It was the fitness equivalent of a blind date: A tennis pro at a Waterloo, Ont., club suggested Tina Ruetz and Melanie MacLean play together. Both were novice players who had been taking lessons for a year or so, and he thought their skill levels matched. That was more than six years ago, and they’ve been playing almost every weekend since. ‘It’s never the same game twice,’ says MacLean, 43, a librarian. ‘There is always something to learn.’
The friends play both singles and doubles. Singles games are more casual, with lots of water breaks, during which they end up talking about books and movies. ‘In doubles, it’s fun to work with Melanie as a partner’working together to call shots,’ says Ruetz, 39, a manager at a financial services company.
While the social aspect is great, they enjoy the physical and mental payoffs as well. ‘It works every muscle group, so even though I play at a moderate level, I feel like I’ve had a good workout,’ says MacLean. Ruetz agrees. ‘I’m not very athletic or coordinated, but it’s neat to see your skills improve over time,’ she says. And she’s noticed that her endurance has improved. Tennis gives her a mental breather, too: ‘I concentrate on the game and don’t think about anything else. It’s a true break.’
The pair loves this time of year, when they can head outdoors to play. ‘We’re definitely happy it’s spring!’ says Ruetz.
What you need to know before you start playing tennis
Tennis is a game you can start when you’re young and continue playing into old age. The health benefits are considerable: A survey of 24 studies about tennis, published in 2007 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that, compared to non-active people, tennis players had a lower body fat percentage, better blood lipid profile, better bone health and a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease. A 155-lb. woman burns about 550 calories in an hour-long game of singles (about 400 for doubles).
What to wear for tennis
Choose workout clothes that wick sweat and allow you to move easily. If you’re playing regularly, tennis shoes are worth the investment because they provide more traction and support than cross-trainers or running shoes. Expect to pay $80-$150 for a decent basic racquet.
Should you get tennis lessons?
As with most sports, it helps to have lessons to nail down the basics and reduce the risk of injuries. Look for an instructor certified by an association like Tennis Canada (visit tpacanada.com for a list of instructors).
This article was originally titled "Game, set, match" in the May 2013 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!