Tennis is a popular sport for young people, but it’s also become popular for senior players. It’s not hard to see why the game is enjoyed by the young and old alike. Not only is tennis super healthy, but it’s also a sport that you can learn and master at any age. The International Tennis Federation even has senior divisions for older pro players.
What is it that makes tennis for seniors so effective, however? Why is it among the best sports for older people? Our ultimate guide to senior tennis looks at the benefits of tennis, how older people can stay in the game, and much more.
Fits Senior Fitness
One of the most significant reasons that tennis is so popular with older people is that the sport can be scaled to your fitness levels and intensity. Tennis is a game that gets as intense as you want it to be. Your technique is just as crucial to the game as your physique. Players who have mastered the fundamentals can often beat players with a better physique.
This means that people with less fitness can enjoy competitive matches against other players without feeling left behind. This isn’t to say that athleticism isn’t an essential part of being a good tennis player. If you and your opponent have the skills and fitness levels for it, even an amateur game can feel like a full-pelt Wimbledon classic.
The point is that anyone can enjoy tennis, no matter their age or skill level. You don’t need to play tennis at the breakneck speed of the pros to have fun with it.
If you don’t have the physical fitness levels of a pro athlete – and most of us don’t – then you can take things slow and focus on getting a good rally going. Tennis becomes something of a team sport where you and your opponent see how long you can keep the rally going. Another benefit of tennis is that you can play it against yourself. You can use a tennis ball machine or just hit the ball against a wall. You could also get your friends involved and play some doubles tennis. Doubles are better for seniors because you won’t have to cover as much of the court as you would if you were by yourself.
These are just a handful of examples of how you can play tennis, but even a few instances are all it takes to show the versatility and adaptability of tennis. You can work tennis around your fitness level and how much energy you have on a given day. Don’t feel like giving it your all? You don’t need to. The adjustable nature of tennis is one of the main things that makes it so suitable for older players.
Another reason that tennis for seniors is useful is that there’s no contact. Since opponents stand on opposite sides of the court separated by a net, there’s almost no chance of collision between players. The only risk for collision comes from accidentally hitting your opponent with the ball.
The Health Benefits of Tennis for Seniors
Tennis stands out as such a suitable sport for seniors because it offers plenty of health benefits. While these benefits would help anyone, some of them are particularly suited for seniors. The list of tennis health benefits includes;
Strength and Weight
One of the health benefits of senior tennis is that it builds upon upper and lower body strength while helping seniors maintain a healthy weight. No matter their age or skill level, tennis players are more likely to have reduced body fat and a healthy body mass index (BMI) compared to their contemporaries. Senior tennis players tend to be fitter, healthier, and stronger than the average older person.
One study looked at tennis players between 31 and 55 years old. The study showed that men and women who played tennis both had better than average body fat levels. Reduced body fat levels reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes. It also reduces the risk of heart attack and other chronic cardiovascular issues associated with aging. Not to mention that being a healthy weight keeps joints healthy because your body puts less pressure on them.
Heart and Lung Health
Doing physical activities like playing tennis promotes a healthy heart and lungs, keeping these vital organs healthy as you get older. Studies show that tennis players have a better aerobic capacity, or oxygen intake, meaning that they have better lung and heart health compared to others. Tennis is also one of the exercises that reduce cardiovascular disease risk by promoting healthy blood pressure levels in players.
Research shows that tennis players also have better heart volume on average than inactive people. Playing tennis means your heart is more efficient at pumping blood and spreading oxygen through your body when you exercise. Another study looked at male tennis players and found that players between 40 and 55 years old had better levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol compared to inactive people who played no sports at all.
Bone Health – Falling and Osteoporosis
Playing tennis is weight-bearing exercise. As such, it helps to build bone density in players. Better bone density reduces the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis. One study of women aged 65 and older showed that those who exercised the most were 33% less likely to suffer from bone fractures than inactive women. A similar study, for men over 44, had similar results.
Playing tennis involves plenty of direction changes and quick movements from players. All these movements help build coordination, balance, and agility. These are the main three factors that prevent falls. According to the National Council of Aging, falling is the leading cause of injury and death in older people. Even if a fall doesn’t kill you, there’s a severe risk of mobility loss if the accident is bad enough.
The health benefits of tennis for seniors help older people agile and balanced, preventing falls from maintaining independence as you get older.
Mental Health and Memory Skills
Research continues to showcase the evidence that exercise helps older people maintain healthy cognitive function as they get older. Active adults are less likely to suffer from memory loss or mental fog. A study of 299 adults across nine years showed that exercise correlated with increased gray matter in the brain, which is connected to a reduced risk of cognitive impairment.
In particular, structured and intense exercise – such as tennis – is beneficial for mental performance. These exercises reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Learning to Play Tennis
One downside of playing tennis is that it seems difficult to start. Players need some equipment and a place to pay. Even after buying your racket, tennis shoes, and some tennis balls, you still need the tennis court. You’ll also need an opponent to play against if you want to be competitive. The good news is that there are plenty of resources for learning tennis and finding people to play against for a competitive game.
Tennis lessons are the best way to learn tennis and improve your fundamentals and technique. Tennis lessons are available for players of all skill levels. Most tennis instructors can restructure their classes based on your skill. High-level tennis lessons are closer to practice matches where the instructor offers tips and pointers as necessary throughout the game.
