For overall fitness, playing a game of tennis is one of the best options: Not only is it a relatively low-impact activity—especially when you play on clay or grass courts—that you can do at almost any age, but it can burn more than 500 calories an hour while working your body and your brain as you strategize where to hit the ball and anticipate where your opponent will go with her shot.
Unlike traditional cardio workouts that primarily focus on moving in a straight line, playing tennis involves forward, backward, sideways and twisting movements. The result: a 360-degree workout that tones and strengthens your body from every angle. Plus, the start-stop nature of the game—you will alternate between short sprints and sustained rallies—challenges your lungs, heart and muscles in different ways, yielding maximum fitness benefits.
Did we mention tennis is fun? You can play with your friends, your children, your parents—it’s a social game that happens to be really good for your body. So it’s no wonder that tennis has exploded in popularity in the last decade, with participation up by more than 40 percent since 2000.
Unlike walking or running, which you can do virtually anytime and anywhere, tennis does require some planning, finding a partner as well as a court to play on.
While both types of tennis provide a great workout, singles is generally faster moving and more intense, while doubles can move at a slower pace, which can be easier for beginners. Research shows that doubles tennis burns about 340 to 408 calories an hour, while singles burns about 544 an hour.
Outfit Yourself For Success
You don’t have to make a large financial commitment to special gear and clothing, but if you plan to play on a regular basis, it’s worth it to buy a few key items.
Some tennis centers or public courts offer rentals so you can do test runs with various racquet brands and styles to see which one you’re most comfortable with.
- Pockets Tennis skirts, dresses and shorts often come equipped with pockets for holding spare balls. Don’t underestimate their importance! Nothing slows down a game like having to run to the sideline every time you lose a ball. And leaving extra balls on the court is a safety hazard, because tripping on one can lead to an ankle sprain or other injury. If you don’t have clothing with built-in pockets, add a ball clip to the waistband of your favorite bottoms.
- Sun Protection If you are playing outdoors, a hat or visor, and sunglasses not only minimize squinting, but can also improve your game, helping you keep your eye on the ball. Always apply sunblock—ideally 15 minutes before your match—to prevent sun burn.
- Socks Avoid cotton, which can get waterlogged and cause blisters. Choose wicking materials to minimize friction and hot spots, and consider socks with padded soles to help absorb impact and keep your feet comfortable.