Published: August 12, 2021
This summer’s Olympic Games might have you thinking about adding tennis to your exercise routine, but don’t be surprised if you meet lots of older players on the court.
Consider these 3 studies:
- A Harvard University study of 10,000 people during a 20-year period found that playing 3 hours of tennis a week can cut your risk of death in half from any cause;
- A study of nearly 8,600 adults in Denmark over nearly a quarter century found that tennis players had the biggest gains in life expectancy over sedentary individuals, adding 9.7 years to their lives.
- And a British study of 80,000 adults found that people who play tennis and badminton s had a 56% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease after nine years compared to other physical activities.
Plus playing tennis on a regular basis is good for mental and emotional well-being, experts say. It reduces stress, increases brain power and helps develop problem-solving skills. According to Dr. Jim Gavin at Concordia University and author of The Exercise Habit, tennis outperforms all other sports in developing “positive personality characteristics.”
Kendalites Know All about the Sport’s Advantage
Kendal’s outdoor tennis courts were designed and built soon after Kendal opened in 1993.
“Kendal Founders Toni and Bill Renfrow and Ken and Gretchen Roose, good tennis friends in Oberlin, wanted to be sure we had two soft-surface courts to attract and retain tennis players who would play together. Both Ken and Bill were phenomenal players and great teachers of the sport,” said Kendal CEO Barbara Thomas, an avid tennis player.
The tennis courts set a “welcoming tone” from the start, Barbara said. “It showed that Kendal was a community in unity with our larger community.”
Kendal’s tennis season typically gets underway in May to coincide with Oberlin College commencement. That’s also when the college holds reunions and in earlier years Ken would invite alumni to come to Kendal and play tennis.
Kendal offers limited membership to outside players and on any given day the courts are being used by residents – the oldest is in his mid-90s - and non-residents. Along with two well-maintained clay courts Kendal has a rebounder hitting net so tennis players can work on strokes when a partner isn’t available. (During cold months, players head to the indoor courts at Oberlin College.)
David Dauphiné has been playing tennis most of his life so when and his wife Posie moved to Kendal a year ago he headed to the courts.
“It’s been an important way for me to get to know people in these days of Covid seclusion. It’s inexpensive to get into the sport and then it’s only a can of balls a month. Also, it’s right here—- a walk or bike ride away from home,” he said.
Along with the social benefits, David says the sport keeps him in good physical and mental shape.
“With a good warm up, tennis involves sharpening one’s reflexes, coordinating body and eye movements, developing technique and strategy, and provides a good aerobic—-and, occasionally, a good anaerobic workout. An hour of tennis with evenly skilled players is superb exercise that can be enjoyed at any age,” he said.
For Barbara, there’s nothing better than starting her workday playing 40 to 50 minutes of tennis.
“Being at Kendal almost 30 years, I regretted ending too many long workdays without any exercise. I know a workout on the tennis court will give me close to 4,000 of my 10,000 steps a day. This makes a huge difference in how I mentally start and end my day.
“Besides that, I love to take the ‘pulse’ of Kendal by informal conversations between points. I may not play as often as other players due to meetings or travel, but I stand by my belief – any day that starts on the tennis court is a better day.”
Keeping Your Brain Healthy as You Get Older
It is important to stay active and eat well to stay healthy and fit, but you have to keep your brain healthy, too.
In the past, Molly Kavanaugh frequently wrote about Kendal at Oberlin for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, where she was a reporter for 16 years. Now we are happy to have her writing for the Kendal at Oberlin Community.
About Kendal at Oberlin: Kendal is a nonprofit life plan community serving older adults in northeast Ohio. Located about one mile from Oberlin College and Conservatory, and about a 40 minute drive from downtown Cleveland, Kendal offers a vibrant resident-led lifestyle with access to music, art and lifelong learning.