October 18, 2023
New Apple studies highlight the health benefits of pickleball
The Apple Heart and Movement Study shows that tennis and pickleball are a benefit to overall health as pickleball continues to grow in popularity
Researchers from the Apple Heart and Movement Study share new insights into one of the fastest-growing sports in the world: pickleball. To see how this emerging sport compares to the long-standing sport of tennis and how it impacts overall health, researchers turned to the data.
In one of the largest observational datasets of pickleball activity collected using Apple Watch, researchers found trends in both pickleball and tennis training data that highlight the potential health benefits of both activities.
Participants often played pickleball and tennis for extended periods of time and achieved an average peak heart rate of 70 percent of their estimated maximum heart rate during the recorded exercise sessions. Pickleball workouts lasted slightly longer than tennis workouts, while tennis workouts, on average, spent more time in higher-intensity heart rate zones and had a higher average peak heart rate.
Researchers also noticed a steady increase in the popularity of pickleball workouts, with pickleball workouts surpassing tennis workouts for the first time. Utah took the top spot in the study as the state with the most recorded pickleball workouts per capita. The research found that both pickleball and tennis training were popular across all adult ages, and both were more popular among men than women.
Observing participant behavior combined with Apple Watch activity and sensor data will help improve researchers’ understanding of factors that impact heart health and mobility over time.
“The Apple Heart and Movement Study provides us with remarkable opportunities to track participants’ behavioral changes and the health consequences of those changes,” said Calum MacRae, M.D., Ph.D., cardiologist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School principal investigator the Apple Heart and Movement Study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “Tracking pickleball growth using Apple Watch data allows us to examine emerging trends and the impact of activity on multiple measures of health and well-being that were previously inaccessible.”
The Apple Heart and Movement Study is one of three public research studies that Apple has launched in the Research app in collaboration with leading institutions. The Research app gives researchers the ability to expand the scope and scope of their studies, helping to discover new scientific discoveries while furthering Apple’s ability to develop new, science-based features.
Paddle and Racket: Both offer a healthy activity for everyone
After analyzing more than 250,000 pickleball and tennis workouts recorded by study participants on Apple Watch, researchers found that pickleball workouts were, on average, slightly longer than tennis workouts – 90 minutes and 81 minutes, respectively – and had greater variability in the time played.
To assess the intensity of each type of exercise, researchers analyzed heart rate data. The average peak heart rate was nine beats per minute faster during tennis training, averaging 152 beats per minute, compared to 143 beats per minute for pickleball.
Heart rate zones are another way to assess training effort. While both sports showed similar trends in time spent in each heart rate zone, tennis workouts spent an average of nine percentage points more time in higher intensity heart rate zones than pickleball workouts.
Both pickleball and tennis workouts were often played for extended periods of time, with participants averaging a peak heart rate of 70 percent of their estimated maximum heart rate during the recorded workouts. Regular physical activity is associated with improved quality of life and healthy aging.
A match with mindfulness
It was important for researchers to consider the possible effects of exercise on mental health. The study offers participants an optional mental health survey that includes a depression screening tool called the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2).
Across the study, scores associated with depressed mood were rare, but the distribution of PHQ-2 scores was lower among frequent pickleball and tennis players. Frequent pickleball players were 60.1 percent less likely to have PHQ-2 results indicating depressed mood and 51.3 percent less likely for tennis players than the general participant group, highlighting the potential benefits of physical activity on mental well-being underlined.
“Research is an integral part of our work in health at Apple, and it’s important to see the science behind the mental and physical benefits of activities like pickleball and tennis for Apple Watch users,” said Dr. Sumbul Desai, vice president of health at Apple. “Physical inactivity is a modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease and a number of other chronic diseases. Finding an activity that someone enjoys participating in can help build a routine, whether that means picking up a paddle or a paddle.”
According to the study, in July 2023, the number of participants who played pickleball in a single month exceeded the number of participants who played tennis for the first time. Tennis workout trends showed seasonal fluctuations, while pickleball workouts saw relatively steady growth.
“We are pleased that pickleball-related results have been included in the Apple Heart and Movement Study in collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the American Heart Association. As part of a healthy, social and active lifestyle, there are numerous benefits on pickleball courts for people of all ages and backgrounds,” said Mike Nealy, CEO of USA Pickleball. “As the national governing body of the sport in the United States, it is becoming increasingly important to examine the science behind pickleball using real-world data from Apple Watch. The relatively low impact, informal and social nature of pickleball can provide a useful and enjoyable option for those looking to increase their exercise and supplement their training.”
The research found that both sports were popular across all age groups and were more popular among men than women. On average, players who completed at least 10 pickleball training sessions were older than their tennis counterparts – 51 and 45, respectively – and had a higher participation rate from women.
Utah Picklers take top spot
Utah, a hub for the sport, stood out in the study as the most popular state per capita for pickleball, with just over one in 16 study participants trying the sport at least once.
“We are pleased to see Utah stand out as the most popular state per capita for pickleball in the latest research update from the Apple Heart and Movement Study. “It’s great that so many Utahns are taking advantage of the opportunity that pickleball provides to incorporate activity into their daily lives, and this study is a great reminder that exercise of any kind is a powerful way to improve our long-term health,” said Spencer J. Cox, Governor of Utah.
About the Apple Heart and Movement Study
The Apple Heart and Movement Studya collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the American Heart Association and Apple, is studying the links between physical activity and heart health and has more than 200,000 participants in the United States who have consented to share data.
Apple Watch Tips for Pickleball Players
Apple Watch offers users a range of ways to stay connected, active, healthy and safe:
- To track pickleball sessions on Apple Watch, go to Training app and select “Add Workout” and then “Pickleball.” To track workout intensity, users can also customize their workout views on Apple Watch to include heart rate zones. Users can check their activity data in the Fitness app on iPhone or health data in the Health app on iPhone or iPad.
- With the new Double tap gesture Available later this month for the Apple Watch Series 9 and Apple Watch Ultra 2, users can take and end a call or respond to a message on the court with one hand while the other hand holds their racket.
- To stay in the zone, users can create a custom one focus On their iPhone, they can choose when they want to receive alerts and notifications on Apple Watch, while also letting others know when they’re busy. In Settings, select “Focus,” tap the “Add” button, then select “Custom” to customize the options.
- By setting up Apple Pay On Apple Watch, users can leave their wallet at home and pay directly from their wrist.
- Users may slip AirTag into their pickleball bag and track their location directly on Apple Watch. Go to the Find Items app and choose whether you want to play a sound or get instructions to find the item.
Apple Media Helpline