With school, homework, extracurriculars, volunteer work, family commitments, and a multitude of other activities that characterize the typical high schooler today, it’s hard to fit exercise into our crowded schedules. Exercise is usually put on the back burner as apparently the most important thing in a high schooler’s life is “getting into a good college.” However, exercising regularly and strengthening muscles and bones will help you remain healthy all of your life, which is arguably more important than spending every waking moment padding resumes and becoming the president of every single club at school. In fact, only 1 in 10 high schoolers is receiving the correct amount of aerobic and muscle strengthening exercise as of 2011. So, how do we change our lifestyles in order to stay fit and healthy? The answer: play tennis!
You’re probably asking yourself, why would I start a new sport now? Isn’t it a little late? Well, I, and many others, can attest to the fact that it’s never too late to start playing a new sport, especially tennis. I started playing on the team sophomore year, and I know two people who started as juniors and played varsity their first year despite starting late. So, how do you start playing tennis and why should you?
All You Need is a Racquet and a Wall
While other sports require a full team to properly practice, all you need in order to play tennis is yourself, a racquet, and a wall. For the sake of practicing, you don’t even need another person–just hit the ball at a wall and I promise it’ll return it right back! This is great practice for someone just starting out. Another idea is to gather a group of friends who are at the same level as you and hit up your local courts for a fun game, whether this is at a park, county college, or high school. Two hours of moderately intense tennis burns about 500 calories, so as long as you’re moving, you’re getting the job done.
Benefits of Playing Tennis
As high schoolers, we often forget to take good care of our bodies, especially if we are not heavily involved in athletics. The College Alumni Health Study showed that death rates due to heart disease in men who burned at least 2,000 calories per week were significantly lower than those who did not. Since tennis is a full body sport–meaning that all parts of the body including legs, arms, hands, and torso are involved and necessary–calories are burned quickly, helping to lose weight and prevent heart disease.
Izabella Ulicki, a high school junior who started playing her sophomore year, says, “Tennis has made me much more active, as on a daily basis I go out and play–even though it’s not required. Going out and playing at least two hours a day has greatly increased my balance, coordination, flexibility, and ability to strategize with any given [doubles] partner.” She emphasizes how her motivation to become a better tennis player leads her to practice every day–improving her muscle strength and fulfilling her daily aerobic exercise quota.
The National Institute of Health named tennis as one of the top sports which help to build stronger bones. Bone mass tends to decline at around age 30, so it is important to build it up in your teenage years and early adulthood to slow the eventual decline. Another perk of playing tennis includes the strengthening of neural connections. The more you play tennis–a game which requires the brain to plan, coordinate, strategize, and be creative–the stronger the neural pathways associated with these important skills will become. Neural pathways are strengthened from repeated actions, and since tennis involves a good amount of thinking, the more you play the better the connections between neurons in your brain will function–which is a pretty sweet side effect of hitting around a ball!
(For more information on this, check out TP’s “The Connection Between Exercise and the Mind.”)
A Lifelong Sport
If you want to become a part of a team but don’t think you’d like or enjoy any other sport, I suggest taking a few tennis lessons or doing a clinic over the summer and then trying out for your high school’s team. This will be a lot easier to do and more enjoyable if you have a friend who has the same desire as you. Even if you don’t consider yourself “into sports,” with a basic knowledge of the game, the right mindset, and some practice, you will become great and improve your fitness along the way. It’s always better to start early when it comes to a sport, but now is most definitely better than never!
Tennis is a sport that you can continue or pick up at any point in your life–whether you’re a wee child who can barely pick up a racquet, a teenager (ahem), or an elderly person. It’s a fun sport, either played individually or with a partner, that involves a lot of strategy and that anyone can play. If you want to get healthy and fit, get out there, pick up a racquet, and kick some ace!
(…if tennis isn’t your thing, take a look at TP’s “7 Unique Sports Taking High Schools by Storm!”)