Net benefits

Want to be healthier in 2017? Make your New Year resolution to pick up a racket and you’ll live longer, say researchers

Wouldn’t it just be great to be an Andy Murray or Johanna Konta? Britain’s world number one men’s tennis star and the UK’s top ranked women’s player. OK, so it’s an unlikely scenario but, hey, we can all dream. And anyway, there’s plenty of other reasons to get out there on the courts in 2017.

According to a study by Oxford University and researchers in Finland and Australia, playing racket sports regularly help you live longer and could halve your chance of dying young. The researchers say the difference may lie in the social aspect which goes alongside sports like tennis and squash, which often involve clubs and organised activities outside of the game. It means that people often have larger social networks and tend to keep up activities into later life, both of which are proven to be good for health.

Clubs, up and down the country are doing their bit to inspire their local communities to take up racket sports. Here in Birmingham for instance, Edgbaston Priory Club operates a community tennis scheme which has introduced more than 2,000 schoolchildren to tennis and now coaches over 420 players locally at its centres in Cannon Hill Park, Lordswood School and the Circle, Harborne.

Health experts say there are six key reasons to take up a racket sport:

1. IT’S A GREAT CALORIE BURNER

One hour on court burns around 600 calories and because you are having so much fun you hardly notice.

2. IT’S A WHOLE-BODY WORKOUT

All that running, stopping, starting, jumping and crouching gives the lower body a good workout. Then add in all that hitting which keeps your trunk, shoulders and upper back toned.

3. IT LOWERS THE RISK OF DIABETES AND HEART DISEASE

Playing racket sport regularly improves your heart and lung health and reduces your risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.

4. IT EXERCISES THE GREY MATTER

Tennis keeps your mind agile because you need to stay focused on the ball, judge which balls to return or leave and decide, in a split second, which shot to make.

5. IT WILL KEEP YOU HEALTHIER FOR LONGER

Taking part in a course or joining a club will open up a whole new social network to play doubles with. These friendships will last a lifetime and ensure you keep active well into old age.

6. FOR ALL AGES AND ABILITIES

Juniors, adults and seniors can all enjoy a session on the court. And you don’t need to be super-star status. Racket sports deliver for everyone from knock-about amateurs to serious professionals.

WHAT THE RESEARCH SHOWS

Racket sports, badminton and tennis, are most protective to health, while football and running are bottom of the table.

Racket sports reduce the overall risk of death by 47 per cent, compared to 28 per cent for swimming, 27 per cent for aerobic exercise and only 15 per cent for cycling.

Racket sports reduce the risk of death from heart disease by 56 per cent, compared to 41 per cent for swimming and 36 per cent for aerobic exercise.

Edgbaston Priory runs a range of courses for all ages and all levels, from beginners to those who used to play but have lapsed. For juniors this includes Judy Murray’s Miss-Hits programme devised specially to encourage young girls to play tennis. More details call 0121 440 2492 or visit www.edgbastonpriory.com