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Pickleball sport helps improve health, say Apple researchers

Pickleball player with an Apple Watch

An Apple Health study comparing tennis to the increasingly popular pickleball says that both sports are beneficial to the health of players of all ages.

The report is from the Apple Heart and Movement Study, which was founded in 2019 and at the time reported to be concentrating on the woefully under-studied health of women, but now looks to cover everyone. Recently, it's reported that overall women and men are not getting enough sleep.

Now this new report follows the examination of over 250,000 workouts involving tennis and the newer pickleball. In its sample, pickleball workouts tended to last 9 minutes longer on average than tennis ones, for a total of 90 minutes.

Studying heart rate data, the report found that tennis players' hearts beat 152 times per minute, compared to 143 beats per minute for pickelball.

"The Apple Heart and Movement Study offers us remarkable opportunities to follow participants' behavior changes and the consequences of these changes on health," Calum MacRae, M.D., Ph.D., a cardiologist, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and principal investigator of the Apple Heart and Movement Study at Brigham and Women's Hospital, said in a statement.

"Following the growth of pickleball using Apple Watch data," he continued, "allows us to explore emerging trends and the effects of activity on multiple metrics of health and wellness that were not accessible before."

Apple claims that this study used "one of the largest observational datasets of pickelball activity collected on Apple Watch." Through it, the researchers saw pickleball's popualrity surpassed tennis workouts in July 2023, after steadily rising since the study's beginning in 2001.

The rising popularity of Pickelball, as charted by Apple's health study
The rising popularity of Pickelball, as charted by Apple's health study

The research also notes that tennis workouts tend to be seasonal, where pickleball ones have relatively steady growth through the year.

"Research is a vital component to our work in health at Apple," said Dr. Sumbul Desai, M.D., Apple's vice president of Health, "and it's important to see the science behind the mental and physical benefits of activities like pickleball and tennis on Apple Watch users."

"Physical inactivity is a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and a number of other chronic conditions," she continued. "Finding an activity that someone enjoys partaking in can help build a routine, whether that means picking up a paddle or a racket."

While pickleball and tennis workouts are popular across all adult ages, men were more likely to do them than women. Apple also discovered that Utah had the most recorded workouts per capita in the study.

"We're excited to see that in the latest research study update from the Apple Heart and Movement Study, Utah stood out as the most popular state per capita for pickleball," said Utah governor Spencer J. Cox. "It's awesome that so many Utahns are grabbing the opportunity pickleball offers to incorporate activity into their days, and this research is a great reminder that exercise of any kind is a powerful way to improve our health over the long term."

The Apple Heart and Movement Study is a long-term collaboration with Brigham and Women's Hospital, the American Heart Association, and Apple, which is concerned with the links between physical activity and heart health.

Apple says that more than 200,000 participants across the United States, who have given their consent to share data, are in the research program.