“The health and wellbeing outcomes of tennis should not be underestimated and this should be heavily promoted in order to help increase participation of the sport in the UK” said Ed Willis of Sports Marketing Surveys Inc at the recent Business of Tennis Forum.
Scientists attempting to tease apart the benefits of different sports have found that regularly taking part in sports such as badminton or tennis reduces your risk of death at any given age by almost 50%, with swimming and aerobics also proving protective.
Whilst tennis was always known to deliver positive health benefits, there is now some evidence that tennis helps stave off death compared to other sports! The Guardian in November 2016 highlighted the work undertaken by an
international team of researchers into sport and long-term mortality that had been published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
By contrast, running and football appeared to have little effect, although the authors caution that this could be down to the nature of the study itself.
“It is the first big scale population study to say ‘is participation in sport protective in terms of your long-term mortality?’The answer is yes, it does appear to be,” said Charlie Foster, co-author of the study from the University of Oxford. However, which sport you choose may make a difference.
The study incorporated responses from 80,306 adults aged 30 and over in England and Scotland who were quizzed on their health and exercise through national surveys conducted at various points between 1994 and 2008.
Each participant was asked a series of questions about their lifestyle and exercise, including which sports they had taken part in during the previous four weeks and how frequently they did so, as well as the intensity of the exercise and its duration. The survival of the participants was surveyed, on average, nine years later, during
which time 8,790 participants had died, with 1,909 deaths down to cardiovascular disease.
The results reveal that fewer than half of the participants, just over 44%, met the national guidelines for the recommended levels of exercise of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week.
The researchers then compared the risk of death among those who took part in a sport to those who did not participate in that particular activity, taking into account factors such as age, sex, whether they smoked, BMI, other exercise and education. The results revealed that cycling, for example, was associated with a 15% reduced
risk of death. “We can tease out specifically that little extra difference between those who do cycle and those who don’t,” said Foster.
When applied to the other five categories of sport explored, it was found that swimming was linked to a 28% reduced risk of death, while the figure was 47% for racket sports and 27% for aerobic exercise such as keep fit or dance. Neither
running nor football – a category that encompassed both football and rugby – was linked to a reduced risk of death.
When the team looked just at the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, they found that swimming reduced the risk by 41%, racket sports by 56% and aerobics by 36%. Running, cycling and football showed no protective effect.
The reasons behind the differences, says Foster, are complex. “They all have different physiological demands, and they all have different physical, social and mental benefits,” he said.
Dr Charlie Foster, associate professor of Physical Activity and Population Health at Oxford, said: “We think racquet sports not only offer the usual physiological benefits but also offer additional mental health and social benefits perhaps unique to these sports.
It means that people often have larger social networks and tend to keep up activities into later life, both of which are proven to be good for health. In contrast, people who play team sports when younger often do not move onto a
new sport once their teams disband for family, or injury reasons. They become spectators rather than participants in their chosen activity.
But those who run or enjoy football shouldn’t hang up their trainers, he adds. “We are 100% certain that we know participation in these sports is good for you, that is very clear, but what we haven’t seen yet is how well those benefits translate over the long-term into preventing death,” said Foster, pointing out that a number of
factors relating to the study could be behind the apparent lack of protective effect. The Top 10 Health Benefits of Tennis
The HealthFitnessRevolution has set out the top 10 health benefits of tennis: www.healthfitnessrevolution.com
- Full body workout: Unlike some sports, playing tennis is a brilliant workout for the entire body. You use your lower body for all that running, stopping and starting, jumping and crouching. And the action of hitting the tennis ball,
whether it’s single or double-handed, means that your trunk does a lot of work as well, in particular your shoulders and upper back.
- Improved aerobic and anaerobic health: Tennis increases your oxygen intake while playing, increasing your heart rate and helping your blood deliver oxygen and nutrients to all your muscles. It also aids in the development of
numerous capillaries and capillary beds within the muscles so that your muscles can have a greater blood supply and flow. This helps in your muscles perform at a higher level and fatigue at a slower rate. It also helps in
maintaining anaerobic health, which allows the muscles to use oxygen in a better way and provide quick energy spurts for explosive power and quick, reactive movements.
- Burns calories and fat: Running, swinging, reaching, pivoting — tennis can be a real workout with the right opponent. It’s a whole-body sport, and you can burn a lot of calories because you’re constantly on the move. In fact, for many people, playing tennis can actually burn more calories than other popular types of physical activity, including leisurely cycling, weight lifting, golfing, dancing or playing volleyball. As a result, playing tennis regularly has been shown to help reduce body fat. Singles tennis can burn between 400-600 calories an hour. That’s not bad for a recreational sport that’s both fun and can be played by just about anyone.
- Improves bone health: Playing tennis isn’t good for your muscles alone; it has a positive impact on your bones as well. Exercising regularly can increase your peak bone mass and can slow the rate of bone mass loss over
time. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), bone mass peaks around age 30 and begins to decline after that. You can maximise your bone mass prior to that age through exercise, and continuing to exercise after 30
can slow the rate of bone loss. The NIH names tennis as one of the weightbearing activities well suited to building strong bones.
- Heart healthy: Tennis great Bjorn Borg accurately characterised a tennis match as “a thousand little sprints.” The quick anaerobic movements the sport demands burns fat, increases your heart rate and promotes higher
energy levels. A typical tennis match can last anywhere from one to two hours and at intervals that are optimal for improving cardiovascular health, which is essential for lowering your risk of heart disease, heart attack and
- Enhances flexibility, balance and coordination: Tennis requires the cooperation of the whole body. The feet manoeuvre you into the right position, the arms and hands position the racquet to make contact with the
ball, and the torso and legs provide the power to send the ball flying over the net. All these factors come together every time you hit the ball, and each shot takes flexibility, coordination and balance. Flexibility is great because it can give you a wider range of motion, help prevent injuries and even reduce muscle strain.
- Boosts brain power: Tennis requires the brain to be creative, and it involves planning, tactical thinking, agility and the coordination of different parts of the body. So the more you play tennis, the better and stronger the neural
connections related to those types of activities become, and the better you become at them. In addition to improving neural connections and developing new neurons, studies show that exercises that require a lot of thinking — such as tennis — can actually improve brain function in ways that aid memory, learning, social skills and behaviour.
- Is great cross-training for other sports: Tennis involves quick-fire changes of direction at top speed as you race around the court to return serves and volleys. This requires 300 to 500 bursts of energy per match, according
to researchers. And you’ll run the equivalent of three to five miles. The effect? Playing tennis is a great way to speed up your sprinting and work on your endurance.
- Improves discipline and social skills: Tennis makes you more disciplined because the skills needed to master the game take patience, time and dedication. That’s a lot of time spent practicing and focusing on getting better. Tennis helps you in achieving a better degree of socialisation as you have to interact with different players.
- Boosts mood: Tennis players are more optimistic, have greater self-esteem and are less anxious, angry and depressed than people who play other sports or are sedentary, according to scientists in Connecticut.