“Tennis players live nine years longer,” I said to the guys I was playing doubles with the other day. “I know because I read it in The Times, and if The Times says it, it’s so.”
They tended to be skeptical. For one, whom did tennis players outlive, they wanted to know, and why, if it were so, was it so?
Back at the office, I made inquiries on the internet, and there it was, a study done in Copenhagen five years ago that compared those Danes who played tennis with those who pursued other sports, and compared sportive Danish oldsters to sedentary ones. That study, which found that tennis players — Danish tennis players anyway — actually lived 9.7 years longer than sedentary folk, apparently rated tennis as a more beneficial sport longevity-wise than those generally pursued alone, like jogging, cycling, and swimming, apparently because tennis offered social as well as cardiovascular benefits. Moreover, hitting the ball squarely releases endorphins. (Contrariwise, in my case, a mishit produces a shit fit.)
Nevertheless, tennis is a sport that I would recommend to anyone of any age, especially to those whose heads, unlike mine, are screwed on right. In fact, the other day, when Meredith Spolarich, a young all-around athlete I was interviewing, said she might like to give tennis a try, I retrieved from the trunk of my car a compound-fractured racket (the victim of a tantrum thrown at 75) that I usually use to prop up the hood when checking the oil, and told her I could teach her all she needed to know in a couple of minutes. And, verily, using the grips I’d showed her, she was soon swinging low to high and reaching for the sky.
Irene once told me that everything in life is a trade-off, and so I find myself at 83 hitting the ball better than I ever have and unable to move.
You have to laugh, and that, it occurs to me, may have more to do with longevity than what sport one pursues.