Harvard scientists consider this to be one of the most perfect workouts

This article was updated on September 1, 2021

Want to play doubles with a couple of close pals and cathartically launch a tennis ball back and forth? Would you be even more down to reserve the court after discovering volley sports are linked to a longer life-span alongside increased cardiovascular, core, arm and leg strength? Count me in! This Harvard study outlines the benefit of beating badminton’s over clumsily fashioned nets in the park with your friends.

Try playing tennis with a group of friends

Since tennis matches incorporate a lot of bursts of energy coupled with moments of rest and subtle contemplation of your opponent it’s considered an HIIT or “high-intensity interval training.” This kind of work-out boosts cardiovascular health because you engage your core, upper and lower-body muscle groups. A match also burns twice the amount of energy compared to your nightly brisk quarantine stroll.

Cardiovascular health benefits aren’t the only benefits gleaned from this high-intensity interval training. A study by The Department of Health and Human Services in Victoria, Australia outlines more advantages and overreaching benefits of this fun and fast-paced volley sport:

  • Better aerobic capacities
  • Lower resting heart rate and blood pressure
  • Enhanced metabolic function
  • Increased bone density
  • Lower body fat
  • Improved muscle tone, strength and flexibility
  • Quicker reflexes

Harvard physical therapist associated with Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and retired tennis player Joe DiVincenzo adds,

“Playing tennis is an amazing workout. And no matter how good you are, you can have fun doing it,”

It’s a great way to socialize socially-distant style and it’s not too expensive either! Contact your local Parks and Recreation Department for more information on renting out that court or open outdoor space for your next adult field day outing. Concerned you’re not agile enough, no worries! DiVincenzo assures us playing tennis is accessible at any age,

“What older players lose in mobility, they often make up for with skill from years of practice, and that’s what keeps them competitive.”

Low impact recreation more your thing? Pickleball, Ping-Pong or Badminton might be the answer

What is pickleball exactly? Apparently pickleball is the fastest growing sport among elder millennials, what I call folks creeping up to their thirties like me, along with older adults looking for low-impact recreation. Let’s take a look at the guidelines!

“This hybrid sport is a mix of tennis, table tennis, and badminton. The lightweight paddles are a bit bigger than those used to play Ping-Pong, and the plastic pickleball travels at about one-third the speed of a tennis ball, making it easier to see and hit. The game is played both indoors and outdoors, on a small court.”

Low impact racquet based sports like pickleball, badminton and Ping-Pong are just as effective an exercise as a brisk walk going three miles per hour. It’s also a great way to spend a day outside with a group of friends and fun heart-healthy recreation to pass the idle time!

These guidelines and how to get into a game can be found at usapa.org.

The Science behind low-impact HITT workouts

The Harvard study cited the PubMed abstract on high-intensity interval training mentioned earlier breaks down the exertion level measured by MET units here:

“To gauge exertion, exercise researchers often use a standard measure known as a metabolic equivalent, or MET. It’s based on how much oxygen the average person uses during a particular activity: A single MET is the amount of energy you expend when you’re sitting quietly. Activities rated at 2 METs use twice as much oxygen as sitting, 3 METs mean three times as much oxygen, and so on.”

Even the easiest racquet sport — table tennis — requires as much effort as brisk walking. Singles tennis is more vigorous and depends on your skill level; professional players likely reach levels above 8 METs.”

For example, the table presented in this abstract is your MET reach for different activities:

  • Brisk walking (3 miles/hour): -4.0 METs
  • Running (6 miles/hour): -9.8 METs
  • Table tennis (Ping-Pong): -4.0 METs
  • Pickleball: -4.1 METs
  • Doubles Tennis: -4.5–6.0 METs
  • Badminton: -5.5 METs
  • Racquetball: -7.0 METs
  • Squash: -7.3 METs
  • Singles Tennis: -7.0–8.0 METs

In conclusion

I’d much rather play Ping-Pong in the park than go for a moody, brisk walk alone. The exposure to vitamin D is great for you as well! Science gives you the ultimate pass to skip that boring solo cardio and grab a beer for a pickleball tournament this weekend!