Tennis is a really popular sport, with players of all ages and both men and women playing at fairly equal rates; around 47% are female, 53% male. It is a sport that can adapt to suit different levels of physical fitness and is great for those of all ages who want to stay fit and healthy as they get older. There are huge benefits to both mental and physical health, making tennis a great game for all.
Longevity in Tennis
One of the all-time tennis greats, Roger Federer, the oldest of the “Big Three”, is still playing high level professional tennis despite being just months away from his 40th birthday, and shows no signs of slowing down. Most professional athletes in other sports are looking at retiring and moving into more supportive roles at this point, but Federer is still going strong, moving into the second round at Wimbledon and still looking like a potential champion. His closest rivals, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are also no spring chickens, being 34 and 35 respectively, and even fresh-faced Andy Murray is 34.
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Physical Health Benefits
- Improves heart health
Playing tennis increases aerobic capabilities as players engage in quick sprints over a couple of hours of playing. During the game, heart rate increases and oxygen and nutrients are pumped to the muscles at a faster and more efficient rate. As aerobic capabilities increase, muscles are able to use the oxygen and nutrients they receive better, meaning they will tire more slowly, increasing stamina. Over time, playing tennis reduces resting heart rate and lowers blood pressure, which are both linked to numerous health benefits.
- Reduces body fat
This is achieved in two ways. Firstly, increasing physical activity increases metabolic rate, meaning that more fat is used when being active. Tennis is also a great full body workout; players run, pivot, and stretch, as well as getting a full arm work out swinging the racket. Playing competitive tennis burns around 600 calories an hour, but the amateur can expect to burn between 350 and 500 calories an hour, great for weight loss.
- Improve balance and flexibility
Tennis is a full body work out. All parts of the body must work together: legs, arms, torso and hands. This need for coordination develops and improves balance, and reaching in different directions for the ball increases flexibility. This increases range of motion and reduces the risk of injury.
- Increases muscle tone
All the running, jumping, crouching, reaching moving side to side and back and forth at varying speeds certainly gives all muscles a work out. All muscles are used, a unique feature of tennis, and this improves muscle tone across the body. Core muscles are particularly engaged when playing tennis, which is great for strengthening the back and reducing the risk of back injury and back pain.
Mental Health Benefits
Playing tennis is a really sociable activity. There are many tennis clubs that offer a whole social schedule, including drinks, mixers, and even dances. It is a great way to meet people and make friends.
- Improves mood
Like any exercise, playing tennis releases endorphins and serotonin, which are known to improve mood and outlook. The focus required in tennis also helps people stop focusing on what’s worrying them in their day to day lives, and really immerse themselves in the moment.
- Stress busting
Playing tennis is known to reduce stress. The physical act of hitting a ball as hard as possible, of navigating the court and beating an opponent is a great way to release tension. Additionally, as tennis makes the body physically stronger, it becomes easier to deal with stress and tension.
- Improves Self-Esteem
Tennis is great physical exercise, and the associated gains will result in a better body image and increased self-worth. As individuals continue to play tennis, they will shape up, become more flexible, all feeding into feeling of increased self-esteem. As players improve their tennis game, their confidence will increase, leading to higher self-esteem.
- Keeps the mind active
Tennis is not just about physical prowess it requires strategy and a great deal of thinking. Some of the best players are those who can read their opponents and adapt their game to take advantage of their relative strengths. This tactical nature of the game helps to keep the neurons engaged.
Can tennis help you live longer?
Tennis can be started at any age, and is suitable for all skill levels and levels of fitness. Playing tennis will increase fitness levels the more it is played. There are many benefits to playing tennis, and there is no reason that playing tennis as you enter middle age would not be beneficial.
It increases stamina, builds muscle tone, reduces the risk of injury and chronic pain, lowers body fat, reduces blood pressure, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, as well as promoting lung and heart health.
The agility needed improves balance reducing the risk of slips and trips in later life, and the substantial mental health benefits and sociable aspect of the game can help keep loneliness at bay and improve quality of life.