When you enjoy the activities that keep you fit, you’re more likely to stick with them. That’s why social sports such as tennis are a great choice for many people.
But apart from enjoyment, how effective is tennis for burning calories?
Knowing exactly how many calories you can burn on the tennis court, and what you can do to maximize that number, can be incredibly motivating.
In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of calorie burning in tennis – from the factors that influence it to the benefits it can provide to your overall fitness regime. We’ll also give you some handy tips to help you make the most of your time on the court.
Is It True That Tennis Players Live Longer?
One of the most compelling reasons to take up tennis is its potential impact on longevity. According to research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, playing any racquet sport – which includes tennis – can significantly reduce the risk of death by any cause (1).
The study reviewed data from over 80,000 adults for 14 years and found that those who played racquet sports had a 47% lower risk of death than those who were sedentary. Furthermore, even moderate levels of participation – just 30 minutes per week – showed positive results (1).
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But Why Does Tennis Have Such an Impact?
There are many factors that contribute to the longevity-boosting benefits of tennis. One key factor is the overall intensity of the game.
Tennis requires players to maintain short bursts of high-intensity activity, followed by brief periods of rest. This interval training approach has been proven to have significant health benefits (7).
In addition, tennis calls for a wide range of movements and muscle groups to be used. From quick sprints across the court to powerful swings and serves, you work your entire body during a game. This all-round workout is an excellent way to build strength and endurance while you burn calories.
Is Tennis a Fat Burner?
Tennis has a great deal of fat burning potential – it all depends on how you play the game.
Even in its simplest form, this game will burn quite a bit of calories.
According to research by Harvard Medical School, a person who weighs approximately 155 pounds can burn 252 calories playing tennis for just 30 minutes (2). That’s equivalent to a brisk walk or light cycling session.
However, the precise number of calories burned will vary depending on your weight, sex, and age. Men tend to burn more calories than women due to their higher muscle and body mass. Similarly, younger players burn more calories compared to older players.
Other factors that influence how many calories you burn during a tennis game include:
Your level of play – let’s look at the various levels of play and their impact on calorie burning:
- Social or recreational tennis: playing for fun or to socialize will generally burn fewer calories than competitive tennis.
- Intermediate level: Avid players who participate in local tournaments or leagues generally have a higher calorie burn due to the increased intensity of play.
- Professional level: Professional athletes follow rigorous training regimes, meaning that they will burn more calories during a match.
- Court surface: The type of court you play on can also influence how many calories you burn. For example, playing on a clay court requires more movement and is generally considered to be more challenging than playing on a hard court. Therefore, you may burn more calories per hour on clay courts than other surfaces.
- Playing style: Your playing style and strategy can also affect calorie burning. For example, a baseline player will run more than a serve-and-volley player, which results in a higher calorie burn.
Maximizing Your Calorie Burn
Now that you know the factors that influence how many calories you’ll burn on the court, let’s explore some tips for maximizing your calorie burn during a game:
- Boost Your Agility: Enhance your agility by incorporating drills that increase your speed and refine your coordination. The quicker you are on the court, the more calories you’ll burn.
- Increase Your Rally Length: Longer rallies require more energy, so you should try to extend the duration of your rallies. This not only improves your stamina but also helps burn more calories.
- Vary Your Shots: Incorporate a variety of shots into your game. Using a mix of forehands, backhands, volleys, and serves engages different muscle groups and increases your overall calorie burn.
- Switch Between Baseline and Net Play: Constantly moving between the baseline and the net makes your game more dynamic and demands more energy, which will ramp up your calorie burn.
- Add Spin to Your Shots: Adding spin to your shots requires extra wrist and forearm action. This additional effort translates to more calories burned.
- Practice High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Drills: Incorporate HIIT drills into your practice sessions. Intense bursts of energy followed by short rest periods can effectively increase your metabolism and calorie burn rate (3).
- Improve Your Serve: An effective serve requires the coordination of various muscle groups, which leads to a higher calorie burn. Invest time in refining your serve to make the most of this calorie-torching move.
- Hydrate Throughout: Proper hydration is crucial for maintaining your energy levels and optimizing your performance on the court (4). Make sure you hydrate properly before, during, and after your game.
- Maintain Healthy Nutrition: Eating a balanced diet is essential for fueling your body for a high-energy game like tennis. You should stick to complex carbs, lean proteins, and healthy fats to keep your energy levels steady.
- Combine Tennis with Other Exercises: Incorporating other types of workout, such as strength training or cardio exercises, can help increase your overall fitness level, which will make you more efficient on the tennis court and burn more calories.
Can You Get Fit By Just Playing Tennis?
Tennis alone can improve your fitness considerably, provided you play it regularly and at a good intensity.
Here’s why – tennis is a game of endurance, speed, agility, and strength. Playing regularly can help improve your cardiovascular fitness, in addition to strengthening your muscles and joints (5).
Moreover, the quick, explosive movements that are required in tennis can engage your fast-twitch muscle fibers – the same type that are used in sprinting. Regularly engaging these muscles while playing can enhance your muscular power and speed.
In addition to physical fitness, tennis has also been found to have cognitive benefits. The sport demands a high level of focus and strategy, which can help improve your mental acuity and coordination (7).
However, in order to reach optimal fitness levels, you should include other exercise types in combination with your tennis playing.
