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Could Tennis Really be The Secret To A Long, Happy Life?

by | May 10, 2024 | Tennis

My observations as a life-long tennis player and a staff member at one of the best tennis facilities in New York City clearly indicate that tennis is good for the soul.

Next time someone asks “Tennis, anyone?” you might want to grab your racket and join them. The benefits of playing America’s favorite racket sport are not limited to the obvious ones: exercise and the joy of winning (assuming you do win, of course). My observations as a life-long tennis player and a staff member at one of the best tennis facilities in New York City clearly indicate that tennis is good for the soul.

Every single day I see people come into the Roosevelt Island Racquet club, play some tennis, talk some tennis talk, and, without question, leave the club feeling better than they did when they arrived. Doctors, lawyers, high-powered executives, stay-at-home parents, blue collar, white collar, no collar, high school kids, senior citizens; the demographic doesn’t matter. Something happens when people get together on a court to hit a tennis ball that makes them feel good all over.

It must feel good. Today, nearly 24 million Americans play tennis, and another 60 million people play worldwide. As it continues to grow in popularity so does the speculation as to why everyone is picking up a racket these days. Obviously there’s the physical benefits: improvement in overall health, cardiovascular fitness, weight management, flexibility, muscle tone, and mobility. One club regular believes that tennis helps him subconsciously make better food choices. He plays at least three times a week and wants to be in the best possible shape for his game.

Tennis is much more than a game of running around the court hitting the ball with a racket. It requires strategy, hand-eye coordination, decision making on the fly, mastery of a variety of strokes, visual acuity, problem solving, and the ability to pivot both physically and mentally.

Researchers contend that tennis is a great exercise for the entire brain. When you strategize, as most players do, you are working out your cerebellum. The parietal lobes in the back of your brain help you see the ball when it is in motion, and your frontal lobes are also helping you to create strategies, especially on the fly.

So everyone agrees that tennis is good for the body and for the mind. But there’s still more to it. Maybe it’s the social component that you don’t always get with other sports. Having just played two hours of doubles I see this more clearly than ever. We talked before the game, between sets about the game and our strategies, and after the game we walked out of the club together talking about the highs and lows of our game and even a little bit about life itself. I felt connected to these people, my people, my friends, my competitors, my tribe. That’s it!

Playing tennis extends one’s life expectancy by 9.7 years when compared to a sedentary lifestyle.

We are a group of people that numbers in the millions. We have this game we love to play. We win, we lose, we get challenged along the way. Sometimes we arrive with the weight of the world on our shoulders, but it always feels better once we’ve spent some time with our people. We leave lighter, happier, feeling healthy, feeling better, and (sometimes) feeling victorious. Tennis is in our blood. It’s part of our sustenance. And if that’s not enough, there’s new evidence that suggests that playing tennis helps us live longer.

The Copenhagen City Heart Study (CCHS) out of Denmark demonstrated that playing tennis may actually extend your lifespan by 9.7 years. The study’s authors looked at sports and activities other than running that increase your lifespan when compared to those with a sedentary lifestyle.

They began with a group of 20,000 healthy people in the early 1990s. In 2017, there were 8,577 subjects who were still in the study. This gave them sufficient data (25 years) to address their question of how participation in sports affects life expectancy.

The conclusion: playing tennis extends one’s life expectancy by 9.7 years when compared to a sedentary lifestyle. The other sports also provided benefits, but the most beneficial sport was tennis. Below is a summary of the results ranked by number of years of gain in life expectancy:

Tennis: 9.7 years
Badminton: 6.2 years
Soccer: 4.7 years
Cycling: 3.7 years
Swimming: 3.4 years
Jogging: 3.2 years
Calisthenics: 3.1 years
Health club: 1.5 years

The researchers were surprised to find that tennis was the sport with the largest increase in life expectancy, and the one that had the least increase (health club) is the one where people spent the most time exercising. They also hypothesized that “belonging to a group that meets regularly promotes a sense of support, trust, and commonality, which has been shown to contribute to a sense of well-being and improved long-term health.”

On some level, tennis players already knew this.
We were right all along – everyone needs a racket sport in their life.
What are you waiting for? Grab a racket and live a lot – and hopefully a lot longer.

Theodore “Teddy” Angelus

Father, Writer, Avid Tennis Player, Staff at RIRC

Teddy is a long-time tennis player hailing from New York City. Born at NYU, he is a native New Yorker, who grew up on 77th and 3rd. He learned to play in Forest Hills and was drawn to the competition and the joy of playing. He loves a good doubles game.

Teddy was the captain of his varsity high school tennis team at Avon Old Farms.

After moving to Roosevelt Island in 2019, he rediscovered his love for the game and found his way back to tennis. Teddy is now a valuable member of the Advantage Tennis Clubs team. He works at the Roosevelt Island Racquet Club and plays in a variety of leagues and programs at the facility. He’s a proud father to his son, Oliver who also plays in the Junior Development Program and participates in tennis camp over the summer.

Visit Teddy at the Roosevelt Island Racquet Club today!

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