Did 'Challengers' give you the tennis bug? Here are 5 reasons to take up the sport.

Tennis player appearing to strike tennis ball with racket.
Tennis is great for your cardiovascular, mental and bone health. (Getty Images)

Tennis — and its fashion — is having a moment, thanks to the Zendaya film Challengers, which debuted on April 22. And you may be feeling the “Challengers effect” that’s driven searches for “adult tennis lessons,” up by 245%, according to an analysis done by Venture Smarter. Thinking about taking up the sport as Grand Slam season picks up again? Experts say it’s worth doing, as tennis has a host of benefits for your physical and mental well-being.

Ready to get your racket on? Here’s what to know about tennis as a form of exercise, from what it does for the body and mind to how it stacks up against such sports as pickleball.

Experts say that tennis is a boon for full-body health. “Tennis engages the mind and the body,” Dr. Constance Chu, a professor of orthopedic surgery at Stanford University, tells Yahoo Life. “Thus, the health benefits involve the entire person.”

But the game is especially good for:

  • Heart health: Any activity that gets you moving enough to elevate your heart rate will improve and protect your cardiovascular health. But tennis is particularly good for heart health because it is a “high-intensity interval sport, and this type of exercise is really good for cardiovascular fitness as well as calorie burning,” Dr. Anikar Chhabra, head of Mayo Clinic Arizona’s sports medicine department, tells Yahoo Life. High-intensity interval training workouts alternate short bursts of high-intensity movement with periods of active recovery, during which you’re still moving, but with less intensity. Tennis requires an occasional sprint across the court, as well as lower intensity periods when you’re simply staying light on your feet with your knees bent, or jogging.

  • Strength: “Medically, tennis is very good for muscle tone and strengthening, because it involves a lot of squatting and lateral movement, which helps with legs and core,” says Chhabra, a former basketball player. Muscle tone and strength both help us keep better balance for longer, and lateral movement particularly helps to improve and preserve mobility. “We’re looking for a lot of sports that help with flexibility and balance, and tennis does that,” Chhabra says.

  • Better bones: The “pounding” of your feet on the pavement while running or making explosive movements on the tennis court can support bone health, Chhabra says. The pressure applied to the bones during these motions will cause bones and joints to adapt and become stronger, according to a concept from physiology called “Wolff’s law,” he explains.

  • Improved mental health: “Tennis is a very strategic game — it involves concentration and out-thinking your opponent,” Chhabra says. “It’s a game that can really strengthen your mind.” He adds that “sports increase levels of serotonin, which is a hormone that helps boost mood and improve mental health.” Research has also demonstrated the mental health benefits of tennis; one study found that playing it reduced college students’ levels of anxiety, depression and obsessive tendencies. Importantly, Chhabra adds, the coordination and strategy of tennis call upon different regions of the brain, “which helps keep you mentally young — it keeps us sharp.”

  • Socializing: Amid a loneliness epidemic, tennis can be a salve. “Tennis can be a very social game,” says Chhabra. “It can give people a sense of connection and belonging.” And research suggests that getting involved in physical activities can reduce loneliness. Those who socialize (even a little bit) also tend to live longer than those who don’t.

Experts say that any sport or activity that will get you moving and connecting to others is worth doing — and the more the merrier. “You shouldn’t just play tennis, you should do other complementary activities so you work other muscles and parts of your body,” says Chhabra, who suggests strength training, biking or swimming.

But tennis does have some special advantages. For one, many people are capable of playing. “Tennis can be learned and played by anyone of any age who has good overall mobility and correctable vision,” Chu says. “The keys to enjoying tennis at any age are learning and practicing good form and technique, playing at one’s current level and finding a committed peer group.” Chhabra describes tennis as “adaptable to all skill levels: You can play tennis whether you’re good or bad, and it’s all ages; you can play with your kids and you don't have to be at the same level.”

And one study found that racket sports (which would include both tennis and pickleball) are linked to the greatest reduction in the risk of dying compared to playing other popular sports, including cycling, swimming and aerobics.

Pickleball doesn’t offer quite as much aerobic exercise as tennis, because it’s played on a smaller court, which may be a drawback for those looking to intensify their workouts, or a benefit, especially for older adults or those who haven’t been exercising regularly. “You can get away with playing pickleball [while] being a little less physically active,” says Chhabra, “but that’s also why we’re seeing a little more injuries” associated with the sport.

Tennis is a relatively easy sport to pick up, but that doesn’t mean it’s without risks, especially for older adults. “As we get older, we tend to see certain groups of [tennis] injuries,” including rotator cuff tears, says Chhabra.

Quick lateral movements involved in the game can also make players prone to ankle sprains and knee injuries. And, of course, all that swinging can lead to the tendon injury known as tennis elbow (though most people who develop the injury are actually not tennis players, according to the Mayo Clinic).

But some simple steps can help you hit the court safely, at any age. First of all, “beginners should start slowly,” Chhabra says, so don’t start out trying to play a full, Wimbledon-style five sets, and seek out lessons to learn the fundamentals, if you can. Secondly, make sure you have the right gear. “The wrong equipment can lead to injuries,” Chhabra says, emphasizing that you should be sure to use a racket that has the correct grip size for your hand and wear proper tennis shoes that prevent toe injuries, absorb impact and support your feet through direction changes.

Most importantly, never jump into a round of tennis — or any sport — without warming up and stretching thoroughly. “Do stretches that make you feel uncomfortable,” Chhabra advises. “If you’re not a little sore when you’re stretching, you’re probably not doing the right thing.” Take particular care to stretch your shoulders, quads, hamstrings, elbows and calves. Chhabra suggests seeing a trainer to make sure you know the proper stretches for your body and activities, but, if that’s not in your budget, check out trusted online resources for stretching guides.