Tennis season is back in full swing this summer, with Wimbledon just around the corner and a slew of tournaments to follow. If you’re thinking of picking up a racket, you wouldn’t be the only one – last year, the number of adults playing tennis in the UK rose from 3.3 million to 4.7 million, with more expected to take up the sport in 2023. Need a last little push to get you on the court? Read up on some of the health benefits of playing tennis, below.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Tennis?
While tennis has always been popular, in recent years we’ve seen more Brits than ever take to the court in their leisure time. And this is much to our benefit, considering that a study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine revealed that tennis (and other racket-based sports) could help regular players live longer overall – stats specifically showed that tennis reduces the risk of all-cause mortality by 47 percent and cardiovascular disease by 56 percent – making it a certified win-win for us all.
But what are the specific health benefits of tennis? And are they only physical? We spoke to the experts to find out:
Playing Tennis Improves Hand-Eye Coordination
One of the most well-known benefits of tennis is its ability to improve your hand-eye coordination with practice. ‘Tennis requires good timing, being able to recognise where the ball is going to land and reacting quickly. You are also having to keep your eye on the ball at all times,’ says Penny Weston, director of Moddershall Oaks Country Spa Retreat and founder of MADE wellness centre.
‘Tennis is a fast-paced racquet sport and involves a lot of hand-eye coordination, plus a lot of strategy in your shot selection,’ adds Dean Zweck, Product Development Manager at Total Fitness. ‘This cognitive demand gives your brain a workout as well as your body.’
Penny also notes that this is a great skill for children to learn as they grow up: ‘Hand-eye coordination is especially important for children, as it can be the foundations for learning to write, read, draw, get dressed and play games. So, it is definitely worth investing some time in playing tennis with your children too – this could just be at home in the garden or in a park.’
You Can Tone & Strengthen Your Muscles
While a fun, social sport, it can’t be forgotten that tennis is still a workout at the end of the day. ‘Tennis is essentially a full body workout,’ highlights Penny. ‘Not only does tennis target our cardiovascular system, but it also increases our muscle mass too. Hitting the ball will tone your upper body muscles and core, as the motion of swinging engages the whole body – whereas running and jumping will tone the muscles in your lower body, such as the quads.
‘Tennis is also a good workout for the glutes; a lot of tennis players adopt a squatting stance for most of the game so they can quickly change direction and get across the court.’
And Get A Good Cardio Workout
A study by Tennis Australia revealed that, on average, men burn 600 calories and women 420 calories while playing an hour of tennis – making it a great all-round activity to take up. ‘Tennis has lots of physical benefits,’ says Dean. ‘With rapid movements such as sprinting around the court, changing direction and hitting the ball in a variety of strokes, competing against players who are of a similar standard or slightly better will ensure you get a great workout.’
‘Tennis allows our muscles to tone while at the same time improving our cardio, making it a great option if you’re looking to shape up or lose weight,’ adds Penny. ‘Tennis is great to incorporate into your lifestyle, especially during the summer months.’
It’s Also A Great Way To Increase Focus & Concentration
You’ll often see tennis players deep in the zone while playing on the court, as they have to stay alert to keep track of the ball. ‘Tennis requires constant focus and concentration to track the ball, anticipate the opponent’s shots, and make split-second decisions,’ explains Dean. ‘Meaning it can be great for honing and enhancing mental alertness.’
Whacking A Ball Is (Unsurprisingly) A Great Stress Reliever
It should come as no surprise that smacking a ball up and down a court can help us express any lingering aggression from a particularly frustrating day, making it an ideal means of stress relief. As Penny explains: ‘Tennis is such a good sport for stress relief and improving your mood, as it can change the levels of chemicals in our brain such as stress hormones and endorphins. Tennis has also been proven to help with anxiety and depression. If you have had a bad day at work, there is nothing better than hitting a ball around a court to blow off some steam!’
The Social Aspect Is Great For Your Mental Health
Tennis is an incredibly social sport – outside of tournaments, you’ll often see people picking up rackets to play games with friends throughout the summer. Joining local tennis clubs can also help you meet new people and form friendships outside of your regular circles.
A recent poll by MADE wellness centre found that out of their clients that played tennis, three out of five enjoy it for the social aspect. ‘Tennis is great because not only do you get a good workout in, but you also spend time socialising – both of which are great for boosting our serotonin and endorphin levels. Whether it is singles or doubles, there will always be someone else involved,’ adds Penny.
‘I also love tennis because most of the time it is played outdoors; sunshine naturally boosts your production of the feel-good hormones and the fresh air will help you sleep better, so getting out in the fresh air can help you feel invigorated and energised.’
‘Tennis isn’t a fun game to play by yourself,’ adds Dean. ‘Whether you are playing against an opponent or in doubles, tennis is a fantastic way to workout and spend time with friends (unless one of them happens to be uber-competitive).’
Featured image: Valentin Balan, Unsplash