In a slump? Fatigued, lonely or mentally sluggish? Consider tennis — an accessible, affordable sport with lifelong holistic benefits. For the price of a used tennis racquet and shoes you likely already own, you can transform your life — mind, body and spirit — by chasing a little yellow ball.
When we exercise, our blood pressure and blood flow increase, sending nutrients and oxygen throughout our bloodstream, including to our brains. Exercise also stimulates the hippocampus, the seat of learning and memory within the brain. According to Scientific American, an activated hippocampus improves cognitive function.
In addition, aerobic exercise decreases the shrinkage of the hippocampus associated with aging. Research by scientists at the University of Illinois suggests the alertness and reflexes required by tennis may generate new connections between nerves in the brain, meaning tennis players’ brains continue developing for a lifetime.
Dr. Joan Finn, cited by the United States Tennis Association, reported, “Tennis players scored higher in vigor, optimism and self-esteem while scoring lower in depression, anger, confusion, anxiety and tension than other athletes and non-athletes.”
According to MyFitnessPal.com, a 150-pound person will burn 340 calories during an hour of doubles. An hour of singles will burn 544 calories. A match usually lasts at least two hours.
Those are good numbers. In a study published in German Medical Science, a tennis match was found to have similar cardiovascular benefits as jogging, rowing, swimming or cross-country skiing.
In the same study, tennis players in their 50s and 60s who played at a competitive level were found to have the cardiovascular health and aerobic endurance of 30-year-olds playing the same game. The research deemed the older players as being “30 years of age for 30 years”.
Tennis is considered an ageless sport, as verified by my numerous losses to sweet, little old ladies in knee braces. Men and women commonly play well into their 80s.