When professional tennis player Mardy Fish shed 30 pounds, his nagging injuries cleared up, his play improved dramatically and his world ranking climbed from No. 108 to a career high of No. 7 in 2011. Not only can losing weight help you improve your game, but playing tennis can help you lose the excess weight. A 2008 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that, compared to the general public, tennis players tend to be fitter and carry less body fat, even if they only play a couple times a week.
Set Sensible Goals
Forget the wild promises of fad diets: Trying to lose more than 1 to 2 pounds a week is unwise, according to the National Institutes of Health. You may be able to shed pounds quickly by fasting or following a juice cleanse, but you’ll soon regain the weight. In addition, extremely low-calorie plans could hurt your tennis game by depriving you of the energy necessary to compete on the court. Before beginning a weight loss program, make an appointment to discuss your plan with a doctor who can help you set attainable and healthy weight-loss goals.
To achieve lasting weight loss, you may need to alter your diet. Dropping pounds requires burning more calories than you eat. According to the NIH, most women should follow a diet of around 1,800 calories a day; men about 2,000 calories. Combined with one to two hours of tennis several days a week, most people will soon see the pounds start to melt away. The key, according to the NIH, is to balance the calories in your diet: Choose a meal plan that features fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins, such as chicken breast or tofu. The nutrients and fiber in the produce and grains will keep you healthy and fill you up; the protein will help your muscles rebuild quickly after tennis matches.
Tennis for Weight Loss
For people looking to lose weight, tennis can be excellent for burning calories. Doubles requires about 450 calories an hour for a 170-pound person; singles burns over 600 calories an hour. If you sign up for a aerobic tennis workout such as Cardio Tennis, those numbers can jump to as much as 1,000 calories per hour.
Get More From Your Matches
Increase the calories you burn playing tennis using some effective strategies, as recommended by WeightLossResources.co.uk. Schedule time for a lengthy warmup, and agree with your opponent to try and keep the ball in play as long as possible. Continuous hitting will require more energy than short points during a game. Use only one ball while you’re playing, and run for it every time it goes out of play. While waiting for your opponent to serve or take the court, bounce on the balls of your feet, step side to side or jog in place to keep your heart rate — and calorie burn — elevated.
John Hastings has written and edited health, fitness and science stories for magazines, websites and iPad publications. He has held senior editorial positions at "O, The Oprah Magazine," "Reader’s Digest" and "Health." He has also contributed to magazines such as "Men’s Journal" and "Bon Appetit."