Massive new Apple study finds pickleball now outpacing tennis in popularity
Data gathered via Apple Watch users also found Utah is the No. 1 pickleball-playing state in the country
Apple’s massive Heart and Movement Study that includes over 200,000 participants who consented to share Apple Watch data finds pickleball has surpassed tennis, for the first time, in popularity.
And, Utah leads the nation, on a per capita basis, when it comes to hitting the pickleball courts.
Study findings released by Apple Wednesday morning include a slew of data about how much time people are spending on courts, with either tennis or pickleball rackets in their hands, how much of a workout they’re getting and how that activity is impacting their overall health.
“The Apple Heart and Movement Study offers us remarkable opportunities to follow participants’ behavior changes and the consequences of these changes on health,” said Dr. Calum MacRae, a cardiologist, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and principal investigator of the Apple Heart and Movement Study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in a press release. “Following the growth of pickleball using Apple Watch data allows us to explore emerging trends and the effects of activity on multiple metrics of health and wellness that were not accessible before.”
Researchers found the typical pickleball session ran slightly longer than the average tennis workout, 91 minutes to 80 minutes, though peak heart rates were slightly higher for the tennis players.
According to the study, in July 2023 the number of participants playing pickleball in a single month surpassed the number of participants playing tennis for the first time. Tennis workout trends saw seasonal variation, while pickleball workouts saw relatively steady growth.
Not surprisingly, pickleball advocates were delighted with the findings.
“We are pleased to see pickleball-related findings included in the Apple Heart and Movement Study, in collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the American Heart Association. There are numerous benefits for individuals of all ages and backgrounds on the pickleball courts as part of a healthy, social, and active lifestyle,” said Mike Nealy, USA Pickleball’s CEO, in a press release. “As the sport’s national governing body in the United States, it’s increasingly meaningful to see science behind pickleball using real-world data from Apple Watch. The relatively low-impact, informal, and social nature of pickleball can offer a useful and enjoyable outlet for those looking to increase movement and add to their workouts.”
The Apple data found both pickleball and tennis are popular across age ranges but, overall, see more participation from men than women. Research showed that, on average, players who logged at least 10 pickleball workouts were older than their counterparts in tennis — 51 years old versus 45 years old, respectively — and had higher participation among women.
Apple said Utah was a standout in the findings as the most popular state per capita for pickleball, with more than 1 in 16 study participants trying the sport at least once.
Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, who says he’s a tennis fan first but has given pickleball a try, celebrated the new Utah distinction in a video statement provided by Apple.
“We’re excited to see that in the latest research study update from the Apple Heart and Movement Study, Utah stood out as the most popular state per capita for pickleball,” Cox said. “It’s awesome that so many Utahns are grabbing the opportunity pickleball offers to incorporate activity into their days, and this research is a great reminder that exercise of any kind is a powerful way to improve our health over the long term.”
During a virtual press conference Wednesday morning, MacRae said the driver behind Utah’s top ranking when it comes to pickleball is a little foggy but noted that residents of the state, overall, are very down to go out and do stuff.
“It’s not clear why Utah was uniquely different than many other states,” MacRae said. “But, it does have a very high participation in activity and fitness, in general.”
He also noted that, like Cox, he considers himself a dyed-in-the-wool tennis player but noted pickleball is drawing from a wide range of player age groups, is growing at a remarkable clip, compares favorably to other sports that have been around for hundreds of years, and he expects it will have resilient staying power into the future.
The Apple Heart and Movement Study, a collaboration with Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the American Heart Association and Apple, explores the links between physical activity and heart health, and has more than 200,000 participants across the United States who have given their consent to share data.