Is Tennis Good Exercise? All You Need to Know

If you’re looking for a way to boost your heart health, improve your balance and coordination, burn calories, work every muscle in your body, and have fun while doing it, then consider tennis.

One of the oldest sports around, tennis is a fitness-friendly, timeless classic you can play throughout your lifetime.

Ready to see if it’s the right fit for you? Read on to learn about the benefits of tennis, how many calories it burns, tips for making it a good workout, and more.

Tennis is primarily a cardiovascular workout since it increases your heart rate and breathing (1).

It also recruits your large lower body muscles for quick side-to-side and front-to-back movements and your upper body muscles to help you swing the racket.

Therefore, tennis can serve as a total-body workout that increases cardiovascular fitness and improves muscular endurance and strength.

Tennis is a calorie-crushing, high intensity cardio workout. After just a few minutes of chasing balls, your heart rate increases and you burn more calories.

Cardiovascular exercise is typically divided into three levels – low, moderate, and vigorous intensity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) consider singles tennis a vigorous-intensity activity (2).

In general, a 154-pound (69.9-kg) person will burn 220–295 calories in 30 minutes of vigorous activity (3).

Since tennis matches can range from 90 minutes to nearly 3 hours long, a 154-pound (69.9-kg) person could burn 660–1,320 calories in a match. That said, most people playing for general fitness play for only 60–90 minutes.

Summary

Tennis is a high intensity activity. A 154-pound (69.9-kg) person can burn 220–295 calories for each 30 minutes of playing the game.

Healthy weight loss is typically achieved through a combination of diet and exercise (4).

Regularly participating in aerobic activities such as tennis can contribute to a calorie deficit, which can help you lose weight. However, research shows that diet has a larger impact on weight loss than exercise does, so prioritizing how many calories you eat is still key.

Exercise may really pack a punch when you’re aiming to maintain your weight. According to some studies, exercise is more effective at preventing weight gain after a significant weight loss (5).

To maintain your current weight, the CDC recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week (3).

If you’re trying to lose weight, it can be beneficial to exercise more than this to burn more calories, provided that it suits your lifestyle, health, and goals.

The exact number of minutes required to lose weight will depend on the activity; how many calories you consume; your age, gender, and body size; and other factors. Stop by this article to learn more about the connections between exercise and weight loss.

Summary

Aerobic activity such as tennis burns calories and can promote a calorie deficit. When combined with a calorie-reduced diet, exercise can support weight loss or maintenance.

Tennis is an excellent cardiovascular exercise that improves muscular strength, endurance, balance, coordination, and agility. Since you need a partner to play a match, it can also increase social interactions. Plus, tennis is a sport you can play at any age.

Here are some of the top benefits of playing tennis.

Promotes heart health

Tennis can be a great cardio workout.

Jasmine Marcus, DPT, says you can make tennis harder or easier by playing singles or doubles.

Playing tennis is also good for your heart health. In fact, one study found that people who participated in racket sports had a 59% reduction in cardiovascular disease mortality and a 47% reduction in all-cause mortality (6).

Increases social interactions

Tennis is a social game, so you can exercise with your friends.

The sport increases social interaction and promotes community – regardless of your age. Because it’s a lifetime sport, it can lead to increased physical activity throughout life (7).

And despite its social nature, the sport allows you to have plenty of physical space when playing. This can reduce the risk of injury from contact with other people.

“There is also a low risk of contact with other players,” says Marcus. For this reason, many people can play tennis longer than more contact-heavy sports like basketball, soccer, or softball (8).

Improves musculoskeletal function

Tennis requires every muscle in your body to fire.

According to a 2019 study, tennis players had greater upper and lower body musculoskeletal function than nonplayers. Your musculoskeletal system includes ligaments, bones, muscles, soft tissues, and tendons (9).

The researchers speculate that this may have to do with the hybrid high intensity interval training nature of tennis.

Boosts balance and coordination

Racket sports such as tennis require a tremendous amount of balance, postural stability, and coordination.

For example, playing tennis requires a lot of lateral movement, which isn’t common in most people’s daily lives.

During a match, you’ll do a lot of forward and backward footwork, but it’s the side-to-side moves that really challenge your balance and coordination. Plus, chasing a ball requires frequent direction changes, which also improves muscle function and balance.

This may be why some studies have found that tennis improves balance and reduces falls (10).

What’s more, racket sports such as tennis may improve bone health and muscle function more than running (10).

Summary

Racket sports such as tennis can improve cardiovascular fitness, musculoskeletal function, balance, and coordination. Tennis also encourages social interaction and staying active throughout life.

If you’re ready to add tennis to your fitness lineup, there are some things you can do to make your time on the court more successful.

Benjy Robins, tennis director at CordeValle, says the best way to learn the correct techniques is to take private or group lessons from a teaching pro (11).

Beyond lessons, here are some tips for new players (11):

  • Challenge different players. You can get better by practicing with all levels of players – those who are both more and less advanced than yourself.
  • Never skip a warmup. It will help you play better and prevent injury. Focus on a dynamic warmup before playing and keep the static stretches for your after-game recovery.
  • Prioritize proper form. This will reduce your risk of injury and enhance your skills.
  • Stay alert. Move your feet and always watch the ball. Concentrating on the game may improve your performance.
  • Play alone or with a partner. You can hit the ball against a wall or play with a machine that continues sending balls your way. Or you can play with a partner.
  • Try different surfaces. If you have joint issues, experiment with playing on different surfaces. The three main types are grass, clay, and hard court such as concrete.

One way to get the best workout from your tennis game and to prevent injury, says Marcus, is to participate in a regular strength training program. “Tennis will strengthen your heart, but it has less impact on your skeletal muscles.”

So, to improve your overall health and reduce your injury risk, it’s important to also lift weights. If you’re a tennis player, Marcus recommends focusing on your arms and legs, especially your rotator cuffs and the muscles surrounding your knees.

Summary

Strength training, proper warmups, practicing with players at different levels, proper form, and lessons can all help you get the best tennis workout.

Tennis is an excellent cardiovascular workout to incorporate into your fitness routine.

If you’re new to the sport, consider working with a tennis pro who can provide on-the-court tips. It’s also a good idea to consult a personal trainer for help with cross-training and injury prevention.

You can ease into tennis by playing doubles or simply by hitting a ball against a wall. If you have any injuries or health conditions, talk with a doctor before starting a new activity.

If you experience any pain or discomfort while playing, stop what you’re doing and consult a professional.

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