Racquet Sports: Tops in Training
Playing tennis or racquetball is an enjoyable way to boost the intensity of your fitness
program. It can also improve your balance, strength, and agility.
Racquet sports alternate bursts of high-intensity exercise while you score points, with
brief rest periods while you pick up the ball and serve. This stop-and-start activity
is similar to interval training.
Playing racquet sports, or any active sport, 3 hours a week can cut your risk of developing
heart disease and lower your blood pressure. One key to getting a good aerobic workout
in tennis or racquetball is to keep your rest periods brief. Your heart will continue
to work at an aerobic level, but without the sustained stress.
It's also important to prepare for your game as you would for a workout. Warm up for
at least 10 minutes before you begin, followed by another 10 minutes of stretching. Check
with your healthcare provider before you begin an exercise program.
The take on tennis
Playing tennis at a moderate-to-vigorous intensity burns calories. It also builds
strength in your upper body, legs, hips, and belly, and improves your speed and overall
To get the most from your workout, you and your opponent should agree to play for
the aerobic benefit, as well as for fun. Instead of firing aces past each other, plan
on a volley-and-return match that keeps you both moving. Scatter your shots around
the court to make the most of the distance you both run. Also limit your number of
serves. Or play for total points instead of using traditional scoring.
Health tips for tennis
To keep your game injury-free, follow these suggestions from the American Academy
of Orthopaedic Surgeons:
Warm up before you begin to play. Jumping jacks, stationary bike riding, or running
in place for 3 to 5 minutes are good warm-up activities.
Do slow, gentle stretches after you've warmed up.
Play on a court with a forgiving surface, if possible. Stay off hard surfaces like
cement and asphalt.
Wear shoes that offer good support for your ankles.
Dry your racket handle often to prevent blisters.
Protect your back by bending your knees and raising your heels when serving or hitting
the ball overhead.
Racquetball has plenty of fitness benefits. If you play to 15 points, it usually takes
about 20 minutes. A typical match of 3 games usually lasts an hour. You can burn lots
of calories. Because racquetball demands many twists, turns, and dives, the game also
helps you maintain flexibility and fine-tune your concentration, balance, and reaction
Health tips for racquetball
Always wear eye protection when playing, says the American Academy of Family Physicians.
Buy eye guards that have been certified by the American Standard of Testing and Materials.
If you wear eyeglasses, wear eye guards over them. Your eyeglasses are not made to give
Drink plenty of fluids before you play. Drink 16 to 32 ounces of water or other fluids
1 to 2 hours before you begin.
If you feel pain or cramping, stop the game.
Keep at least a foot-and-a-half of space between you and your opponent. If you think
you are too close to swing your racket without hitting him or her, hold your swing
or stop the game.
After the game, allow time to cool down before showering, and do some stretching exercises.