Fitness Legend Denise Austin Shares Her Passion For Pickleball: ‘I’m Totally Obsessed!’

For decades, fitness legend Denise Austin, who has sold more than 24 million exercise videos, has been inspiring women to find fun ways to keep their bodies moving. At age 66, she knows firsthand that staying active can help keep people young and energized. One of her mantras always present: if you rest, you rust! We need to bring the fun back into fitness.

That said, it’s no surprise that Denise has embraced America’s fastest growing sport pickleball! I love pickleball, says Denise It is something everyone can do. It’s social, fun, and a great workout all rolled into one! She adds, “It’s easy to pick up and learn, whether you’re athletic or not.” Anyone can participate!

Read on to learn more about Denise’s passion for pickleball, her secrets to playing your best game, and information about the release of her Easy Spirit pickleball shoes.

How did Denise Austin get the pickleball virus?

My family and I started playing pickleball several Thanksgivings ago, shares. It seemed like a natural thing for her tennis-loving family to try, as Denise, who was a collegiate gymnast, is married to tennis royalty.

She shared: My husband Jeff played professional tennis and my sister-in-law, Tracy Austin, was a two-time winner of the US Open! Plus, Denise’s two sons earned athletic scholarships to play college lacrosse, so they’re always ready to pick up a new game.

Regardless of her family’s athletic prowess, Denise loves the fact that you don’t have to be a champion or even in great shape to enjoy pickleball. Tennis is very skill-oriented, where pickleball is more social and low-impact, she says. My husband Jeff and I love to play mixed doubles with other couples. It’s so funny!

Denise also regularly plays pickleball with her friends and daughters, Kelly Austin and fitness influencer Katie Austin. She talks about following in her mother’s footsteps.

The Austin family: (left to right) Katie, Jeff, Kelly and Denise AustinDenise Austin

How popular is pickleball?

Pickleball fans are called pickleheads and there are an estimated 36.5 million of them in the United States, according to the Association of Pickleball Professionals. In fact, the sport has grown a staggering 158.6% over the past 3 years, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Associations (SFIA) Topline Participation Report 2023.

Finding a place to play pickleball has never been easier. There are currently more than 10,000 pickleball courts in the United States, according to, a site that covers all things pickleball.

Denise lives in California, which currently has more pickleball courts than any other state, followed by Florida and Texas. Seattle, the birthplace of pickleball, is believed to have the most fields of any city in the United States, followed by Denver.

Do I have to be athletic to play pickleball?

One of the main reasons this activity has such growing interest is due to how easy it is to learn and get started. I love that there is such a small learning curve so anyone can just jump in. They’ll understand very quickly, Denise explains. You don’t even have to have a partner. Show up in public court and I bet there will be someone around you who loves to play! I find it a fun workout for women over 50.

For people who are considering trying this activity for the first time, there is no need to feel nervous. In a classic Denise Austin peptalk, the fitness pioneer says, “You can do it!” Get up and go for it. Have faith and you can make it happen. Date a girl and get started. Do not be afraid. It’s so funny!

Learn the rules of pickleball

The sport was invented around 1965 and has been gaining momentum ever since. It is described as a combination of tennis, table tennis and badminton. Players use solid racket-like rackets with balls that resemble light whiffle balls.

The game is played on a modified (smaller) tennis court measuring 44 by 20, with a net that is two inches shorter than a regular tennis divider.

Learning to play pickleball is pretty simple: serves are underhanded and on the first serve the ball needs to bounce before being returned. Only the serving team can score points. The first team to earn 11 points wins the game. And like table tennis and tennis you have to win by at least 2 points. The game can be played in singles (2 players) or doubles (4 players).

How does Denise Austin prepare to play pickleball?

Denise knows the perfect way to prepare your body for this activity to feel good and avoid injury. She stretches her hamstrings, quads and groin area before playing and strength training off the court, she advises.

Wall sits and lunges are my favorite exercises, while squats and lunges will help you strengthen your lower body.

How should you dress for pickleball?

Players tend to wear sportswear or sportswear to a game of pickleball. In terms of footwear, Denise has taken her love of the sport to the next level by designing a line of pickleball shoes for Easy Spirit, available in stores July 18, 2023.

My Dilli Pickleball Shoes are gorgeous! Since I already have an amazing collaboration with Easy Spirit, this collaboration was a no-brainer, rejoice. We’ve worked hard to make these the most comfortable shoes you’ll ever wear on the court, great support for lateral movements, cushioning for your feet and great traction for safety. You will love them.

Denise already has a line of walking sneakers with the brand, and one look at her Instagram feed will tell you there’s no doubt she’s wearing Easy Spirit walking sneakers when she steps off the pickleball field. I have the best walking shoes. Those are really mine that I wear every day.

Denise Austin shares the health benefits of pickleball

Pickleball can be great cardio, and weight-loss activity experts estimate you can burn 600 or more calories per hour playing pickleball, and build muscle with functional movements like bending over, reaching, stepping, and jumping. But women have also claimed to use it as a cure for depression.

I never regret moving or taking a walk, says Denise. Even 10 minutes of movement helps your metabolism and provides benefits to your mental and physical health, which are so important. She adds: It’s the little things that make you feel young again!

Denise Austin isn’t the only famous picklehead

Many stars are following in Denise’s footsteps and getting in on the action of this popular sport. Other celebrities known to enjoy a game of pickleball include Emma Watson, Jenna Bush Hager, Drew Barrymore, George Clooney and tennis greats Andre Agassi and Serena Williams.

Pickleball is more than just a game, it’s becoming a way of life. Integrative Nutrition Health Coach Sherri Holzer recently released a cookbook for pickleball enthusiasts called Everything except the Dink kitchen, which refers to the term pickleball dink, meaning short throw. Her community-driven cookbook provides simple, fun, and nutritious recipes that are sure to help pickleball players maintain a healthy lifestyle off the field.

Whether you’re a pro or just starting out, pickleball is a fun way to get your body moving!

Want more healthy tips from Denise Austin?

Take the July 17 issue of The world of women For Denise’s stress tips, nutritional secrets and more, or check out her new lifestyle magazine special, Denise Austin is fit over 50!

Lisa Maxbaueris an award-winning health and nutrition writer at First for womenANDThe world of womenmagazines. She is a former guest blogger withThe New York Timesand author of the award-winning independent children’s bookBeetroot Squash Boom. Learn more at and follow @lisamaxbauer on Instagram.

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