Is Playing Tennis Good Cardio?

When you’re young and you’re used to playing sports frequently, you don’t think of them as a way to burn calories. You choose to play a sport because it’s fun, because your friends play it, or because your parents forced you to do so. However, as you grow older, your metabolism slows down, life becomes busier, and you realize that, if you don’t get off the couch, you will gain weight and get out of shape. 

Until the age of 21, I used to play tennis for 3 or 4 hours a day and still work out after, so I never had to think about how many calories I was eating or about how my cardio was. Honestly, I used to eat 2 giant breakfast burritos every Wednesday morning and would still not gain weight. Now, I feel like I gain weight every time I so little as smell bread. Naturally, I had to start thinking about sports in terms of which ones will help me with my cardio, help me lose weight, and still be quite enjoyable. Since I have played tennis all my life, I figured it would be a good one to start with. 

So is playing tennis considered to be a good cardio workout? When you play tennis, you move your whole body constantly, which causes your heart rate to increase and pump more oxygen into your system. That is the true definition of a good cardio workout. Tennis will also make you burn a lot of calories, helping you lose belly fat.

If you would like some more information before making a decision on whether tennis is the right cardio exercise for you, I suggest you continue reading this article. Below we will cover what a good cardio workout consists of, and how many calories you will burn when playing tennis.

What Is Considered To Be Good Cardio?

Many people talk about their cardio exercises, yet the vast majority of them don’t know exactly what a good cardio workout entails. Cardio workouts – also known as cardiovascular or aerobic exercises – are workouts in which your larger muscles (arms, shoulders, legs, back) are either constantly or frequently moving. Since your body is constantly moving, your heart will need to work harder to pump more blood, raising your heart rate and making you breathe faster. 

By making your heart work faster, cardio workouts force more oxygen into your system (if you don’t remember your anatomy classes, our hearts absorb CO2 and release O2 into our bodies). Every time you engage in a cardio workout, your body trains itself to use oxygen more efficiently. As that happens, many other positive things will happen in your body (which I will mention later). 

Based on the definition above, tennis can be considered a very good cardio workout. You’re moving frequently, using your arms and legs, raising your heart rate, and breathing more frequently. Some tennis exercises (like rallies or moving) will be better cardio workouts than others (short points).

Below are some other sports that are considered to be good cardio exercises:

  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Rope Jumping
  • Rowing
  • Boxing
  • Swimming

Benefits of Good Cardio Workouts

Now that we’ve covered the science behind a cardio workout, I wanted to mention some of the benefits that they will bring you. By choosing to play tennis as a cardio exercise, you will reap the following benefits:

  1. Decrease the risk of several different cardiovascular conditions;
  2. Burn calories and lose weight;
  3. Improve your stamina and endurance;
  4. Stabilize your mood and increase energy;
  5. Improve concentration;
  6. Strengthen and tone your muscles.

How Many Calories Do You Burn In Tennis?

Calculating how many calories you will burn while playing tennis is not super simple. The exact number will depend on your age, weight, gender, the intensity of your workout, and how used your body is to playing. However, I have tried categorizing and estimating a rough number depending on your weight and the type of tennis workout you’re engaging in. The following numbers are based on approximately 1 hour of tennis.

Your WeightModerate Drills or HittingDoublesSingles
120 lbs286 kcal344 kcal458 kcal
140 lbs334 kcal401 kcal535 kcal
160 lbs382 kcal458 kcal611 kcal
180 lbs430 kcal 515 kcal687 kcal
200 lbs477 kcal573 kcal764 kcal
220 lbs525 kcal630 kcal840 kcal

Just as a reference, a 140-pound person running for an hour at about a 6 mph speed will burn roughly 640 calories. A 180-pound person running at the same pace for an hour will burn about 800 calories. As you can see, tennis will burn a similar amount of calories when compared to running – and it’s a lot more fun!

Can You Really Lose Weight By Playing Tennis?

You know now how many calories you might be able to burn after playing an hour of tennis, but how does that translate into how much weight you will lose? At the end of the day, weight loss happens when you consume fewer calories than you spend. Since tennis helps you burn calories, it can definitely help you lose weight. 

In order for you to lose one pound, you should have a deficit of about 3500 calories. What that means is that, if you are eating a balanced diet and you decide to play tennis for 3 or 4 hours a week, you will lose one pound every 1 – 2 weeks.

Does Tennis Help Lose Belly Fat?

When we consider different workouts, most of us are really looking for the workout that will help us lose belly fat the fastest. At the end of the day, in order to lose belly fat, you will need to lose weight in your whole body. Unfortunately, belly fat is usually one of the last ones to disappear. 

However, tennis is considered a good workout to lose belly fat. Generally, cardio workouts are considered to be helpful when it comes to burning belly fat. The fact that you are using your lower and upper body while playing tennis will help with the activation of your whole body, which will help with losing belly fat. Additionally, you use your core for essentially every tennis stroke – which will help you tone your abs. 

What Muscles Does Tennis Work?

While tennis is considered to exercise your whole body, there are some muscles that will naturally work harder than others. When it comes to your legs the muscles that will work the hardest are your calves, hamstrings, glutes, quads, adductors, and abductors. If you start paying attention, most tennis players have very well defined calves and quads. 

When playing tennis, you will also exercise your upper body a lot. Your abs (once again, great for burning belly fat!), shoulders, upper back, chest, and forearms will work hard and frequently, which will help them to become stronger and more toned. 

You should expect to feel quite sore after playing tennis, especially if you are not used to playing it often. Having a good recovery strategy is extremely important to reduce any soreness, so we’ve written an article that lays out the best recovery methods, and you can check it out here – 9 Post-Match Recovery Strategies for Tennis Players.


If you’re still wondering whether tennis will be a good cardio workout for you, I highly recommend that you at least give it a shot. It will most certainly help you when it comes to your health, but it is also a lot of fun and it will help you make friends. Soon, you will be hooked!

Gui Hadlich

I got a chance to play junior and professional tournaments across the world, and in 2015 I began playing as the #1 player for Pepperdine University, a great division 1 school. I’ve had the chance to play against great names of the new generation, like Christian Garin, Cameron Norrie, and Kyle Edmund. I’m extremely passionate about the mental and technical part of the game. Oh, and I had lunch with Brad Gilbert once.

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