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Latest trends: Pickleball and Taylor Swift

Both are immensely popular and one does a myriad of good for the human brain

Cheryl Witter

Spine & Sport

They share one thing in common. They have a dazed and crazed affect on current day trends right now. The word “Phenomenon” could even be used. According to the Oxford Dictionary this means “a remarkable person, thing or event.”

Taylor Swift, it’s been reported, is injecting $4 billion into the economy. Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America with 4.2 million players in 2020, up 21.3 per cent from 2019 (21.3%!). Both this human and this sport have an incredibly positive effect on people at the moment.

So if you are blue about carbon taxes, interest rates, war or climate change that’s fair. You need to calm down. Turn Taylor Swift on and find a YouTube video on pickleball.

But this article is not about promoting Taylor Swift or the obvious benefits of being active in pickleball. We are going to dive into some facts not talked about in pickleball: training our beautiful brain.

But firstly, let’s discuss what we DO know about pickleball. Well, it’s a mix of tennis, pingpong and squash. The ball has holes in it. Some people say it’s loud. It’s definitely competitive, yet also recreational.

It’s full of laughs, humility and blunders, with strong undercurrents of seriousness. It can be political. It’s for the young. And old. It’s like chess. Outsmarting your opponent. Strategy over strength. It’s also a good workout. But did you know this popular sport also trains your brain. Here’s how :

1) BRAIN BLOOD FLOW! Running around on a pickleball court gets your heart pumping, which boosts blood flow to the brain. This increases the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, enhancing overall brain health. In particular, the the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain involved with attention, planning, and impulse control. This means better focus, decision-making, and follow-through.

2) CEREBELLUM! The quick footwork and hand-eye coordination required to play pickleball activates the cerebellum, an area at the back of the brain.The cerebellum controls balance, coordination, posture, cognitive flexibility and processes speed. Who doesn’t want all those?!

3) GRAY MATTER! Research shows that physical activity that requires planning — such as deciding whether to smash the ball or dink it softly over the net — results in higher gray matter volume. Additionally, social engagement was also linked to more gray brain matter and less cognitive decline in a 2021 Journal of Gerontology study.

4) HIPPOCAMPUS! (Isn’t that a great word?) This part of the brain is involved in the formation of memories. Pickleball gives your memory a workout by making players remember the score and whose serve it is. Sounds simple, but scoring in this sport isn’t as easy as it seems. Memory is challenged. Hippocampus is happy.

5) NEUROCHEMICALS! Making your heart pump and work in sports like pickleball allows more of the natural mood-enhancing Neurochemicals to circulate within our bodies. Decades of research show that physical activities such as pickleball also help alleviate depression and anxiety.

6) YOUNGER BRAIN! I saved the best for last. Who doesn’t want a younger brain?! The social experience and bonding that comes with playing a group sport like pickleball helps combat loneliness and boosts mood. Social connections preserve the mind and keep us feeling vibrant. The banters, frustrations and even political chatter are good for us!

So pick up a paddle! Pickleball will enhance your physical, mental, emotional, and brain health. Crank up that Taylor Swift tune as you drive to the court. Shake it off. Appreciate trends that make people feel good. And have the best time.The News channel can wait !

Cheryl Witter is a Vernon physiotherapist and owner of Spine and Sports North End Physical Therapy and Massage Therapy