There are a lot of ways to stay in shape when you’re over 40. But based on some recent health research, tennis may just top the list.
First of all, it gets you out in the sunshine in the spring, summer and fall. And in moderation, that sunshine can trigger the production of vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin.”
As you may know, studies have shown that vitamin D can help strengthen your bones, positively impact your heart health and cholesterol, and may play a role in regulating your blood sugar and preventing diabetes. Vitamin D can also help strengthen your immune system and reduce inflammation throughout your body.
Second, tennis gets you moving. That’s critically important nowadays when we spend so much of our time sitting behind a desk or a computer screen or staring into some portable device without budging from our chair.
Tennis exercises your entire body, too. Not just your legs and hips and back, but also your arms, shoulders and neck. I’d venture to say you use more muscle groups when you play tennis than when you’re walking, running or cycling.
But the real reason tennis is so good for your health is that it’s a type of interval training. Interval training is all about alternating short bursts of intense activity with longer periods of lighter activity. In other words, fast and slow activity.
Anaerobic sprint or burst-type exercises like tennis have been shown to be even more effective than aerobic exercise at reducing your risk of a heart attack.
Fitness professionals and sports doctors are continuing to discover the amazing benefits of internal training. For starters, interval training ramps up the effectiveness of your workout. You burn more calories in the same amount of time, which can help you lose weight and shed body fat. Interval training strengthens your aerobic capacity even more than doing the same activity at a steady pace. So if you’re looking to build stamina, it’s a better choice. And interval training can keep boredom at bay, because the fast-and-slow pace of interval training adds variety to your workouts.
You can convert just about any workout into an interval workout and reap some of these benefits. One of the best ways is with a program by Dr. Al Sears. Just check out his P.A.C.E. method for a quick and effective way to do it. (Click on the Diet & Fitness box on his site.)
But tennis is automatically an interval activity! And here’s the best part: With tennis, while you’re doing all this interval training, you can easily forget that you’re even exercising. Why? Because you get so caught up with the game itself … with keeping score, with close points and games, with the fun of challenging yourself and playing against other people. An entire hour goes by before you realize how tired you are and how much you’ve exercised.
If you’re careful on the court and play doubles as well as singles, you can keep playing tennis well into your 80s. Many people do.
So my advice is … even if you haven’t played tennis for years or since you were a kid, try to get out on a tennis court this spring and summer. There are easy and affordable ways to get good enough to really enjoy the game and have a great time socially doing it. I’ll talk more about that in future posts.