Archive for the ‘Tennis’ Category

Is Tennis Really a Sport for Life?

July 12, 2010

You may have heard an avid tennis fan deem tennis as “the sport for life.”  Are they biased, or is there any validity to their claim?  According to world-renowned scientists from a variety of disciplines, tennis actually is one of the best sports you can play.

Here are some facts about the medical benefits of tennis:

1)  According to physician Ralph Paffenbarger who studied over 10,000 people over a period of 20 years, people who participated in tennis at a moderate to vigorous intensity level cut their risk of death in half from any cause.

2)  According to Dr. Joan Finn and colleagues at Southern Connecticut State University, tennis players scored higher in optimism, self-esteem, and vigor and also scored lower in depression, anxiety, tension, confusion, and anger than other athletes and non-athletes.

3) Competitive tennis burns more calories than aerobics, inline skating, or golf.

4)  Scientists at the University of Illinois reported that tennis may generate new connections between nerves in the brain, thus promoting a lifetime of continuing development of the brain because of the alertness and tactical thinking that tennis requires.

Besides these medical benefits, tennis is a great all-around sport for improving many aspects of your physical fitness.  A well-contested game of tennis can improve your aerobic fitness because your heart rate stays elevated for the length of a tough match.  Playing singles or doubles helps your anaerobic fitness by offering short, intense bursts of activity during points, followed by rest between points.  Many fitness enthusiasts actually hire trainers to guide them through a workout with this type of high intensity exercise!  Tennis increases a player’s speed from moving side to side and up and back when running after the ball.  A player’s leg strength improves through hundreds of stops, starts, bends, and jumps to reach the ball.

Hitting the ball requires general body coordination to move and set up for the ball, plus they need hand-eye coordination to strike the ball well.  Gross motor skills allow one to control their larger muscle groups for movement, and fine motor skills are needed for touch shots like drop shots and lobs.

Moving all around the court also requires agility to change direction quickly, dynamic balance to hit on the run, and flexibility to stretch for balls that are almost out of reach.  The conditioning effects of tennis improve immune function, promoting overall health and resistance to disease.  Bone strength and bone mineral density are improved through tennis because it is a weight-bearing activity.  Tennis players are actually well-known for their unusually high scores on bone-density tests, which keep them from being at risk for osteoporosis later in life.

The psychological benefits of tennis are just as numerous.  Competing on the court helps a player problem solve, plan and implement strategies, deal with adversity, and handle making mistakes.  One must accept responsibility, develop social skills, and learn to win graciously but lose with dignity.

After looking at such a long list of benefits, is there any wonder that scientists and players around the world advocate tennis as the sport of a lifetime?  Many other sports provide health benefits physically and mentally, but tennis is the one acclaimed as the best overall for its physical, mental, and emotional benefits.  It’s a great sport to learn as a child, but it can be learned at any age.  The only way that you can experience these benefits too is to start now!  Find a friend to play with on a regular basis.  It will grow your friendship, and you’ll get in shape, too.  If you want to learn more about the proper form on your strokes, consult your local tennis professional.  You’ll be amazed at how much fun you can have running around after the little yellow ball, so serve it up!


Julie Sawyer is the Fitness Director at The Palisades and the Owner of Tuff Girl Bootcamps.  Before starting her fitness career, she taught tennis for 20 years, including the last 8 years in the Charlotte area.  Her expertise is in fitness for tennis, and she is currently running workouts for tennis players participating in the Palisades Youth Tennis Camps.  She also offers Youth Sports Performance Camps at The Palisades Country Club to help young athletes improve their ability to play sports such as soccer, tennis, volleyball, and baseball while improving their level of fitness.

Sawyer is a stellar tennis player and is an accomplished junior player in SC history, winning over 15 state championships in a period of 5 years.  She has joined the Inaugural Charlotte Women’s Pro League this summer and was recently nominated for the York County Hall of Fame.