Apple Says Pickleball Has Dethroned Tennis for the First Time

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Apple’s Heart and Movement Study has revealed new insights into the health benefits and rising popularity of pickleball, a sport that has recently outpaced tennis in terms of recorded workouts.

The study utilized extensive data collected through Apple Watch to analyze activity trends in both sports. “The Apple Heart and Movement Study offers us remarkable opportunities to follow participants’ behaviour changes and the consequences of these changes on health,” said Calum MacRae, M.D., Ph.D., a cardiologist and Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Participants in both pickleball and tennis were found to average a peak heart rate within 70% of their estimated maximum during workouts. While pickleball workouts lasted slightly longer on average, tennis workouts had a higher average peak heart rate and more time spent in higher-intensity heart rate zones.

The study also highlighted the growing popularity of pickleball, especially in Utah, which emerged as the state with the most recorded pickleball workouts per capita. Both sports were popular across all adult age groups but showed a higher popularity among men than women.

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The mental health impact of these activities was also examined. An optional mental health survey, featuring the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2), was part of the study. The results suggested that frequent players of both pickleball and tennis had lower PHQ-2 scores, indicating a potential positive impact on mental well-being. “Research is a vital component to our work in health at Apple,” stated Sumbul Desai, M.D., Apple’s vice president of Health.

In terms of demographics and trends, the study found that players who logged at least 10 pickleball workouts were older on average than those who played tennis—51 years versus 45 years. While pickleball has seen a relatively steady growth in popularity, tennis showed more seasonal variation in workout trends.

“We are pleased to see pickleball-related findings included in the Apple Heart and Movement Study,” said Mike Nealy, USA Pickleball’s chief executive officer. The study is a collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the American Heart Association and had participation from over 200,000 people across the United States.

Tennis is a better sport that offers a more high intensive workout. Pickleball is fun though, but needs a name change. I won’t be playing pickleball until I’m a geriatric, and by then I’ll be fighting tennis players in parking lots over court times.

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