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,” says Arran Peck, strength and conditioning coach for the Lawn Tennis Association.
“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.”
You’ll burn more calories depending on how much running you do, but on average, an amateur player will burn around 300 calories in 30 minutes of play, says Arran.
“If you’re looking to lose weight, make sure you include some rallying. This burns more calories than serving and returning as you’re moving around the court more and resting far less.”
Whether you’re a child or an adult, hitting a ball with a racquet will build and also hone your hand-eye coordination, and recovering your step after a burst of speed works on your balance.
Tennis also involves thinking ahead so you can get back into position to return the ball, while being aware of where you and your opponent are standing. This means it improves your proprioception – or in other words, your sense of your body’s movements.
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.
Playing tennis regularly improves your heart and lung health, and cuts your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
Tennis isn’t a contact sport, so you can play it regularly. For example, elite level players train six days a week.
Tennis boosts brain health because you need to stay focused, devise strategy and make split-second decisions.
“On each point, you need to decide whether to go for that low ball or to leave it,” says Arran.
And the in-built break after each point means that when playing tennis, you get the chance to plan a strategy based on what you think your player’s next moves will be.
Researchers say that a combination of the focus, tactical thinking and physical challenge of tennis helps produce new blood vessels to the brain and also grow new brain cells.
Just join in with the tennis version of an aerobics class instead. It’s called Cardio Tennis and is run on tennis courts by the Lawn Tennis Association – and rather than playing a game, it’s all about burning calories and getting fit, while hitting a ball. Visit www.lta.org.uk for more information.
If you would like to play a game, but are new to tennis or want to hone your skills, try Tennis Xpress which uses slower-moving balls so you can learn the skills and improve your technique.
Those rests while waiting for your player to serve are more than just a chance to catch a breather.
“The breaks allow your body to recover its readily available stores of energy and to refocus and concentrate on the next point,” says Arran.
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.
For more information about playing tennis or to find tennis courts near you, visit www.lta.org.uk
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