Growing up in the small town of Brewster, Ohio — population around 2,000 — there were not many of what I would call “high dollar” sporting activities. Soccer, softball and baseball teams traveled only two or three miles to play against other towns and there were no tennis courts or golf courses.
Just as I started high school, however, city council voted and approved the building of two tennis courts near the park. My friends and I waited excitedly for the day it opened. I had watched Wimbledon and was a big fan of John McEnroe. I loved that he was left-handed and also appreciated the way he spoke his mind. When the courts were completed, my friend Amy and I got rackets and headed downtown to play.
I am sad to report that that one summer day in 1970 was the first and last time I played. I was horrible at it! Other than my loss of temper, I was no John McEnroe.
This brings me to present time, when lots of my friends and my daughters’ friends use tennis as their preferred fitness activity. According to recent statistics, nearly 12 million people in the United States play tennis recreationally. It can be played by the very young as well as the senior crowd. Tennis is an excellent way to improve cardiovascular fitness, flexibility, balance and strength. If you are already a tennis fanatic, you know how playing aids in your fitness. For the rest of us contemplating taking up the game, let’s look at the benefits of knocking around a fuzzy yellow ball, courtesy of the United States Tennis Association:
— Tennis may help you live longer: According to some research, people who participate in three hours a week of moderate intensity tennis can decrease their risk of premature death by 50 percent.
— Sharp backhand, sharp mind: Tennis players tend to score higher in self-esteem, energy and optimism and lower in depression or anxiety than folks not playing. In addition, studies at the University of Illinois found that, since tennis requires alertness and tactical thinking, players may develop more brain function.
— Calorie-burning potential: Because of the interval-type exercise involved in tennis, a competitive match burns more calories than aerobic classes, cycling or elliptical training.
In addition, tennis helps increase coordination, balance, strength, quickness and flexibility as well as cardiovascular fitness. With all the positives to be gained, tennis is a great sport to pick up at any time. To you die-hard tennis players out there, keep up the good work. For the rest of us, it might be a sport worth taking a second look at.
Kathy Hansen has over 30 years of experience in the health and fitness field and might be persuaded to give tennis another try if invited to play. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected]