My only regret about playing tennis is that I didn’t take up the sport more seriously at a younger age.
As I approach 40 (still a year or so to go…gulp!), and having played for the past 3 years, I’m pleased that my game is steadily improving.
Furthermore, I’ve noticed some of the physical benefits playing just once a week has brought to my overall health.
If I’m lucky, I can sometimes play twice a week, if I can escape the family home J
Although I’ve always been fairly slim, I was around 85 kilos when I started playing. Now I’m 75 kilos, and I can move better round the court and my stamina has improved.
I look forward to playing every week, and for me it’s one of the best activities to do.
And it’s not just the health benefits…
However, for this article, I’m going to share with you 9 physical benefits that you can expect from playing tennis.
Let’s dig in.
How good of a workout is tennis?
It’s very good. You can burn between roughly 400-1000 calories an hour playing tennis.
The reason for this wide range depends on your weight (you typically burn more calories if you’re heavier) and how active you are when you’re playing. Obviously, playing singles will burn more calories than doubles.
Here’s a comparison with some other sports
- Running (at 5mph): 480-710 calories
- Running (at 10mph): 900-1400 calories
- Swimming (at fast pace): 600-1000 calories
- Boxing: 540-800 calories
- Basketball: 480-710 calories
- Soccer: 420-622 calories
What does playing tennis do to your body?
Almost your entire body gets a good workout playing tennis. Obviously the muscles in the legs are used a lot with all the lateral and forward movement in between your shots. Also, your hips, back, arms and shoulders get a good workout when you rotate as you hit your shots.
Tennis is truly a great sport for strengthening your core muscles.
Physical benefits of playing tennis
Good for fitness
Bjorn Borg once described tennis as a “thousand little sprints…
..and he’s not wrong.
If you play regularly, your aerobic capacity improves, increasing your heart rate and pumping oxygen around your body more efficiently. Your muscles also get better at using oxygen so you will tire more slowly.
Good for the heart
Over time, playing tennis lowers your resting heart rate and it can reduce your blood pressure.
Makes bones stronger
As you play tennis week by week, your bone density increases.
In one study of 18 pregnant women aged between 18 and 39, those who played tennis didn’t experience their bone mineral density (BMD) dropping as much as those who didn’t do any sport. Admittedly it is a small sample size, as the study contained 10 women who did no exercise during pregnancy and 8 who played recreational tennis.
In another study of 47 older men, the results concluded that those who played tennis had a 23% greater bone mass.
Losing weight is all about eating fewer calories than you burn each day and playing tennis is a great way to do this.
Playing a game of singles will burn more calories than playing a match of doubles, but overall playing tennis regularly will help you to lose weight providing your accompany this with a healthy balanced diet.
Obviously the longer you play, and the more active you are during the match, the more calories you’ll burn.
Improves muscle tone and strength
Your arms, thighs, glutes, calves and abs will become more toned by playing tennis regularly.
That’s great if you’re like me and hate going to the gym!
Swinging a tennis racket involves using your biceps, triceps, shoulder and forearm and over time the muscles in your arm will become more defined.
Tennis involves running…and lots of it!
All the short sprints forwards, backwards and side to side, are great for the muscles in your thighs and calves. Also, all the sharp turns, change of direction and lunges are great for your glutes.
Playing tennis works both the lower and upper abdominal muscles, so you should notice a more even tone to this part of body over time.
Better flexibility, agility and balance
By playing tennis regularly your flexibility, agility and balance can improve.
Flexibility is very important in tennis, but it’s essential to do proper stretching on a regular basis. As your flexibility improves, your recovery between matches becomes faster and your overall joint health gets better
Your agility will naturally improve playing tennis due to all the quick changes you have to make as you react to the movement of the ball, as with any racquet sport.
If you think about the mechanics of hitting a shot in tennis, a lot has to be right! You’re often moving at the same time as having to swing your racket and hit the ball. Everything has to be right, or you won’t execute your shot properly.
As you play tennis regularly, your coordination will naturally improve as you get used to the speed and spin of the tennis ball as it comes onto your side of the court, and you will be able to react quicker and get into position before you hit your shot.
Stronger immune system
Although not specific to tennis, any form of moderate exercise can make you feel more healthy and energetic.
Here’s an article in the Journal of Sport and Health Science which concludes that exercise can boost your immune system, lower your risk of inflammation and lower your illness risk.
I stress moderate exercise because the study also mentions that doing intense exercise for prolonged periods can have a more negative effect on your health.
Boosts your brain power
Playing tennis can give your brain a real workout too. It can help improve your alertness and critical thinking. Furthermore, tennis can help the brain release more serotonin which can elevate your mood, help with sleep and your appetite.
What body type is best for tennis?
A combination of having an ectomorph and mesomorph body type is typically best for tennis.
Ectomorphs are naturally thin with a high metabolism and burn calories quickly. They find it hard to put on weight.
Mesomorphs have naturally athletic physiques with a large bone structure and large muscles. This body type can lose and gain weight quite easily.
Is tennis bad for your body?
The physical benefits of playing tennis definitely outweigh the risks, but you can pick up injuries, like most sports, if you don’t look after your body.
Playing on hard courts regularly can give you some knee or hip pain as you get older.
Tennis players should ensure they have recovery time between matches, and condition their bodies to minimize the risk of injuries. Lots of stretching and spending time at the gym will definitely help.
Do you need to be strong to play tennis?
At the recreational level, you don’t need to be that strong, but to play the game to a high level, it certainly helps.
Not only can stronger players can hit the ball harder and serve bigger, the risk of picking up injuries is less because the body is better conditioned.