What are the benefits of playing tennis?
You may enjoy watching it on the television but when it comes to end of the match, you may wonder why the players are putting themselves through such an ordeal. What can be so rewarding about hitting a ball around a court? Is it really worth all the blood, sweat, tears and tantrums?
Well I can’t account for all the racket-throwing or the tantrums, but ultimately tennis is a very rewarding sport that has a whole list of health benefits attached to it, especially when it comes to bolstering your fitness levels.
For example, did you know that those that play tennis have a 47% lower risk of death than those that don’t play? That’s pretty incredible, considering it managed to beat swimming, cycling and running, even when it comes to diminishing your risk of heart disease!1
Those figures alone should hint at the horde of health benefits you can unlock by picking up a racket!
1. Improves coordination
An inherent benefit to any racket–based sport, having good coordination can go a long way towards improving your overall sporting performance.
Any exercise you partake in, whether at the gym, out on the pitch, or as part of a fitness class such as yoga, will rely on you being able to carry out a series of controlled movements. You will need to be able to coordinate different areas of your body in order to learn these movements properly – the better your coordination, the quicker you learn.
Tennis is particularly good for coordination, even amongst similar sports such as badminton and squash, as the movements in tennis can be much more rapid. Your response time and coordination have to match the pace of the game. You may only have a split-second to react to any movement or change of direction so accuracy is everything!
2. Great for cardio
Bjorn Borg, formerly the world no.1 tennis player, once described tennis as ‘a thousand little sprints.2’
I like this depiction. It encompasses the idea of the rapid, quick-fire bursts of speed that tennis players have to call upon at a split-second’s notice. Unlike running, which is one continuously movement, tennis has plenty of variety, whether you’re chasing the ball or anticipating a pass.
There will be intervals of fast movement and this is great for cardio. It helps to keep your heart rate elevated and your blood flowing. This definitely places tennis up there with other cardio exercises like running and cycling, but it really depends on the type of match you are having.
If you are a new player, it might be a while before you can reap those kinds of benefits. Of course, if your heart is pumping, you’re still getting a cardio workout but it may not be as intense as the type experienced by the professionals.
Fortunately, tennis has evolved to suit this need – allow me to introduce Cardio Tennis.
Cardio tennis is high energy – it aims to keep you moving throughout the game by combining the best aspects of tennis with other aerobic exercises. If you’re looking to increase your cardio through tennis this is a great, fun option that I would highly recommend!
3. Strengthens your muscles
When it comes to strengthening your muscles, tennis works similarly to cycling and running.
Neither of these sports are famous for increasing your muscle mass (although I’d still recommend including one of them in your regime to enhance other areas of your fitness!) but they can be useful for strengthening certain muscles.
In the case of tennis, you are actually moving different parts of your body, forcing a variety of muscles, from your shoulders to your calves, to twitch, stretch and flex for a prolonged period of time – what you get is essentially a full-body workout!
This is great for building muscle endurance, flexibility and strength! Not to mention that tennis is a weight-bearing exercise, just like running, which forces you to work against gravity. Your muscles will have to help your body to bear the force of your activity, encouraging them to become stronger and more toned.
This type of exercise can also benefit your bones as well by increasing their density, preventing the development of osteoarthritis.3
4. Burns through calories
Tennis isn’t just a fun, social pastime – it’s also incredible for burning through calories.
Now of course, this will depend on the intensity of your game. If you aren’t really moving around much, naturally you will not burn as many calories. In order to really get the most out of tennis, you have to be willing to play properly and take your match seriously.
If you are able to do this, you will definitely reap the rewards. It’s difficult to come across an average since there are so many variables involved with playing tennis, but it is suggested that an ordinary club member should be able to shift around 208 calories in 30 minutes, or 169 if you are a woman.4
That’s more than most aerobic exercises! According to Harvard Health Publications, this figure can even rise to 520 calories an hour if you are playing competitively.5 If you are seriously considering playing tennis for weight-loss purposes, then I’d recommend finding a good coach, especially if you are a beginner.
