Five Fitness Ideas Using the Lowly Tennis Ball

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Recently, I opened my car trunk and noticed my stash of tennis balls. I’ve got quite a collection and have started keeping these in a big bucket to use when friends and I decide to go hit tennis balls. But if you stop and think about it, there are a lot of fitness-based uses for these bright green orbs. Here are a few that I came up with off the top of my head.

    1. Tennis – Even I’ll admit, that’s an obvious one. I used to play loads of tennis, including singles matches that would last 2-3 hours.  The Cleveland Clinic notes that tennis provides physical, physiologic and psychological benefits. For instance, this sport is great for cardiovascular health, and can improve balance, agility and mobility. You also can burn a lot of calories. A woman who weighs 135 pounds can burn 330 calories while playing an hour of doubles tennis and 420 calories when playing a singles match. And an average-sized man can burn 425 calories playing doubles tennis for an hour; if he plays singles, the number of calories he burns can jump to 600. And needless to say, psychologically it feels great to clobber the tennis ball as a way to vent your frustration with the economy, your boss, or whatever else is bothering you. And the great part of tennis is that once you make the initial investment of a tennis racquet and a good pair of tennis shoes (along with the occasional purchase of new tennis balls), it’s a relatively cheap sport to play.

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    2. A game of catch – Obviously, you can use a baseball or a softball, but a tennis ball is just as useful. According to, a game of catch uses upper body strength. In addition, it burns a small to moderate number of calories depending on the intensity of what you’re doing. For instance, if you weigh 180 and play catch for 50 minutes, you’ll burn 204 calories, according to their tracker. I’d suggest another benefit would be improved hand-eye coordination, which can help you in a multitude of daily activities.

    3. Juggling – I haven’t mastered this art, but juggling can be a good workout. According to, juggling is considered an aerobic exercise, helps strengthen the core, improves coordination, and maintains and even increases your range of motion in the arms and shoulders. (Who knew?) But not surprisingly, juggling is great for the brain. The website notes that research has found that juggling increases the brain’s gray matter. In addition, this activity may help prevent Alzheimer’s and improve problem-solving skills.

    4. Canine soccer. OK, this is not an official sport, but I used to play “soccer” using a tennis ball with my dog, Zoe, down the long hallway in my house. I’d try to keep the ball away from her while trying to drive toward the goal (the wall at the end of the hallway). Then we'd turn around and repeat the activity. Needless to say, I had to avoid kicking Zoe, but we both had a lot of fun and got a bit of a workout, albeit her more than me. But this little made-up activity definitely worked on my legs and improved my coordination as I tried to maneuver the tennis ball past that smart and agile little miniature Schnauzer.

  • 5. A personal masseuse. So this isn’t exercise, but it’s very much worth noting. Tennis balls can do wonders in helping you ease up tight muscular areas. For example, my friend Sondra and I recently went to a college football game. We ended up standing for around 5 hours during the pregame festivities and the actual competition. Once we got back to our respective cars, we found that our leg and foot muscles were definitely talking to us. We had to wait for the traffic to clear, so I suddenly hit upon my bright idea. I pulled two tennis balls out of the trunk and handed one to Sondra, who looked at me quizzically. I then showed her how to massage the ball of the foot by rolling the tennis ball under it. She tried it and there were audible sighs of relief as the tennis ball eased the tight muscles in her foot. And that’s not all – you can even use a tennis ball as a way to de-tense stiff back muscles.

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    It’s wonderful how useful a tennis ball can be! But I’m sure that my list isn’t all-inclusive. So it’s time for you to share - are there other fitness ideas that you’ve come up with for these spheres?

Published On: September 28, 2011

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