While driving to give a lesson I was listening to a news report on NPR about the benefits of exercise to help increase longevity. I was reminded of having read some information citing the importance of exercise and physical activity in relation to brain health and longer life.

It also brought to mind how great it is to be involved in teaching and playing tennis over the past 50-plus years. To be an advocate and example of the benefits from staying active, physically and mentally, through tennis has been truly rewarding.

If you’re already playing tennis, I think you’ll agree that it’s one of the most fun and healthy exercise activities to be involved in.

If you’re thinking of giving it a try, get ready for a great physical workout and mental challenge that could help you live longer.

Here are some benefits of playing tennis at any level:

  • Playing one hour of tennis burns about 600 calories (same as jogging, or spinning)
  • You won’t get bored. The mindsets of the game keep you focused while your body works out
  • Cardiovascular benefits: Tennis lowers the chance of heart attack or stroke through quick anaerobic movements that burn fat and increase heart rate.
  • Matches last about 1 to 2 hours with quick bursts of energy followed by brief periods of rest, promoting endurance and stamina.
  • Physical benefits: Every muscle group is used while playing tennis. Legs, arms, and upper body work simultaneously while the core generates and transfers power to ultimately strike the ball. All this happens while running forward, backward and sideways at varying speeds.
  • Exercise for the brain. Tennis is like a giant, physical game of chess. Geometry, physics and the ability to think a step or two ahead of your immediate shot all come into play. This type thinking continually stimulates nerve connections in the brain. Many people playing well into their 70s and 80s are a testament to maintaining a sharp mind through tennis.
  • Balance and coordination: You might not think of yourself as much of a dancer, but balance, coordination and controlling your center of gravity are similar in tennis. It’s all about timing and balance.

The better you get at watching the ball through your stroke, the more your brain will help your body do the rest.

  • Emotional benefits: Southern Connecticut University did a study about the psychological benefits of several sports among non-athletes.

Tennis players scored higher in self-esteem, vigor and optimism. They scored lower in confusion, tension, anxiety and depression.

Playing tennis is great for your mental health and social skills.

  • Longevity: The British Journal of Sports Medicine recently released results from an 11-year study showing that regarding exercise, swimming, racquet sports and aerobics provide your best chance to live healthier longer, especially helping to prevent heart disease and stroke.

That’s some pretty positive stuff! Here’s to better exercise for your body, brain and a longer life … through tennis.

Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio and youth tennis coach who lives, teaches and provides racquet service in the Bluffton-Hilton Head Island area. lwmarino@hotmail.com