Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard and read some information citing the importance of exercise and physical activity in relation to brain health.

It 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. And, if you might be thinking of giving it a try, get ready for a great physical workout and mental challenge.

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 mindset of the game keeps you focused while your body works out.
  • Cardiovascular exercise lowers the chance of heart attack or stroke through quick anaerobic movements that burn fat and increase heart rate.

Matches last about one or two hours with quick bursts of energy followed by brief periods of rest, promoting endurance and stamina.

  • Physical: 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: 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.

Here’s to better exercise for your body and brain through tennis!

Lou Marino is a USPTA Cardio & Youth Tennis Coach who lives and teaches in the greater Bluffton/Hilton Head Island area