Singles, doubles or against a backboard on your own, tennis is a great activity that can keep you in shape whether you’re age 5 or 95. It keeps your cardiovascular and muscular system in top shape even as you age. Plus, you can’t beat a strategic mental game that lets you enjoy the fresh air of the outdoors.
Here are the Top 10 from Health Fitness Revolution and author of the book ReSYNC Your Life Samir Becic:
- Full body workout: Unlike some sports, playing tennis is a brilliant workout for the entire body. You use your lower body for all that running, stopping and starting, jumping and crouching. And the action of hitting the tennis ball, whether it’s single or double-handed, means that your trunk does a lot of work as well, in particular your shoulders and upper back.
- Improved aerobic and anaerobic health: Tennis increases your oxygen intake while playing, increasing your heart rate and helping your blood deliver oxygen and nutrients to all your muscles. It also aids in the development of numerous capillaries and capillary beds within the muscles so that your muscles can have a greater blood supply and flow. This helps in your muscles perform at a higher level and fatigue at a slower rate. It also helps in maintaining anaerobic health, which allows the muscles to use oxygen in a better way and provide quick energy spurts for explosive power and quick, reactive movements.
- Burns calories and fat: Running, swinging, reaching, pivoting — tennis can be a real workout with the right opponent. It’s a whole-body sport, and you can burn a lot of calories because you’re constantly on the move. In fact, for many people, playing tennis can actually burn more calories than other popular types of physical activity, including leisurely cycling, weight lifting, golfing, dancing or playing volleyball. As a result, playing tennis regularly has been shown to help reduce body fat. Singles tennis can burn between 400-600 calories an hour. That’s not bad for a recreational sport that’s both fun and can be played by just about anyone.
- Improves bone health: Playing tennis isn’t good for your muscles alone; it has a positive impact on your bones as well. Exercising regularly can increase your peak bone mass and can slow the rate of bone mass loss over time. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), bone mass peaks around age 30 and begins to decline after that. You can maximize your bone mass prior to that age through exercise, and continuing to exercise after 30 can slow the rate of bone loss. The NIH names tennis as one of the weight-bearing activities well suited to building strong bones.
- Heart healthy: Tennis great Bjorn Borg accurately characterized a tennis match as “a thousand little sprints.” The quick anaerobic movements the sport demands burns fat, increases your heart rate and promotes higher energy levels. A typical tennis match can last anywhere from one to two hours and at intervals that are optimal for improving cardiovascular health, which is essential for lowering your risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.
- Enhances flexibility, balance and coordination: Tennis requires the cooperation of the whole body. The feet maneuver you into the right position, the arms and hands position the racquet to make contact with the ball, and the torso and legs provide the power to send the ball flying over the net. All these factors come together every time you hit the ball, and each shot takes flexibility, coordination and balance. Flexibility is great because it can give you a wider range of motion, help prevent injuries and even reduce muscle strain.
- Boosts brain power: Tennis requires the brain to be creative, and it involves planning, tactical thinking, agility and the coordination of different parts of the body. So the more you play tennis, the better and stronger the neural connections related to those types of activities become, and the better you become at them. In addition to improving neural connections and developing new neurons, studies show that exercises that require a lot of thinking — such as tennis — can actually improve brain function in ways that aid memory, learning, social skills and behavior.
- Is great cross-training for other sports: Tennis involves quick-fire changes of direction at top speed as you race around the court to return serves and volleys. This requires 300 to 500 bursts of energy per match, according to researchers. And you’ll run the equivalent of three to five miles. The effect? Playing tennis is a great way to speed up your sprinting and work on your endurance.
- Improves discipline and social skills: Tennis makes you more disciplined because the skills needed to master the game take patience, time and dedication. That’s a lot of time spent practicing and focusing on getting better. Tennis helps you in achieving a better degree of socialization as you have to interact with different players.
- Boosts mood: Tennis players are more optimistic, have greater self-esteem and are less anxious, angry and depressed than people who play other sports or are sedentary, according to scientists in Connecticut.