Fitness Basics: Learning to Love Tennis
Yes, it can help you get fit. But the benefits of tennis go beyond the physical, experts say.
The Learning Curve
As with most new exercise ventures, you won't realize all these benefits
right away. There's a learning curve for tennis, especially if you're a
"At first, beginners aren't going to have these long rallies (keeping
the ball in play) that would make tennis more aerobic," says Smith.
So at least at first, don't expect to burn the same amount of calories
during an hour-long lesson than you would during the same time on the
treadmill, says Linda Sneed, USPTA pro and tennis coach at the Little Rock
Athletic Club in Little Rock, Ark.
And during a lesson, sometimes you'll work on technique and form more than
running cross-court, she says.
"It's like walking at first," says Sneed. "It gets you out and
it's something fun and you're moving."
But if you stay consistent, it won't be long before you're able to get a
good rally going, and in turn, burn more calories, Sneed says.
A great tip, Sneed says, is to play with someone who has skills comparable
to yours: "Even at a lower level, if you're playing with someone that's
competitive with you, you'll keep a lot of balls in play."
You could also consider Cardio Tennis, a program offered in many cities that
gives tennis players at any level the heart-pumping benefits once experienced
mostly by competitive players. Helmig started this program at the Tucson
Racquet and Fitness Club, one of the certified sites for Cardio Tennis.
Essentially, the program combines uses a series of cardiovascular drills to
keep the heart rate in the "fat-burning zone" -- between 65% and 85% of
a person's maximum heart rate. There are up to 15 people in a Cardio Tennis
class, which is set to music.
Cardio Tennis drills last three minutes, says Helmig. For example, a player
hits a volley, then rushes the net, tapping the racquet to the net, then backs
up to hit an overhead. The pro coordinates the shots and choreographs all the
"Even if you're a true beginner with little or no experience, you still
get a lot out of it," Helmig says.
While Cardio Tennis may not do much to improve your tennis technique, he
says, you can supplement it with private or semi-private lessons.