We can already count enough people to prove pickleball participation is outpacing tennis. Now, we can count calories to prove it, too...Calories burned.
If you have an Apple Watch, you may be familiar with the pickleball tracking feature. They have settings to track almost any physical activity you could think of – including pickleball workouts.
To understand the extent of pickleball's growth, Apple meticulously analyzed data from 250,000 individual, anonymous workouts and invited The Dink to attend their presentation of the results.
The most popular racquet sport
As of July 2023, pickleball participation outpaced tennis, making it the most popular racquet sport among Apple Watch users.
The research found that both sports were popular across ages and more popular for men than women.
On average, players who logged at least 10 pickleball workouts were older than their counterparts in tennis — 51 versus 45, respectively — and had higher female participation rates.
Health benefits tracked
Researchers found that while tennis workouts saw higher heart rate peaks, pickleball workouts were slightly longer than tennis workouts on average — 90 minutes versus 81 minutes, respectively — and saw greater variability in time played.
The average peak heart rate during pickleball workouts was 143, slightly lower than tennis, which averaged 152.
Both pickleball and tennis workouts were often played for long periods of time, with participants averaging a peak heart rate within 70 percent of their estimated max heart rate during recorded workouts.
"[This is] consistent with a strong likelihood of benefit in both quality of life and healthy aging," Calum MacRae, M.D., Ph.D., said in the presentation.
Mental health also tracked
The research didn't merely focus on the physical aspect of these workouts, but also delved into their impact on mental well-being.
Throughout the study, optional mental health surveys were used to track participants' moods.
The results were impressive: tennis enthusiasts were 51% less likely to score 3 or above on the PHQ-2 score chart, indicating a reduced level of depression. A score of 3 or above would trigger deeper mental health evaluation by a professional.
In the case of pickleball, this figure jumped to 60.1%, underscoring the sport's profound impact on reducing feelings of depression.
More popular throughout the seasons
Unlike tennis, which often experiences significant seasonal fluctuations in participation, pickleball showcased remarkable consistency throughout the year, according to Apple's findings.
It seems that pickleball enthusiasts are not deterred by cold winters or sweltering summers, making it an excellent choice for year-round exercise...or, it could be that many of the users studies were located in warmer climates.
Either way: more pickleball players were outside for more of the year.
Most popular pickleball states
According to Apple's research, Utah emerged as the state with the highest level of activity in pickleball workouts – consistent with Googling trends about pickleball within the state.
Following closely behind was California, indicating that the sport has a strong presence on the West Coast.
Of course, all of this talk of Apple devices left us with one important question we just had to ask Apple: were they ready to unveil a pickleball emoji?
Not quiet yet, apparently.