Physical Activity - tennis iStock_000009525153MediumTennis is one of the most popular sports throughout the world and is played by millions of people at all levels of ability. Tennis is often called a “sport for a lifetime” because you can play well into your senior years. According to scientists from a variety of disciplines, a tennis workout is THE total body workout providing physical, mental and emotional benefits.

On the off chance you’ve never seen a game of tennis; it involves two or four players who use a racquet to hit a ball over a net within a set area of play. Points are scored if the ball cannot be returned to the other side or if it is hit out of bounds. Tennis is relatively easy to learn, but harder to master.

According Ralph Paffenbarger of Harvard University School of Public Health, people who participate in tennis three hours per week (at moderately vigorous intensity) cut their risk of death in half from any cause.

Tennis players also scored higher in vigor, optimism and self-esteem while scoring lower in depression, anger, confusion, anxiety and tension than other athletes or non-athletes, according to a study done at Southern Connecticut State University.

Other sports may provide excellent health benefits, as well as stimulate mental and emotional growth. But no other sport received such acclaim for its great benefits physically, mentally and emotionally.

Health Benefits of Tennis

Burns Calories. Tennis can be a real workout because it involves running, swinging, reaching and pivoting. It’s a whole-body sport, and you can burn a lot of calories because you’re constantly on the move.

According to Consumer Reports (January 2005), tennis ranks among the top five activities for most calories burned per workout. Competitive tennis burns more calories than aerobics, inline skating, or cycling. You’ll burn more calories in a half hour of singles tennis, than rowing, riding a stationary bike, doing yoga or playing golf. You’ll burn more calories playing three hours of tennis per week than you will doing three hours of light weightlifting, bowling or golfing.

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

Prolongs Life. Harvard University School of Public Health documented that people who participate in tennis three hours per week (at moderately vigorous intensity) cut their risk of death from any cause in half.

Improves Heart Health. Tennis provides anaerobic fitness by offering short, intense bursts of activity during a point followed by rest which helps muscles use oxygen efficiently.

Johns Hopkins University discovered middle-aged men who played tennis had a significantly lower incidence of cardiovascular disease as they aged. The College Alumni Health Study 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.

Strengthens Bones. Tennis provides the benefits of weight-bearing exercise that builds denser, stronger bones. Exercise can also help you maintain bone density later in life.

Improves eye-hand coordination and motor control. In tennis you constantly judge the timing between the on-coming ball and the proper contact point.

Tennis improves gross motor control during on court movement and ball-striking. It also improves fine motor control by the use of touch shots like angled volleys, drop shots and lobs.

Improves balance, speed, acceleration, agility and strength. Tennis is a game that involves constantly changing directional movement to reach balls. Sprinting, jumping, lunging and directions changes to hit the ball require you to move quickly, be agile and have a good center of balance.

Tennis improves flexibility in the joints, particularly in the hips and the shoulders. It also develops and tones your muscles, especially the quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, arms, shoulders and upper back.

Mental Acuity. Since tennis requires alertness and tactical thinking, it may generate new connections between nerves in the brain. 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.

Self-Image. A study done at Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) showed tennis players scored higher in vigor, optimism and self-esteem than other athletes or non-athletes.

Stress Relief. The same SCSU study showed that tennis players scored lowest and therefore better combat depression, anger, confusion, anxiety and tension.

Social Skills. Tennis is a sport that can be enjoyed by every age and every ability level, whether playing league competition or ‘hit & giggle’ with family members. You are making memories while meeting people, making new friends and spending time with family. Just get out there!

As with all new physical activity, be sure to check with your physician to be certain it will create no health issues.

To keep tennis safe and healthy, always keep these tips in mind:

Be sure to test your glucose before you start playing and at the end of each set.

  • Get the body’s muscles and joints properly warmed up by stretching
  • Use water or healthy sports drinks to keep the body properly hydrated before, during and after play. This is particularly important when playing in hot, humid weather, or for longer than an hour per session.
  • If you injure yourself or experience chest pain, stop playing immediately and contact your physician.
  • Play within your ability.

Playing tennis can be fun. It is a challenging game, but it also is a sport in which lessons, practice and persistence pay off quickly. Tennis offers a great diversion from life’s stresses as well as a great opportunity to socialize, particularly if you join a local tennis league or club or frequent public courts. Tennis is invigorating, and, once you get the hang of it, tremendously satisfying. It also makes a great family activity.

To learn about tennis opportunities in your hometown, enter your Zip Code and find a place to play!


Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic

United States Tennis Association

Mayo Clinic