Game, set and match

We take a look at the health and fitness benefits of playing tennis

Wimbledon takes place this year from 2 to 15 July and many of us will be glued to our screens watching the action from the Centre Court. Your Healthy Living spoke to Kingsley Harris, the head tennis coach at the Will To Win Tennis Centre in London’s Regents Park (www.willtowin.co.uk), to find out how playing tennis can improve our health, wellbeing and fitness.

What would you say are the main health and wellbeing benefits to be gained from playing tennis?

Kingsley: “Tennis is a ‘lifetime sport’ that can be enjoyed by all ages and levels of any athletic ability. Tennis has many proven health benefits, such as hand-eye coordination, bone strength, muscle tone, cardio fitness, balance and flexibility. It’s also a great way of meeting people and making new friends.”

Did you know?

Venus Williams holds the record for the fastest ladies’ serve of all time at Wimbledon, with an impressive 129mph!

What areas would you say that novice tennis players need to work on most in order to improve their technique?

Kingsley: “I would recommend that you contact your local tennis club and sign up for a beginners’ course. These are normally run for six weeks and are designed to go over the basics with an end goal in you being able to play a game! Sometimes these courses are called Tennis Xpress and more details can be found by visiting the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) website: www.lta.org.uk. I would also suggest that slower (orange) balls are used when starting. Orange balls are softer, move more slowly through the air and do not bounce so high so it is much easier to learn the correct technique.”

Are there any particular exercises or drills that players can practise to improve their game?

Kingsley: “Regular practice on all shots, particularly the serve and return, are important if you want to improve. Where possible it should be competitive as at the end of the day tennis is a sport!”

Do you have any tips for how you can avoid or prevent tennis-related injuries?

Kingsley: “It’s important to have the right equipment, starting with tennis shoes and not running shoes, which offer no support. A good warm-up is vital before playing and can help lessen the chance of injury and improve your game. I would also suggest a drink and snack like a banana should always be taken on court with you.”

Tennis for expectant and new mums

According to The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), tennis is a particularly good sport to help keep more women active both during and after pregnancy, given its low-impact nature which means fewer risk of injuries. For those who have just given birth and would like to start getting active again, tennis provides real health benefits and enables new mums to get back into a routine. Jo Larkin, Sports Physician at the LTA says: “Exercise post pregnancy, in particular tennis, is an excellent way to gradually build up your fitness. As well as the cardiovascular benefits, tennis builds strength which is great for posture and pelvic floor muscles of new mums.”

Sam Richardson, Senior Programmes Manager at the LTA adds: “Tennis is a fantastic sport for new mums who want to start getting active after giving birth, as it is low impact and therefore a great form of mild exercise. The nature of the sport allows you stay in control of your level of exertion, meaning new mums can exercise at a pace comfortable for them.”

As with any exercise during pregnancy, the LTA advise speaking to your doctor or GP before partaking in any physical activity. If you’re new to tennis, let your coach and/or club know that you are pregnant or have just given birth.

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