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Mental Equipment
March 2000 Article

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Psychological Benefits of Tennis

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Dr. John Murray

For most tennis players, sport psychology is viewed as providing a competitive advantage through performance enhancement, coping strategies and counseling. This discipline investigates countless other areas too, including how individuals are affected by exercise and sport. There are many reasons why tennis is one of the world's most popular sports. Let's examine some psychological benefits of tennis, and other sports too. If you aren't playing much lately, or you'd like to motivate a friend to dust off the old rackets, use this article as doctor's orders to hit the courts!

Numerous studies document the psychological benefits of sport and exercise. Playing regular tennis is fun, but we often overlook the many psychological advantages that enrich not only our experiences on the court, but overall functioning and competitiveness off the court as well.

Improved Mental Functioning

Studies demonstrate that sports such as tennis are associated with improved academic performance and memory, and reduced confusion. While playing tennis is unlikely to raise your IQ or get you into Harvard, it just might provide you the mental edge to think a little clearer and better manage the chaos of daily life.

Enhanced Emotional Health

Sport and exercise on a regular basis may also provide widespread emotional benefits. The literature reports greater emotional stability, improved confidence and assertiveness, more positive body image, fewer phobias, decreased psychotic behavior, reduced anxiety, less anger, and lower levels of depression. Many psychologists and physicians prescribe exercise as an adjunct, or main treatment, for a variety of emotional difficulties.

Improved Physical Functioning

Physical benefits of exercise include fewer headaches, improved sexual satisfaction, reduced muscular tension, and enhanced perceptions. Physical health usually enhances well being, contributing to emotional health as well.

More Efficient Behavior

Sports including tennis may also enhance your behavior in a variety of other areas. Positive associations are reported between sport and overall functioning, self-control, work efficiency, decreased absenteeism, fewer work errors, and decreased alcohol abuse. It's no surprise that smart companies invest in their employees' health with wellness programs, as this increases employee satisfaction and productivity.

How Does It Work?

Why do tennis and other sports appear to have such widespread benefits? While there are rarely simple answers to complex questions, researchers have pointed to a number of psychological and physical explanations including increased self-esteem, self-sufficiency, improved quality of life, distraction from daily hassles, changes in brain neurotransmitters, increased oxygen consumption, and better blood flow in the brain.

Tell Me About Tennis In Your Area?

Since playing tennis makes such good sense for a variety of reasons, ask yourself if you are getting enough tennis in weekly. Tennis has been on the upswing in the United States lately and I expect this trend to continue. Perhaps we'll approach the success that this sport enjoyed in 70's and early 80's. What about tennis in other parts of the world?

I would like to hear how tennis is perceived in your part of the planet. Is the sport gaining in popularity? Is it in decline? What can be done to help? Please send me a message using this form and I'll include some of the best comments in a future column. But ... don't forget that you are under strict doctor's orders to grab a racket, call a friend, and enjoy the many benefits of this great sport. See you next month ...

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This column is copyrighted by Dr. John Murray, all rights reserved.

Dr. John F. Murray is currently a licensed clinical psychologist and sport psychologist in Florida. In addition, he is a tennis professional (having taught tennis internationally in North America, Hawaii, Europe, Middle East), formerly certified with both USPTA and USPTR. He has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology and masters degrees both in Clinical Psychology and Exercise & Sport Sciences from the University of Florida. He maintains a personal web site at http://www.johnfmurray.com/.

Questions and comments about these columns can be directed to John by using this form.


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