For example, strength training can help build muscle and improve your overall athletic performance on the court. Cardio exercises can also help build stamina and endurance. In addition, incorporating stretching and flexibility exercises can help prevent injuries while playing tennis (6).
Why Is Tennis the Healthiest Sport?
Tennis may be considered the healthiest sport as it provides a total-body workout combining
Aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling, improves cardiovascular fitness and burns calories during the activity, while anaerobic exercise involves short bursts of intense activity that build muscular strength and endurance.
Let’s take a closer look at the top 10 health benefits of tennis:
1. Improves Cardiovascular Health
Playing tennis is a fantastic way to improve cardiovascular health. The sport involves constant movement and exertion, which elevates heart rate and promotes better circulation (1). Over time, this can lead to a stronger and healthier heart.
2. Enhances Strength and Flexibility
Tennis requires the use of a variety of different muscle groups, from the legs for running and jumping to the arms and core for swinging the racket. Playing regularly can lead to increased muscle strength and flexibility (5).
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3. Burns Calories
The high level of physical activity that is involved in tennis makes it a great way to burn calories. From running across the court to swinging the racket, every movement helps to burn energy and promote weight loss (7). Using tennis to lose weight is a good strategy as the sport is enjoyable and can be played in singles or doubles.
4. Boosts Bone Health
Similar to other weight-bearing activities, tennis can improve bone health. Regular play can help increase bone density and strength, helping prevent conditions such as osteoporosis in the long term(5).
5. Improves Coordination
Tennis demands quick reflexes and excellent hand-eye coordination (7). Therefore, playing regularly can significantly enhance these skills, which are beneficial in everyday life.
6. Promotes Mental Health
Tennis is as much a mental game as it is physical. It requires focus, strategy, and quick thinking, all of which can help improve mental acuity and reduce stress levels (5). One of the five benefits of tennis for kids is improved mental health and cognitive development.
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7. Enhances Social Skills
Tennis is often a social game, whether you’re playing doubles or simply enjoying a match with a friend. This aspect of the sport can improve your social skills and provide a sense of community.
8. Improves Endurance
The longer you play a game of tennis, the more your endurance will improve. The sport demands prolonged periods of high-intensity activity, which helps build stamina over time (7).
9. Encourages a Healthy Lifestyle
Playing tennis regularly can encourage a healthy lifestyle. It promotes physical fitness and healthy competition, and can inspire better dietary choices to support energy levels and recovery.
10. Provides Fun and Enjoyment
Fun and enjoyment are essential parts of a healthy lifestyle. Tennis offers a fun and engaging way to stay active, so it’s more likely you’ll stick to your fitness routine in the long run. In fact, one of the benefits of tennis for youth is that it can help develop a lifelong love for physical activity.
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What Are Some Disadvantages of Playing Tennis?
While tennis offers numerous health benefits, there are also potential disadvantages you should consider, including:
- Risk of injury: The quick movements and repetitive motions involved in tennis can increase the risk of overuse injuries, such as tennis elbow.
- Time commitment: Tennis can be a time-consuming activity, particularly if you want to improve your skills and compete at a higher level.
- Cost: Depending on the equipment and facilities required, tennis can be an expensive sport to play regularly.
However, with proper training and precautions, these potential disadvantages can be managed. The benefits of playing tennis far outweigh the negatives.
Is tennis the healthiest sport in the world?
Tennis is often considered to be one of the healthiest sports due to its comprehensive workout. It combines aerobic and anaerobic fitness, improving cardiovascular health, strength, flexibility, and favorable mental aspects (1).
Why is tennis better than other sports?
Tennis provides a unique combination of physical, mental, and social benefits. It requires strategy, focus, and physical exertion, and provides a complete body workout. In addition, tennis has a social aspect that can enhance interpersonal skills and provide a sense of community.
Why is tennis a lifetime sport?
Tennis is a lifetime sport as it can be played at any age. It’s a non-impact sport that can improve cardiovascular health, coordination, and strength, thereby benefiting players in their later years. The game can be modified to match each player’s skill level and physical abilities, and this makes it a lifelong activity.
What do top tennis players eat?
Top tennis players generally follow a balanced diet to fuel their bodies for high-energy games. This includes complex carbohydrates for sustained energy, lean proteins for muscle repair and recovery, and healthy fats for energy storage. They also focus on hydration and nutrient-dense snacks for quick energy boosts during matches.
The Bottom Line
Tennis has been proven to be more than just a recreational sport – it’s also an incredibly effective way of improving your overall fitness and health. From its impact on longevity to the significant calorie burn during a game, tennis offers many benefits for both the body and mind.
By understanding the factors that influence calorie burning and implementing tips to maximize your burn rate, you can make the most of your time on the court.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Associations of specific types of sports and exercise with all-cause and cardiovascular-disease mortality: a cohort study of 80 306 British adults (2017,nih.gov)
- Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights (2021,harvard.edu)
- Calories burned during HIIT exercise vs moderate exercise (2016,iastate.edu)
- Fluid and electrolyte needs for training, competition, and recovery (2011,nih.gov)
- Long-term Tennis Participation and Health Outcomes: An Investigation of “Lifetime” Activities (2020,nih.gov)
- Sports Fitness (2015,medlineplus.gov)
- Tennis – health benefits (2013,betterhealth.vic.gov.au)