helps you sleep better, and better sleep improves your exercise performance,” explains MacPherson.
How to play pickleball to improve your sleep
MacPherson says there’s conflicting research on whether evening exercise is good or bad for sleep. She suggests paying close attention to how you feel after you play pickleball. If you notice trouble sleeping after an evening match, try to schedule your next game earlier in the day.
If you’re interested in making pickleball a part of your weekly fitness routine, here are some tips for making the activity benefit your sleep too:
- Stretch before playing. Warming up your muscles can help prevent injuries that could interfere with sleep.
- Stretch after playing. “If you play pickleball in the evening, ensure you calm your body and mind with some gentle, relaxing stretches afterward,” says MacPherson. She explains that this will help put your central nervous system into a relaxed state.
- Stay hydrated. Pickleball can be a sweaty activity! Research suggests that inadequate hydration can shorten sleep at night, so remember to drink water after playing.
Is pickleball a good workout?
Yes! “Pickleball is a good workout that can work most of your body, including your heart,” says MacPherson.
What muscles does pickleball work?
Pickleball works almost your entire body, according to MacPherson. Changing directions and running to hit the ball will work your hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes, calves, abdominals, back muscles, and shoulders. “To a lesser extent, it will work your triceps and biceps too,” she adds.
Why is pickleball good for your health?
Pickleball is good for your health because it is a full-body physical activity. Playing pickleball will help work your heart, lungs, and muscles.
What are some of the health benefits of pickleball?
Pickleball benefits your health in the same way that other fitness routines do. Regularly playing pickleball could improve your sleep, mood, stress levels, and cardiovascular health.
Yoga is another workout that could potentially improve your shuteye. Learn about the sleep and health benefits of yoga.