Tennis is a game that serves up a range of health benefits you’ll love.

October 26, 2011

Stay in shape by playing tennis

There are many ways that you can improve your overall health. You can try running or walking. You can join a gym. You can sign up for an exercise class. But one of the most fun and one of the healthiest sports to play is tennis.

Tennis offers many benefits. First it's a sport you can play all your life. That means you'll stay in better shape for the rest of your life. Active.com lists these great benefits of playing tennis:

  • People who play tennis three hours a week cut their risk of death in half. This fact comes from Ralph Paffenbarger, a doctor at Harvard University School of Public Health.
  • Tennis players are happier. Dr. Joan Finn did a study at Southern Connecticut State University. She found that tennis players scored higher in vigor, optimism, and self-esteem. Tennis players also scored lower in anger, confusion, and tension. Tennis players even had better mental health scores than other athletes or non-athletes.
  • Scientists at the University of Illinois say that tennis requires alertness and tactical thinking. Playing tennis may generate new connections between nerves in the brain. This sport promotes a lifetime of continuing brain development.
  • Playing tennis gives you a more positive outlook on life. In fact tennis does better than golf inline skating and most other sports. Dr. Jim Gavin wrote this information in his book The Exercise Habit. Studies show that competitive tennis burns more calories than aerobics, inline skating, or cycling.

Many doctors and scientists view tennis as the most healthful activity for you. Other sports may provide excellent health benefits. They may stimulate mental and emotional growth. But no other sport matches tennis for its great health benefits.

More great health benefits from tennis

The Mayo Clinic lists many more benefits from playing tennis. Playing tennis regularly helps maintain or improve balance strength and fitness. It also helps burn calories.

Exercise physiologist and avid tennis player Dr. Gordon Blackburn did a study. He followed people who got three hours of moderate aerobic exercise every week. Blackburn discovered that those people cut their risk of heart disease by 50 percent.

"Playing tennis regularly is a good way to get your aerobic exercise," says Dr. Blackburn. You'll exercise your muscles and burn calories. Tennis can even help lower your blood pressure. Those benefits reduce your risk of developing heart diseases, like heart attack or stroke.
How many calories do you burn playing tennis? Dr. Blackburn has the answers.

  • A 135-pound woman playing an hour of tennis can burn 330 calories playing doubles. She'll burn 420 calories playing singles.
  • An average-sized man playing an hour of tennis can burn about 425 calories playing doubles. He'll burn 600 calories during singles.

Dr. Blackburn suggests combining tennis with other sports for even greater health benefits.

Prepare your body to play tennis

Like any other activity, you need to prepare your body before you get going. Below are a few tips to remember before you begin playing tennis. These tips will help your body stay safe and healthy.

  • Stretch first to let your body's muscles and joints properly warm up.
  • Use water or healthy sports drinks to keep your body hydrated before playing tennis. You should also drink liquids while you play and after. Drinking plenty of fluids is especially important when playing in hot, humid weather. Drink plenty of fluids if you are playing longer than one hour a session, too.
  • If you injure yourself or experience chest pain, stop playing immediately. Then contact your doctor.

You should play within your ability. In other words, don't try to play like a pro your first time out.

Safety first

Dr. Blackburn says everyone should take up tennis. But you should talk with your doctor first. If you want to play tennis check the list below. See if any of the conditions listed relate to your health. If they do, you'll want to talk with your doctor.

Conditions that may stop you from playing tennis include:

  • Chest pain while you play
  • Current inactive lifestyle. Your inactivity may be by choice or because of a medical condition
  • Arthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Recent surgery within past year
  • Pacemaker
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Brittle bone disease
  • Regular dizziness or fainting
  • Vision problems
  • Joint replacement
  • History of chronic joint pain that that gets worse during physical activity

Fun for all

We've talked about all the health benefits of playing tennis. Here's another benefit – it's just plain fun!

Of course tennis also can be hard, especially if you're just learning. But tennis is a sport in which lessons, practice, and hard work pay off quickly.

Tennis offers a healthy break from the stresses in your life. It's also a great way to meet new people. You can join a local tennis league or club or go to a public court. Tennis also makes a great family sport.

You might think that tennis is only for young people. That's simply not true. In fact, 11.3 million adults aged 25 and up play tennis at least once last year.

A well-rounded activity

  • Tennis may be one of the most complete sports for all-around health. Tennismd.com sums up all the benefits of tennis perfectly.
  • Aerobic fitness – When you play your burn fat and gain higher energy levels.
  • Speed – You are always running from side to side, back and up, and chasing the ball. These activities develop strong leg muscles.
  • Helps deal with stress – Tennis is a sport that helps both your mind and body. It forces you to develop an increased capacity when dealing with stress.

Finally there is an overall challenge and joy of playing tennis. Along with the social interaction, tennis is great for a player's well-being.

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