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Tennis stars help launch UK’s largest study into whether the sport helps us age more healthily

tennis launch June 17th Friday 17 June 2016

Tennis legends Jeremy Bates and Peter McNamara, ATP player Wang Qiang, and one of the UK’s most promising young tennis stars Macy Clarke helped researchers at Liverpool Hope University launch the UK’s biggest study into whether playing tennis can help us age more healthily.  

A team of physiologists, biomechanics specialists, medical professionals, nutritionists and psychologists will measure the physical, nutritional and psychological wellbeing of more than 100 amateur and professional tennis players aged between 18-25 and 35-65. The scientists will compare body composition, electrical activity, 3D motion capture data,muscle strength, overall fitness, vascular function, cholesterol, eating habits and emotional wellbeing of the volunteers. The study is the biggest in the UK in terms of sample size and type of data collected.

Jeremy Bates, Peter McNamara and Wang Qiang, who are all involved in this year’s Liverpool Hope University International Tennis Tournament, visited the university’s Sports Biomechanics lab (in the new £8.5 million Health Sciences Building) to find out more about the new research. The scientists conducted a 3D-motion analysis of 11-year-old tennis star Macy Clarke while she played against the professional players. The researchers hope to compare Macy’s early career data to the data from their study volunteers.      

It is hoped that the Liverpool Hope University study will identify whether regular participation in the sport can enhance the overall health and quality of life by slowing down the ageing process and promoting healthy ageing.

According to the Sport England and Active People Survey 2015, 730,800 people over the age of 16 in the UK played tennis every month and 445,200 played weekly.

Macy said: "I love playing tennis, so it will be really good to find out from the researchers how much the sport will benefit me as I get older, and hopefully turn professional."    

Dr Omid Alizadehkhaiyat, Associate Professor in Health Sciences at Liverpool Hope University said: “While it is a given that an active lifestyle has long term benefits, we want to find out which sport in particular has the maximum impact on our overall health - and we suspect that it may be tennis. We are interested in how playing tennis later in life can influence different health-related outcomes, but as well as testing senior tennis players, we also need younger tennis players and non-tennis players to help us compare. We hope that our findings will help inform the advice we are given regarding the best exercise routines for us as we age.”

Dr Matthew Jackson, Postdoctoral Researcher at Liverpool Hope University said: “We suspect that tennis is one of the most beneficial sports we can play as we age because it requires a lot of stop-and-start movements, resistance and flexibility, and promotes co-ordination. Some players enjoy the fact that as they age, they can adapt their game to suit their ability. There is also, of course, the social side of playing against someone on a regular basis or joining a tennis club. We suspect that tennis is a great sport to play from a holistic point of view, which is why we are also measuring the wellbeing of our participants.”

Anders Borg, organiser of the Liverpool Hope University International Tennis Tournament, in which Wang Quang, Peter McNamara and Jeremy Bates are playing, said: “The fact that Liverpool Hope have set up this incredible, fascinating study about tennis is very exciting, and l am proud that some of our players are getting involved. I have always stressed that tennis is a sport for life and the healthiest sport out there, and I can only hope that this study will prove me right.”  

The Liverpool Hope University scientists have found participants via the Liverpool and District Tennis Group, the Liverpool Hope University Tennis Tournament and wider tennis community, but there is still time for regular tennis players and non-tennis players to volunteer.

Participation involves a one off, two-hour session, which will measure: body composition (the muscle, water and fat content of your body), electrical activity (EMG) and strength of some muscles around upper and lower extremities, overall fitness, simple finger-capillary blood tests, vascular function through non-invasive imaging; questions about eating habits and the completion of some questionnaires.

To find out more visit http://www.hope.ac.uk/healthbenefitsoftennis/

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