Tennis is an individual sport and provides a total-body workout.
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The recent focus on the dangers of collision and contact sports, to both professional and student athletes, has highlighted some of the serious injuries sustained through body blows. But there are plenty of opportunities for improving fitness and enjoying an athletic challenge that don't involve the risks that come from smashing into other people, stationary objects or the ground. Non-contact sports can be as demanding as any football game or boxing match -- with far less risk for permanent injury.
Running, Walking and Jogging
Get your legs moving and get in shape. Studies by the American Heart Association show that brisk walking has the same benefits on cardiovascular health as running. In addition, walking for about an hour a day can cut the weight-gaining tendency of specific inherited genes in half. Running, walking and jogging are only contact sports if you don't look where you are going. The potential to improve heart health, bone density and resistance to chronic disease, as well staying trim, makes them ideal activities for the fitness-minded. Moderate and intense walking, jogging or running sessions reduce the risks for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease.
Tennis, badminton and tabletop tennis require quick reflexes, quick thinking, power, agility, endurance and practice. Each has the potential to be a lifelong sport and provides a competitive and social way to stay in shape. A 2007 study published in the "British Journal of Sports Medicine" concluded that tennis improves aerobic fitness, increases good cholesterol and decreases bad cholesterol, builds stronger bones, lowers the risk of heart disease and heart attack and gives you a leaner body. Table tennis offers similar benefits -- the faster your hand moves, the faster your brain works to stay ahead of the game. Surprisingly, elite badminton players can enjoy even greater cardiovascular benefits than tennis players, according to an earlier study published in the same journal.
Hit the water and help your heart, joints, bones and waistline. Swimming and other non-contact, water-based exercise increases range of motion without placing stress on your joints. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you can work out longer and stronger with less muscle wear and tear in water. Diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, bone density and mood all improve from regular water sports, whether it's daily laps or weekend kayaking. Rowing targets all major muscle groups, increases range of motion and cardio endurance, burns calories and improves your balance. Surfing and boardsailing also provide vigorous exercise and build strength, but the possibility of a wipeout makes them low-contact sports.
Comparative Risks and Benefits
Contact sports are inherently violent because they involve deliberate and forceful impacts. This can either be with fellow players, in the case of boxing, hockey and football, or with the ground in sports like rodeo and ski jumping. Limited contact sports, like volleyball, basketball and fencing, have a high probability of occasional, inadvertent contact, mostly due to loss of balance or control. Non-contact sports are not guaranteed to be injury-free, but are are relatively or completely contact-free. All sports demand an increasing level of fitness, and benefit from targeted cross-training to build cardiovascular conditioning and strength. Non-contact sports offer the additional benefit of improved fitness with greater control over injury risks.