How tennis can give your heart and brain a workout

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Stretching, moving, flexibility, agility, these are all words we associate with exercise, but can there really be one sport that will capture it all, and improve your heart health all in one go?!
Tennis, with its many benefits could be the answer – and our physio Maria has been finding out, having taken up the sport recently.

What’s so great about Tennis?

Tennis gives you a full body and brain workout, every time. And it’s fun! From your heart to your brain, muscles and body fat, whether you play recreationally or competitively, you will still benefit from a trip to the court. And the science behind it backs this up – a study by Oxford University in collaboration with researchers from Finland and Australia found that racket sports are associated with a 56% lower risk from cardiovascular death – a greater benefit than from sports such as swimming and running.

Heart health

Tennis, no matter whether you’re a beginner or an old hand, will demand a series of quick sprints during your time on court. It increases your heart rate, pumping oxygen and nutrients to your muscles more efficiently, and as your aerobic capacities improve, it also enables your muscles to better utilise the oxygen they receive. They will tire more slowly and at higher performance levels, over time, playing tennis lowers your resting heart rate and blood pressure. It also lowers the risk for heart attack, stroke, and heart disease. Pretty great results for just moving around on a court hitting balls!

Feeling the burn

There’s no doubt that tennis is a game that places a demand on your body, but this is without the need to train for a marathon to see impressive results. You’re constantly on your feet, moving fast, and making sudden directional changes. It’s a workout for your entire body as you run, swing, pivot, and stretch. You can burn between 400 to 600 calories an hour which is great for reducing and controlling body fat. A lot of people find they can burn more calories when they play tennis than with many other physical activities which is one of the reasons it is such a popular sport for all ages.

Improving balance and flexibility

Modern life can be increasingly sedentary which can result in tightened muscles and reduced flexibility. Your entire body must work together to play the game of tennis; legs, arms, hands, and torso in unison. This co-ordination of the entire body requires flexibility and balance. Without even actively focusing on this area, you will see that each shot you take is improving your co-ordination and increasing your balance and flexibility. This growing flexibility will lower your risk of injury and stretch your range of motion, benefiting you in day to day life.

Tone your muscles

When playing you run, swing your arms, stop, start, jump, and crouch down. You move side to side, forward and backwards all at various speeds. You make sudden and frequent directional changes as you navigate the court – a true workout for the entire body. We know that strengthening your core muscles is key to full body flexibility, and tennis will tone your legs, shoulders, arms, hands, upper back, and lower back, all whilst you are distracted chasing after a yellow ball.

Stimulate your brain

Tennis is a great game for your brain. Like a game of chess, tennis requires a good amount of creative thinking and strategy. You will be alert, planning and developing shot patterns and making split-second decisions. Your brain must co-ordinate many different parts of your body to improve your game and keeping an active mind has long been felt to support memory and learning skills. In a single game, you’ll be working your brain, as well as your body.

Getting started As you can tell, we’re great believers in the benefits of tennis and this year the Lawn Tennis Association is running 6-week Introduction to Tennis courses for adults – Tennis Xpress.
Find out more on the LTA website and let us know how you get on developing your game!