St. Mark's Hospital - May 10, 2019

Looking for an activity that will simultaneously challenge your brain and body? Racket or paddle sports—like tennis, squash, badminton, pickleball and racquetball—can serve up a great workout. Because racquet sports require quick strategic thinking during play, your brain has to work as hard as your body to be competitive.

What’s more, racket sports may lower your risk of dying from heart disease more than activities like swimming, aerobic classes or cycling, according to a 2016 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. But the power of racket sports goes beyond the heart and brain—quick movements from front-to-back and side-to-side also help build muscle strength, agility and balance. And then there’s the social aspect of the sport—you can’t play alone, so it encourages interaction with others.

So which might be right for you?

Tennis: The racket, ball and court are the largest of any racket sport. Singles tennis requires lots of running around. If you’re not game for a faster pace, try doubles tennis and play with a partner.

Badminton: This sport has a smaller racket and higher net than tennis and uses a cone-shaped shuttlecock instead of a ball. Played with two to four players, badminton doesn’t require a hard court since the shuttlecock doesn’t have to bounce. That makes it easy to play on a beach or in a backyard.

Badminton: This sport has a smaller racket and higher net than tennis and uses a cone-shaped shuttlecock instead of a ball. Played with two to four players, badminton doesn’t require a hard court since the shuttlecock doesn’t have to bounce. That makes it easy to play on a beach or in a backyard.

Squash: Played indoors in a four-walled court, players take turns returning a small, hollow rubber ball that must bounce off one of the four walls. Because of the speed at which the balls travel, safety goggles are a must!

Racquetball: Closely related to squash, racquetball is played on a walled court, but with a shorter racket and larger ball. Safety goggles are essential here, too.

Pickleball: Part table tennis, part real tennis, pickleball uses paddles instead of rackets and a plastic wiffle ball on a badminton-sized court. An easy game to learn, it’s popular among the over-50 crowd. Enjoy competing with two or four players.