Bjorn Borg -- dubbed "Ice Borg" for his calm, cool demeanor -- won five straight Wimbledon titles and six French Open singles titles over the course of his career. His conditioning was legendary, and so was his resting heart rate -- an astounding 45 beats per minute.
But you don't have to be a Swedish elite tennis player to reap the health benefits of tennis. According to Cleveland Clinic Heart Center exercise physiologist and avid tennis player Gordon Blackburn, Ph.D, even recreational players can derive a great workout from this popular sport.
"Playing tennis at a moderate to vigorous intensity, on a regular basis, is a good way to get your aerobic exercise" says Dr. Blackburn. "A 135-pound woman playing an hour of singles tennis can burn 420 calories."
Tennis, as Dr. Blackburn points out, can provide a more efficient workout than many other sports. "You'll burn more calories playing three hours of tennis per week than you will doing three hours of light weightlifting, bowling or golfing."
And it's not just about calories. Research from the Cleveland Clinic Heart Center demonstrated that three hours of moderate aerobic exercise every week can cut the risk of heart disease by 50 percent, as well as lower blood pressure, which helps reduce the risk of developing heart disease or of having a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke.
In addition, adding tennis to an existing exercise regimen is a great way to reach your health goals. "If you complement tennis with other aerobic activities such as brisk walking or cycling," says Dr. Blackburn, "you can make an even bigger impact on improving heart health."
Robin Dickson of Des Moines, Iowa agrees. As a life-long player, Dickson finds tennis the perfect complement to her other athletic pursuits, such as running. "Tennis is a complete body workout," Dickson points out. "Ground strokes and volleys give the arms and shoulders a great workout, and I have definitely seen the results in my running."
But tennis is more than just a physical workout; it's a mentally-challenging sport that demands strategy and constant adjustments. "I love visualizing how I want the play to point out, and then creating the shots to make that occur," Dickson explains. "Knowing how to set up rallies to your advantage is critical, as well as being able to anticipate shots."
Perhaps best of all, tennis is fun. True, it can be challenging, especially if you're just learning, but it's also a sport in which lessons, practice and persistence pay off quickly. Once you get the hang of it, you'll find it tremendously satisfying. You might even give yourself a cool nickname -- like "Ice Borg."
To get started playing tennis in a location near you?visit the USTA's Tennis Welcome Center . Find more tennis technique information at the USTA Player Development Web site .