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Tennis offers a viable aerobic exercise for burning calories.
A high-speed game of singles tennis can leave even veteran athletes drenched in sweat. The calories burned in an hour of chasing a tennis ball across the court are enough to rival those of intense workouts, such as running and cross-country skiing. However, like all aerobic exercises, the number of calories you burn is directly related to how fast your heart is beating. For best results, keep your pulse elevated and within 85 percent of your maximum heart rate for the entire hour.
How it Works
As your muscles begin churning at peak performance, your heart and lungs have to work harder to provide steady streams of fresh blood and oxygen. This causes your pulse to increase and your breathing to intensify as your cardiovascular system becomes taxed. Simply put, the more your heart rate increases, the more calories you burn. To find your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from the number 220, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For example, if your age is 35, your maximum heart rate is 185 beats per minute. When you engage in an intense game of tennis, you will want to keep your heart rate elevated, yet below 85 percent of this number, which is 157 beats per minute.
Calories Burned Per Hour
A vigorous game of singles tennis can expect to burn between 528 and 872 calories, depending on your body weight, according to MayoClinic.com. This is comparable to an hour of solid running at 5 miles per hour, or an intense game of basketball. The more you weigh, the more calories you can expect to burn with each hour-long session. Other factors that can affect calorie loss are the size of the tennis court and the type of match you are playing.
The Bigger Picture
Unlike some noncompetitive exercises, tennis actively engages your mind with a constant stream of minute calculations relating to your footwork and hand placements. When the ball is served to your side of the court, your first priority is to send it back from the most advantageous position possible. This makes it easy to forget that you're even exercising at all, until you find yourself panting for breath halfway through the match. In addition to its aerobic exercise components, tennis also burns calories by toning the muscles in your abs, arms, legs and shoulders.
When it comes to counting calories, it's important to compare the number you burn against the number you consume with food and beverages. An extra hour of intense tennis a day won't help you lose weight if your diet is crammed with junk food and other empty calories. Since each pound of fat requires a 3,500-calorie deficit, you may need to cut your diet down a few hundred calories in order to see a noticeable change to your weight. For best results, consult your physician or personal trainer to make sure you are fit enough to engage in tennis.