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Monday, November 7, 2011

REFLECTIONS: Aerobic fitness burns brightly

A report by Jack Groppel, Ph.D., and the USPTA, entitled Tennis for the Health of It, states the following: The American College of Sports Medicine has cited that more calories may be burned in high-intensity intervals of exercise interspersed with low to moderate intensity levels. That’s exactly what tennis provides. It is interval training, due to the nature of how points are played. Because the heart rate gets into a fat-burning zone and then can easily go higher, tennis has been recognized as one of the leading activities that help to burn fat. Also, because the intensity of tennis can get fairly high, depending on how hard a player works while playing, and because tennis is purely an interval sport, more fat is burned after working out than during the time on court.
    Now I'm neither a scientist nor a doctor. But I can tell you that years ago I recall tennis being low on the list for activities that were considered a good aerobic workout. Doctors determined that the nature of the sport, stops and starts between points, did not provide an adequate sustained heart rate for aerobic benefit when compared to something like running. HORSEHOCKEY! After decades of playing tennis, I can tell you that when I move through a crowd, I'm always the one moving the quickest and without the associated shortness of breath I regularly see from adults even 10 to 30 years my junior. 
    After another solid hitting session this past Sunday morning, 1-½ hours of heartpounding forehands, backhands, volleys and overheads, I was dripping sweat in the midst of the east coast's low 50's temperature this time of year. But even better, according to the above study, I'm burning fat AFTER I leave the court due to the interval nature of the sport. In a society where we are constantly battling our weight-to-snacks ratio, I say HURRAH to that.
    I liken tennis to a candle. When you light it, the flame starts small but grows with intensity as the wick burns into the candle wax. The flame continues to consume all resources available, and even when the wick is extinguished with a puff of air, its embers continue to smolder for some time. I know that when I leave the court, my body is still working overtime as the body's cooling system of perspiration and evaporation do their job. I may burn brightest on a tennis court, but I would like to think that the health benefits of tennis will help me burn for a very long time ahead.

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