Looking to increase your physical activity? Try racquet sports!

Engaging in regular exercise, through sports like pickleball, can help improve your health and increase longevity.

People playing pickleball.
Photo: Getty Images.

Engaging in regular physical activity can positively impact one’s mental, emotional, and physical health. Globally, about one in four adults do not meet the recommended amount of physical activity (150 minutes per week) according to the World Health Organization.

This is also true in Michigan, where almost 25% of adults are physically inactive outside of work. This puts many people at risk for chronic disease and may reduce quality of life and longevity. Common barriers to engaging in regular activity may include the lack of time, support, motivation or resources.

The American Heart Association (AHA) offers a list of solutions that encourage paying mindful attention to one’s schedule and planning activities ahead of time for success. The AHA also suggests inviting family and friends or connecting with local programs as one pursues their health goal. Getting involved in weekly recreational activities within a sporting community may be a helpful and enjoyable approach to consider.

Researchers from the National Institutes of Health recently studied the impacts of regular participation in leisure activities. They found that playing racquet sports was associated with the greatest reduction in the risk of "death from any cause" among older adults. Specifically, the risk of "death from heart disease" was reduced by 27% among the individuals surveyed.

Racquet sports also provide social-emotional health benefits, as outlined in a recent MLive­ Media Group article that highlighted pickleball. Pickleball is “a racquet sport that’s a cross between tennis, badminton and ping pong.”

This social sport provides an opportunity to make new friends, appeals to individuals across generations, and is easy to play. It is the fastest growing sport in the nation and Michigan is currently home to over 400 pickleball courts that are free to use and within a variety of locations including community centers, schools, churches, and local parks.

If you decide to increase your weekly physical activity through racquet sports, first consult your primary care physician, borrow or purchase the appropriate equipment, and note the following safety tips from Corewell Health:

  • Start slowly. Understand the rules of the game and try a short session with someone familiar with it. As your confidence builds, you can increase the duration and intensity of each game.
  • Take care. Warm up and stretch your shoulders, elbows, wrists and legs before playing to prevent injury. Avoid risky moves, like running backwards or playing on a wet court to prevent falls. Towards the end of your session, slow down to gradually cool your body down.
  • Dress for success. Wear comfortable clothing and supportive court shoes to prevent foot pain. If playing outdoors, wear a hat and/or sun protection.

Incorporating racquet sports into your weekly schedule could help improve your health and increase longevity. For additional information on how to build a healthy lifestyle, visit MSU Extension's Food & Health website.

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