5 Health Benefits of Playing Tennis
If you’ve watched a tennis match you’ll notice that tennis is a sport that gets people moving – and moving does good things for the mind and the body. The great thing about tennis is that it’s a sport that can be played at nearly every age level and at any skill level. Old and young alike pick this sport up easily because it’s a low-impact sport that isn’t dependent on the strength of the player. Tennis has great benefits for the mind and body whether you play competitively, for your health, or just for fun. We’re going to be sharing with you five ways in which playing tennis has a positive impact on your health*.
1. Decrease Your Risk of Heart Disease
They keys to helping reduce the risk of heart disease are: lowering high blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, reducing stress, maintaining a healthy body weight, and being physically active. Playing tennis can help you accomplish all of those keys. [source: National Heart Lung and Blood Institute].
In the 1980s, a study by Ralph Paffenbarger showed that men who burn at least 2,000 calories per week through exercise have lower death rates from heart disease (one-fourth to one-third lower) than those who do not, and they live, on average, one to two years longer [source: Stanford News]. Although heart disease is no joke, the good news here is that tennis can go a long way toward achieving that 2,000 burned calories goal.
A 150 lb. human burns around 476 calories playing just one hour of singles tennis (340 calories for doubles) [source: Calorie Lab]. This means that playing a few hours of weekly tennis can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.
Heart Disease and Aerobic Exercise
A quick google search shows that heart disease is the number 1 leading cause of death in the United States. That being said, just three hours of moderate aerobic exercise a week can reduce your chances of developing heart disease by up to 50 percent, according to the Cleveland Clinic. [source: Cleveland Clinic]. Aerobic exercise focuses on the oxygen-using (aerobic) processes in your body. In other words, aerobic exercises get your heart pumping, increasing your blood flow, increasing oxygen flow throughout your body, strengthening the heart muscles, reducing blood pressure and improving circulation. Tennis happens to be a great form of aerobic exercise.
2. Enhance Your Balance, Flexibility, and Coordination.
As a sport, Tennis requires the cooperation of your whole body. Your feet help maneuver you into the right position, your hands and arms position the racquet to make contact with the ball, and your legs and torso provide the power to send the ball flying over the net. Each of these factors come together every time you hit the ball, requiring balance, flexibility, and coordination for each shot.
Regularly playing tennis can have benefits that carry over to all other areas of your life by improving your body’s ability to synchronize controlled movements. The benefits of improving your flexibility are great, as more flexibility gives you a wider range of motion, helps with injury prevention, and even reduces muscle strain. Balance and coordination reduce the risk of injury when playing sports, and even engaging in day-to-day activities. The more you play tennis, the better your balance, flexibility, and coordination will be.
3. Boost your Brain Network
Neurons are the specialized working units of the brain that transmit information between your brain and different parts of your body. To send these messages, connections develop between neurons to aid in communication, and the better the connection is between neurons, the easier and more quickly the message is received and executed.
Our environment and how we interact with it affect the neural connections in our brains, and between our brains and the rest of the body. Doing something over and over again strengthens and solidifies the neural connections associated with that action, making the action progressively easier. When you do something new or in a new way, you develop new neural connections, and even new neurons. Doing something less and less has the opposite affect; the connections become weak or even disappear over time.
Tennis can be considered a creative sport. It involves planning, tactical thinking, agility, and the coordination of various parts of the body. 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 [source: Harvard Health Publications].
Elevate Your Mood
When you exercise, the body releases endorphins, which are chemicals that make you feel good. Endorphins improve your mood, reduce stress, increase optimism, and even ease the symptoms of depression. Aerobic exercises, like tennis, are especially good at improving your mood. Being mentally healthy can carry over to all areas of your life, including work and your interactions with friends and family. Using tennis as a way to relax and reduce stress can help you feel more mentally prepared to deal with whatever life throws at you.
4. Lose Weight
Swinging, reaching, pivoting, running – tennis can be an intense workout with the right partner. Tennis is a whole-body sport, and you can burn a lot of calories by constantly being on the move. For many people, in fact, playing tennis actually burns more calories than other popular types of physical activity, including, but not limited to, weight lifting, golfing, dancing, playing volleyball, or leisurely cycling [source: Mayo Clinic Staff]. As a result, playing tennis regularly has been shown to help reduce body fat [source: NCBI: Health Benefits of Tennis].
To lose a pound of fat, you need to burn approximately 3,500 calories. If playing singles tennis for one hour burns about 476 calories, playing about four hours of tennis each week could help you lose around half a pound a week. That’s pretty good for a recreational sport that’s both fun and can be played by just about anyone.
5. Improve Your Bone Health
In addition to your muscles and mind, playing tennis has a positive impact on your bones as well. You can increase your peak bone mass and can even slow the rate of bone mass loss over time by exercising regularly. 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 [source: NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center].
The NIH also points out that exercise improves coordination, flexibility and muscle strength, which can help prevent falls and injuries that can damage fragile bones.
Exercises that involve weights are the best exercises for building bone strength and mass. But that doesn’t mean you have to be lifting something – your body, and the resistance of gravity against it, is often enough to give you the weight-bearing exercise needed to support bone health. The NIH names tennis as one of the weight-bearing activities well suited to building strong bones.
Bone mass is directly affected by what parts of the body you’re exercising. So, if you only exercise your arms, you’ll be building bone mass only in the arms. Studies of lifetime tennis players have found that the bones in the arm used to swing the racquet have a greater bone mass than those in the arm not used [source: Huddleston]. That doesn’t necessarily mean tennis won’t give you a full body workout and won’t improve bone health throughout your body – it just means your dominant arm gets a little more bone mass.
*This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.