We’re a nation of tennis-lovers – each summer we’re gripped by collective Murray-mania as we gobble down our strawberries and cream, dreaming we’re sat on Henman hill.
But it’s not just the sunshine, strawberries and swishing of racquets that’s great about tennis – and other racquet sports. They’re the perfect way to stay fit and healthy, whilst having fun and getting your family and friends involved.
Regular exercise is vital to your overall wellbeing, helping lift your mood, reduce stress levels, boost your immunity and improve your sleep.
High-intensity exercise, like racquet sports, is perfect for an all over-body workout that will keep your weight in check and improve heart health, while strengthening bones and muscles. As racquet sports involve reacting quickly, they will also improve your agility and reaction time.
And racquet sports don’t just give you a good workout – they’re a great way to socialise too.
You’ll find a thriving social scene at leisure centres and racquet sports clubs, which organise regular competitions, leagues, group classes and club nights.
Developing a social group around your exercise of choice is an excellent way to stay motivated and provides you with the support to carry on and keep going.
Anyone for tennis?
When people say ‘racquet sports’, tennis is often front of mind. Burning 400 calories per hour of play, it’s a great way to boost your health.
With nearly a million Britons swinging their racquets once a month on over 20,000 tennis courts in the UK, tennis is one of the UK’s most popular sports.
Anyone capable of holding a racquet can play. Tennis clubs have become increasingly inclusive over the years – offering smaller courts, sound balls and chair tennis to cater for a range of disabilities.
There are also plenty of schemes such as Free Tennis, Tennis Tuesday, Miss Hits and Cardio-Tennis aimed at making the sport exclusive to all. Check with your local club or visit www.lta.org.uk to find local tennis schemes.
However there are plenty of other racquet sports to try if tennis isn’t your thing.
A quick game of squash
Unlike other racquet sports, which are played over a net, squash is played in a four-walled court, with a small rubber ball. It’s fast and furious – played at its fastest it burns the most calories of all the racquet sports at approximately 800 an hour. A squash game lasts about 40 minutes, so can be fit into a lunch break or a busy lifestyle.
Squash 57, which used to be called racketball, is a slightly slower paced version of the game, which places emphasis on longer rallies. It is a great introduction to squash type games and is perfect for people who may feel excluded by the fast rate of squash. Played with a larger ball, it’s also a useful way to introduce children to playing on a squash court.
Badminton uses round-headed racquets to hit a shuttlecock (a feathered projectile) to and fro across a net. The net is higher than in tennis, usually at adult head height.
Like tennis, badminton can be played in singles or doubles, so it’s a great activity for families or for making friends. And with 24,000 badminton courts available across the UK, there’s likely to be one near you.
Played at professional level, badminton will burn about 327 calories an hour. However many clubs offer entry-level and gentler matches, which can be good for those with less mobility or people who are recovering from injury.
Like tennis, badminton is highly accessible with community badminton networks, disability groups and young people’s groups. You can find more details at www.badmintonengland.co.uk.
Time for tables
Table tennis, which is also known as ping pong, is played by 2.4 million people in the UK. Playing with a lightweight bat, competitors hit a small ball across a table, which is strung with a net.
Play is fast and over time it will help with your reactions, agility and speed. As this game is played across a special table, it is the most inclusive of the racquet sports. Table tennis is not limited to sports clubs, many community centres, bars, schools, cafes and even workplaces have a table.
So if you’ve not ever given racquet sports a try, there are plenty to choose from. Why not test them out to see which you enjoy and what fits into your lifestyle best – you’re more likely to stick at it if you do!