A coach will be able to estimate your limits and improve your technique – this will ensure that you do not overstress your body or push yourself beyond your limits. Not to mention that if your technique improves, you will be able to participate in more intense games, again increasing your potential for losing calories!
5. Encourages mental wellbeing
It isn’t just the physical benefits of tennis that are worth mentioning – tennis is also pretty exceptional when it comes to your moods too!
Now, that may sound difficult to believe, especially if you have witnessed any infamous tantrums on the television, but stick with me on this.
According to a study conducted by Dr. Joan Finn and her colleagues at the Southern Connecticut State University, people who play tennis have lower levels of depression than any other athletes or non-athletes.6
Why could this be though? Playing tennis can stimulate a release of feel-good endorphins but then so do many other forms of exercise – what makes it so uniquely equipped to reduce the risk of depression?
Well some speculate that since tennis enhances your mental awareness, it can help you to generate new connections in the brain.7
This makes sense – tennis encourages tactical thinking and relies upon you making quick decisions at a moment’s notice. You have to be 100% focused on the game, otherwise you may get distracted and lose. There isn’t time to become stressed or to worry about anything – you have to be extremely disciplined.
Others also advocate the social aspect of the sport, particularly for non-professional players. If you are a club member, you may gain a whole new network of friends, allowing you to socialise and participate in club activities, preventing any feelings of isolation or loneliness.
Some general advice for beginners…
If you are new to tennis and are considering taking it up as a form of exercise, it’s important that you consider other areas of your life as well.
As I have illustrated, tennis can be an incredible sport for weight-loss, cardio and strengthening your muscles, however you will be unlikely to see any noteworthy results unless you are prepared to make a couple of small changes to other aspects of your life too.
Your diet should include plenty of protein and fruit & veg. Protein is essential for supporting your muscles whilst most forms of fruit & veg are rich in antioxidants, helping to prevent oxidative stress and aiding your muscles in repairing. Try to avoid too much caffeine and refined sugars – these will not help your sporting performance in the long run and may even wind up slowing you down! To find out more about the types of food that you should be eating, check out What does a Wimbledon player eat?
If you do start to feel tired and lethargic, it’s important that you keep drinking plenty of fluids. Hopefully, you will be working up a sweat, but that means you’re also losing water and valuable electrolytes. Consider our Balance Mineral Drink, a lovely strawberry-flavoured beverage that’s rich in electrolytes and may even help to curb those feelings of fatigue!
Finally, make sure you don’t push past your limits. Learning a new sport is bound to be challenging and you can’t expect everything thing to just click into place at once. Be patient with yourself and never be afraid to ask for help or advice. Try not to overstress your body too much – you really don’t want to pull a muscle or tear a ligament, trust me!
If you do find yourself aching at the end of a game, try our Atrogel® Arnica Gel. This natural remedy is prepared using extracts of freshly harvested arnica flowers and is extremely cooling and soothing for sore muscles and joints. It doesn’t interact with other medications and best of all, you can take it for as long as you need too!
The best way to get involved
So what’s the best way to get involved with tennis?
Well I’m almost 100% sure that your local gym or fitness studio will come equipped with a tennis court and may even offer you the option of renting rackets.
Booking a court for an hour and playing a match with some friends might be a good start but if you want to take things more seriously, try to look for tennis clubs in your area. It might seem like a daunting step, especially if you are new to the sport, but there should be plenty of people on hand to offer you advice about your technique and to enhance your skills.
Speak to a coach and see if you can book any private lessons. Make it very clear what you’re looking to achieve and they should be able to set a programme in place to improve your skills.
Once you have the basics under your belt, you’ll be able to grow as a player and participate in more competitive games with others of a similar level, helping to improve your fitness and overall health and wellbeing.