If you’d prefer more of a “do-it-yourself” approach to learning tennis, then check out YouTube. There are lots of tennis tutorial videos to be found on the platform. There are also plenty of other online resources such as tennis guides and tips. The internet is also an excellent place to find a league or other players to join. Look for a tennis club in your area, and never worry about finding a court or opponent again.
The Potential of Pickleball
Please don’t worry if tennis proves to be too fast to keep up with for you. There are plenty of other sports and tennis variations to look at, such as pickleball. Pickleball is the wiffleball of tennis. Pickleball is played on a smaller court with a paddle and plastic ball. These factors make the sport popular with seniors.
It helps that pickleball offers most of the same benefits as playing tennis – including a few unique ones – without being nearly as fast or strenuous. All you need is the equipment, a place to play, and a person to play with.
Tips to Play Senior Tennis
There’s no denying tennis is one of the most enjoyable sports there is. Tennis is a lot more fun than golf, at least. There’s no lack of competitive spirit among older players. Even players who can’t move like they used to can still team up for a rousing game of doubles.
There’s most likely some kind of tennis club or tennis court in your neighborhood if you know where to look. There are also sure to be plenty of people who would be more than happy to welcome you to the tennis-playing fold. Tennis is an excellent way for people to socialize and make friends.
As with anything competitive, we recommend starting with tennis lessons if you need help learning to play. After you have the basics and are becoming a better player, here are five tips to help you stay on top of your game as you get older;
Our first tip is to work on your strokes. Your strokes should be as effortless as possible. Effortless strokes have maximum power and control while exerting minimal effort. Young people can get away with doing all kinds of things when they hit the ball, but these mistakes and mechanics build up and start to show when you get older. Perfect strokes mean perfect play. Perfect strokes also mean fewer injuries for more senior players.
It would be best for seniors to play within their abilities when playing tennis. Injuries in tennis most commonly happen when players are rallying the ball, and someone runs for the shot as if they were still in their 20s. When you get older, one part of playing sports is realizing and accepting that you can’t move like you did when younger. Understand your limitations and make realistic judgments when going for shots.
A smart senior tennis player is one that understands their body and mind need time to recharge. It’s better to play every other day over every day. Even the best five players in the world understand the need for rest. Get a clear picture of your personal recovery timetable and give your body the time it needs to recover between sessions and games.
The sooner senior players start playing on clay courts, the better. Clay courts are more comfortable on older joints, which helps lengthen the playing career of senior players. Playing on a clay court also makes it easier to control the ball. Last but not least, clay courts are cooler than grass ones.
Our final tip for senior players is to be mindful of when they play. We recommend playing in the morning and evening, particularly in hot weather. Playing when the weather is cooler lets you play for longer without getting drained or running the heatstroke risk. Most senior tournaments and matches are scheduled for after 6 PM to allow players to play in cooler climates without direct sunlight in their eyes.
No matter when you play, make sure to stay hydrated. Have something to drink every two games during the changeover at the very least.
Senior Tennis Safety Tips
While there’s nothing inherently wrong with pushing yourself and playing tennis to build skill and strength, tennis should never come at the expense of your health. Remember, one reason to play sports is to stay healthy – not injure yourself!
Older tennis players, in particular, should be aware of their limits. Please take care when you play tennis to avoid injury. Ensure you make time to warm up before a game and cool down after correctly. Stretching and warming up helps prevent injuries, speed up recovery after exercise, and boost game-day performance. Older players should consider using a fitness tracker when playing sports. Fitness trackers monitor heart rate.
If you play tennis against older people, please be sure to give them plenty of time to rest if they need it. Let players who feel fatigued, dizzy, and out of breath get the rest they need. Their health and safety are more important than any game you play.
You should also ensure that everyone stays hydrated and avoids overheating, mainly if playing outside in direct sunshine. Staying hydrated is particularly important for older tennis players who are more at risk of dehydration. Dehydration also has more severe ramifications for older people.
Please keep an eye on your loved ones to ensure they pay attention to their body and rest appropriately when needed. Keep in mind that injuries take longer to heal the older a person gets. The potential for injury – and the ramifications of those injuries – are why we must all ensure everyone is playing safe and within their ability level, regardless of age.
How to Get Involved With Senior Tennis
The easiest way to get started playing tennis is to play with friends and family. Tennis is a great way to bring people together and have fun. However, it may be challenging for your loved ones to find the time and resources needed to make it happen. This doesn’t mean that you can’t try new things and enjoy senior tennis by yourself.
Look around your community and check online to see if you can find a local tennis group. There are sure to be courts and other players waiting for you. Some of these local groups even offer transportation for seniors and are a great way to make new friends and socialize with people of all ages.
Please don’t think you’ll be the only older player on the court either. There are plenty of older tennis players on the amateur and professional scene. There are many great examples of more senior tennis players having plenty of fun and staying fit and healthy along the way. We’ve even seen people in their 80s enjoying a match!
Sports such as tennis and pickleball are becoming more popular with seniors around the country – if not the world. We can see that there are plenty of good reasons for the surge in popularity. Not only is tennis one of the best and healthiest sports to play as a senior, but it’s one that anyone can excel in no matter their age or current skill level. There are lots of ways you can get started with tennis, so pick up a racket, grab a ball, and get on the court!