Let's face it: we've been through a rough year and the trouble is not over with yet. But here we are, with summer just started and the weather practically begging us to go outside. Ah, outside!
Considering all that time we've spent sitting around, trying to wait this thing out, doesn't getting back out and getting moving again sound like a plan?
Reports have started coming in that this ordeal we're still enduring has caused people to change their focus and rethink their lives. Everything from work to personal habits is coming under scrutiny, with physical fitness and social activity - specifically, how to conduct activities safely are now of the highest concern.
What about you? Are you also looking to boost your level of physical activity while engaging with like-minded people? Maybe it's time to consider tennis.
Let Superprof give you some good reasons why tennis should be your game.
The Benefits of Tennis
For me, the word 'tennis' conjures up bright green tennis balls that dogs like to chase and chew on. Their boundless joy at the mere sight of those fuzzy orbs makes me want to enjoy playing with tennis balls too.
Others tend to have more conventional ideas about tennis, anything from the tidy assurance of tennis whites to the distinctive 'thwack!' of a solid connection between ball and racket. From whiling away afternoons at the tennis club to attending majors at Wimbledon, few people assign tennis any negative characteristics.
That's because finding downsides to tennis is hard. Even the dreaded tennis elbow, a painful condition caused by overworking muscles on the back of your forearm is not caused solely by playing tennis. By contrast, finding upsides to playing tennis...
Let's just say we didn't have to work very hard.
For one, playing does wonders for your balance and flexibility. This is not the type of sport that lets you stand around and wait for the ball to come to you; you get to dodge and lunge and dive and reach to make that connection. Recall that the most dramatic photos of tennis players making that winning return see their bodies positioned at difficult angles and making impossible reaches, often while standing on one leg.
Another gift tennis delivers is improved hand-eye coordination and heightened spatial awareness. You have to be able to gauge where the ball is and how fast it's travelling, and position your racket to meet it. You also have to maintain awareness of where your partner is if you're playing doubles and, at all times, where the boundary lines are.
Other cognitive skills that tennis boosts include tactical thinking and planning. As you play, your brain is constantly processing where you are and where you have to get to, your opponent's strategy and figuring out ways to beat it, and how you need to hit the ball so that those on the other side of the net have to scramble to return it.
And it does all of that while still coordinating your body's movements.
In light of all this, is it any wonder that tennis players leave the club wreathed in smiles and mentally alert? Doesn't make you wonder how you could get into tennis?
The Health Benefits of Tennis
"A tennis match is a thousand little sprints." - Bjorn Borg
As tennis is a high-energy game; there is no doubt that one must be fit to play it. The trouble with that statement is being fit is such a general term that it hardly does justice to all of the health benefits you could derive from regular court time.
To wit, few fitness mags mention bone health in conjunction with fitness.
The average human hits peak bone health at around 30 years of age; that ceiling could be lower, depending on lifestyle and levels of overall physical activity. Coincidentally, around that age is when most of us start slowing down and doing less - two causes that can lead to bone loss.
Not every form of exercise can help you build up your bone mass. Weight lifting does wonders for your muscles but not terribly much for your bones. Other forms of exercise such as swimming and cycling are great for your heart and muscle tone but they don't give your skeleton the weight-bearing activity needed to maintain and build bone mass.
If you're concerned about the state your bones might be in, playing tennis is one way to ensure they will remain stronger, longer. In fact, it's one of the sports recommended by the American National Institutes of Health for bone health.
What about heart health?
Tennis is a fast-paced game that demands a lot of movement; naturally, your heart will benefit from your playing. It's astounding, though, just how much your cardiovascular system will improve. Because of the heightened activity, your muscles will need a greater supply of nutrients and oxygen to function at that rate, so your body will develop a more extensive capillary system to deliver those products to your muscles.
Tennis is a complete body workout, keeping everything in motion all at once: your legs for running, your arms to swing the racket and balance, your mind to calculate all of the possibilities and your heart, pumping away, making sure you can play as long as you want.
Are you ready to find a tennis coach or do you need to know about the cost of tennis lessons before you take the plunge?
The Mental Health Benefits of Tennis
John McEnroe aside, tennis players are a fairly even-tempered bunch. For all that they have a wicked backhand and could probably run circles around most everyone so great is their endurance, you might never find a devotee of tennis rampaging around town.
That doesn't mean that tennis players are exempt from anxiety or stress, and more than one professional tennis player has had to deal with bullying. To a great extent, they weather such episodes cloaked in the assuredness of their skill and the confidence they exhibit while playing.
By no means are we trivialising their experience. However, their resilience in facing such torment could serve as a blueprint towards a more certain and assured outlook of your own.
Studies show that tennis players tend to be more optimistic and enjoy higher levels of self-esteem. They suffer less from anxiety and depression than those who are mostly sedentary and even those who engage in other sports. They are also less prone to anger.
Tennis is a social sport. Sure, you might practise your swing with a tennis machine but you're not really playing tennis unless at least one other person is at the other end of the court.
To play effectively, you must interact with other players. That means drawing on your people skills, particularly your ability to communicate well. Getting to know other players - why they play tennis, what got them into the game and who their tennis heroes are is an essential part of being a tennis player.
There is an element of strategy to the game, after all, and getting into your opponents' heads is a winning tactic.
If this past year spent in isolation has taught us anything, it's that humans are social creatures. Building connections and exercising social skills do wonders for our mental health, which makes tennis far better than most other sports for our mental well-being.
Even the basic rules of tennis etiquette emphasize social behaviour!
Why Tennis is Good for You
As mentioned in this article's introduction, the past year has not been beneficial to our bodies or minds. Common sense dictates that getting moving - getting away from our current slump is one of the best ways to kickstart our revised life and live up to our new ideals.
Not every sport will embrace all of those changes. You need one that will:
- decrease your stress levels
- alleviate depression or eliminate the risk of becoming depressed
- boost your mood
- increase your mental alertness
- improve your self-confidence
- encourage usage of your social and communication skills
- help you develop a positive body image
Athletes might argue that their particular sport would also render those benefits and, to an extent, they would be right. However, unlike many sports, tennis is neither combative nor particularly competitive - two elements of athletics that could increase stress and heighten the risk of injury.
Tennis is more of a test of skill and endurance. Unlike weightlifters who can add more weights and reps to their routine, you can't add more rackets or longer play to tennis to make it more complex or strenuous.
And, unlike runners who may exercise their passion across a variety of terrains, altitudes and climates, tennis-playing always takes place on a level field and in optimal weather conditions. If there are no such conditions to be had outside, people play tennis indoors.
Other sports rely on a host of variables and, sometimes, equipment to make their sport more challenging and yield better results. For tennis, only the player - their skill, adroitness and stamina, define how they will develop.
Are you ready to hit the courts now? Take our beginner's guide to tennis with you!