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Can You Lose Weight by Playing Tennis?

Get-Fit Guy loves a good game of tennis. But can playing sports socially help you trim your waistline? Find out

By
Ben Greenfield
2-minute read

Most people know me for being an Ironman triathlete, but tennis is actually my absolute favorite sport on the face of the planet. After all, it just feels really good to take a break from swimming, cycling, and running and simply hit a ball every now and then.

When I’m at the tennis courts, I often encounter people who are under the impression that they’re burning lots of calories, toning their body, or losing inches off their waistline by playing tennis. But when I take sidelong glances at many fellow players, I notice they take a long time standing around between points, constantly chat and rest, and never seem to even break a sweat or breathe hard.

And while there’s nothing wrong with treating sports such as tennis or golf as a fun social experience, you shouldn’t expect to burn fat or build muscle if you’re not breathing hard! My impetus for pointing this out was a study that appeared this week in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research entitled “The activity intensities reached when playing active tennis gaming relative to sedentary gaming, tennis game-play, and current activity recommendations in young adults.”

In the study, researchers found that an extremely small percentage of people actually reach any energy expenditure during tennis that even comes close to meeting the current recommendations for activity intensity to burn fat or build fitness! The only study participants who actually reached an appropriate intensity and heart rate were the ones involved in focused, active, competitive game play.

So the take-away message is this: If you want to burn fat, build muscle, or get fit by playing sports, make sure that you really feel like you’re working when you play. You should be sweating and breathing hard. If not, you’re still having fun – but you may need to be doing a bit extra to actually make a dent in your waistline (especially if you’re partaking in a post-sports beer, smoothie, or energy bar)!

Do you have questions about whether playing sports can help with fat loss? Then leave a comment over at Facebook.com/GetFitGuy!

Woman playing tennis image courtesy of Shutterstock.

All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ben Greenfield

Ben Greenfield received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from University of Idaho in sports science and exercise physiology; personal training and strength and conditioning certifications from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA); a sports nutrition certification from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), an advanced bicycle fitting certification from Serotta. He has over 11 years’ experience in coaching professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes from all sports, and as helped hundreds of clients achieve weight loss and fitness success.