A Sport for Life
by Julie Sawyer
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. Competing on the
court helps a player problem solve, plan and implement strategies, deal
with adversity, and handle making mistakes. One must accept 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 UPDSports 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
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.