Wellness & Tennis: Partnership Within The Lines

A Three Part Series From Beyond The Baselines – Part One
By Christine Murphy

Christine Murphy Foltz hitting a forehand on a tennis court
Christine Murphy-Foltz hitting serving up a health and wellness on the tennis court.

I admit, I’m a tennis ‘Boomer’, introduced by my Dad to the sport at the tender age of 8. As a fireman and tennis pro, he created a wonderful family tennis lifestyle full of lessons, tournaments, and practice sessions that he and other area pros taught. Fully immersed in hosting tournaments, playing in them, and playing together as a family has been a nourishing part of my life in different degrees ever since.

But, I’m a babyboomer. I boomed onto the court in the 70s. Generation Z, born after 2000, is considered the first generation predicted to live shorter lives than their parents.  As of 2016, the American Medical Association has predicted 27% of children in the United States are currently living with chronic health conditions that were only experienced by adults. High blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, Type II diabetes, obesity, allergies, cancers, autism, chronic inflammation, and even autoimmune diseases are showing up in children, especially those exposed to the Standard American Diet.  In 2010, a study published in The J.A.M.A., stated chronic illness in children had doubled from 12.8% in 1994 to 26.6% in 2006.

Can Tennis Help Change Health Outcomes?

In the middle of this healthcare crisis, tennis may bring more hope now than ever before, as a potential to transcend our health crisis.  Tennis is being enjoyed as early as 3 and older than 100!  It’s been proven to provide many positive benefits and been named the “sport for a lifetime” by the American College of Sports Medicine.  It provides very important life enhancing tools for balancing our physical and well-being. So, how can we bring tennis to a society that looks for shortcuts in fitness and sport?

My fitness and wellness background led me to look at my assignment from a different perspective. I began to discover all there was to know about the state of tennis for the recreational novice as well as the seasoned senior player and how I could look at fitness as a way of attracting players who had given up the sport or newcomers who had never tried tennis. I attended and presented at national and state tennis, recreational, and senior conferences. I polled people at the Miami Open, and asked pros and directors for feedback at tennis industry conferences. I wanted to find out what the national and state industries and missions were for health and wellness that applied to various demographics.

What I found was disturbing. There was a clear disconnect between tennis providers and players.  Players felt frustration when returning to tennis when recovering from injuries, surgery, or returning after being pulled away due to family or work responsibilities. This time away from tennis decreased their athletic abilities, and tennis for them became lumped into the “weekend warrior” syndrome:  give it your all because you don’t know when you’ll be back.  New injuries and disappointment in their body’s performance level began fail their expectations. They forgot their bodies weren’t in the same shape as they thought. Their balance and timing was off, their muscles were weaker and joints were stiff, so injuries occurred.  Their doctor told them to rest.  The weight added on, fitness capacity decreased, and frustration set in.

Millennials have even a more warped sense of long-term health. Just this week I saw a study that showed that smoking in USA is once again on the rise and that the number of millennials using sunscreen is down along the same numbers as twenty years ago. And I believe health is viewed in the same way. As a wellness provider and consultant, I view it as my job to educate and inform my younger peers, colleagues and world citizens.

As industry professionals we need to remind our players and students that tennis, at any level, is a great form of exercise, easier than most on joints and free from contact injuries. On average, an hour of intermediate tennis on the doubles court will burn close to 250 calories for someone 150lbs. Singles or rallying could burn up and over 500 calories. Depending on your diet, this could help you lose safely, and wisely, up to a pound a week, which is what a smart goal at weight loss would be.

While at the same time, tennis is hugely beneficial to balance, agility and movement. Working almost every major muscle group in the body, tennis is a fantastic sport for athletic motion.

Christine Murphy-Foltz is a former USTA Florida Masters Tennis Ambassador as well as an owner/operator of her own health coaching business which specializes in balancing sport, health and fitness.


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