Tennis has a number of mind and body benefits that make it such a wonderful sport to play. Andrew Cate outlines 10 ways that playing tennis can boost your health and wellbeing.
1. Improved stamina - Activities such as tennis that make you huff and puff help to build stamina and endurance. This is also known as aerobic fitness. Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that tennis significantly elevates your heart rate, and is a vigorous intensity exercise that can help foster high levels of fitness levels. This research was based on singles play, and while it could be safe to assume doubles would also offer cardiovascular benefits, they would be to a lesser extent.
2. Increased bone strength - Bones increase in density and strength when they bear weight during activity, especially where the loading is beyond everyday activities. Tennis is a moderate to high impact activity that has the potential to build and strengthen bone. A review of 22 studies on tennis and bone health found that bone mineral content and density was generally greater in the dominant playing arm, and in the hip and lumbar (lower) spine regions of tennis players compared to non-tennis playing control subjects.
3. Improved heart health - Like all exercise, tennis can help to promote cardiovascular health. It can strengthen the heart muscles and promote heart health. Research suggests that tennis players have increased heart performance capacity, and a more favourable lipid (cholesterol) profile. Tennis is also a sport that people are less likely to give up as they get older, making it a heart friendly activity.
4. It includes intervals - A normal tennis match (or even a competitive hit up), will usually involve a number of short sprints throughout, especially when playing singles. This type of activity where you run fast and then rest is called interval training, and it provides a number of advantages over steady state exercise. Not only does it help to increase your kilojoule burning rate, but it may also help to accelerate the fitness and fat loss benefits of exercise.
5. Weight loss - Game play in tennis involves running and jumping, combined with prolonged game time. This makes tennis a good kilojoule burner, helping contribute to weight control and a leaner body shape. In fact, research suggests that tennis players are less likely to be overweight, and those who play twice a week have significantly lower levels of body fat compared to age matched controls.
6. It boosts your mood - If prolonged inactivity helps to trigger fatigue, tennis can have the opposite effect. Exercise triggers a raft of emotional and hormonal changes that can elevate your mood. Physical activity such tennis triggers the release of endorphins, helping to boost your alertness and energy levels. It can boost your self-esteem, and provide an outlet for any anger or frustration in your life.
7. Better balance - Balance is an important component of health and fitness, and it's a skill that can be improved through activities such as tennis. Balance is the result of your muscles and brain working together to sense where the body is in space, making adjustments to find the ideal posture or movement pattern. Because tennis includes movement that is lateral, and also forwards and backwards, it can challenge your stability and train your body to improve balance.
8. Stress relief - Exercise is a fantastic way to reduce stress, and tennis is no exception. Belting the life out of that green fluffy ball can let you blow off steam, and take your mind off any worries or anxiety for an hour or two. The improved cardiovascular fitness that comes with regular exercise can also strengthen your physical reserves, helping the body to better cope with future stress and reduce the impact of its harmful effects.
9 . It trains your brain - Tennis engages your mind, as you need to stay focused, think quickly, keep score, devise tactics, and avoid distractions and disappointments (for example if you missed an easy shot). You also have a short break between each point to evaluate and revise your strategy. Tennis continually challenges your brain, and keeps the neural pathways ticking over.
10. Increased social interaction - Tennis is a social sport that can be played by all ages, and even between men and women. You can enter a regular competition, attend a group coaching class, or play socially with friends. It gives you the chance to meet new people, or spend quality time with people you already know. Playing doubles also allows you to be part of a team, where you can interact and work together with your tennis partner.