Wimbledon is just around the corner and thousands of Brits across the country will be inspired to dust off their racquets and take to the courts. As well as being highly regarded for its fitness benefits, the sport is relatively easy to try out, with most towns having public courts and clubs.
What are the benefits?
Tennis provides a total body workout, with your legs used to propel yourself around the court and your torso, shoulders, back and arms brought into play as you whack the ball about. The average amateur player is estimated to burn around 300 calories per hour. This puts it behind running, swimming or cycling – but on par with jogging.
It is also claimed to improve co-ordination and balance, while the tactical element is said to help improve brain power. Tennis players have been found to be more optimistic and have higher self-esteem than those playing other sports or those who do not participate in physical exercise.
The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) is a good first port of call. The body which oversees the sport in Great Britain is taking strides to get more people trying it out. The LTA's slick website allows users to locate their nearest tennis courts – and details whether they are municipal, at a sport centre or a tennis club. It also promotes "Tennis Tuesdays" - which offers female newcomers to the sport the opportunity to get started via a series of low-cost courses run on (surprise surprise) Tuesday evenings. These are taking place at 80 locations in England, Scotland and Wales – and the LTA site has a convenient course locator.
Why not take advantage of the year's third Great British Tennis Weekend on August 1 and 2 (you've already missed the first two weekends)? This sees clubs across the country holding free open days, giving all the family the chance to pop along and try it out. There are 145 events taking place over the weekend.
Will I need lessons?
It depends how quickly you want to improve really, but it's definitely a sport in which tuition and coaching can pay dividends for building competence and confidence. Tennis clubs or sports centres are the best places to find a coach – and lessons can either be delivered as part of a group or one-to-one – with the latter obviously being more pricey. A typical price for a block of five beginner lessons is around £30.
Anything to be wary of?
Make sure you consult your GP if you have any worries about starting exercise for health reasons – and a gentle warm up before each session can be a good idea. Problems can include sprained ankles, shoulder problems and even spinal injuries. Plus of course there's tennis elbow.
What kit do I need?
All you really need to play tennis is a racquet, balls and some comfy clothes – as well as a court of course. It's possible to spend hundreds on a high-tech racquet, but many clubs will even allow you to borrow one along with the balls – so all you need to do is turn up in your trainers. As you get into the sport it's a good idea to get specialist tennis shoes – which have better support – and to seek advice on the best kind of racquet for your needs.
Check out the Lawn Tennis Association website for more information.