Limited information exists on pickleball’s impact on physical function in adults, especially older adults (65+ years), despite reported health benefits. PURPOSE: This study evaluated the physical function of active older adult (OA) female and male recreational pickleball players via handgrip strength and fatigue, 6-minute walk distance (6MWD) test, as well as the short physical performance battery (SPPB) compared to sex-matched young adult (YA) controls. METHODS: Thirty YA (18-26 years; n=15 female/male) participants and 27 OA (65-89 years; n=13 female, n=15 male) participants who played pickleball at least three times per week were assessed for physical function outcomes of handgrip strength (HGS) and fatigue (HGF), 6-minute walk distance (6MWD), and the short physical performance battery (SPPB). A two-way ANOVA (age x sex) with repeated measures and Sidak post-hoc test were used (pRESULTS: Compared to sex-matched YA, OA women and men had significantly (p2). Absolute HGF followed the absolute HGS results. In contrast, compared to sex-matched YA, no significant differences (p>0.05) were observed in OA women and men for 6MWD percent predicted (which factored in anthropometrics, age, gender, and activity levels; range: 104.6-115.4%) and the overall SPPB (range: 11.3-12.0) as well as each portion of the SPPB (balance, gait speed, and lower limb strength). CONCLUSION: In OA female and male recreational pickleballers, lower body physical function (e.g., walking speed/distance, balance, lower body strength) is largely maintained compared to sex-matched YA pickleballers, but upper body strength/fatigue were not. Pickleball should be combined with meeting resistance training guidelines to maintain whole body physical function with aging.



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