OBJECTIVE: To investigate the short term effects of tennis training on lipid metabolism and to find out if a typical tennis training programme has positive longitudinal effects on cardiovascular risk factors in recreational players. METHODS: The experimental design consisted of an exercise study and a subsequent longitudinal study. In the exercise study the short term metabolic effects of a two hour technically orientated tennis training (TT) session and a running intensive tennis training (RIT) session were investigated in 16 recreational tennis players (eight men: 46 (SD 7) years, 177 (6) cm, 81 (10) kg; and eight women: 44 (5) years, 165 (5) cm, 64 (6) kg). In the longitudinal study the long term effects of a six week RIT programme in 22 players (11 men and 11 women) of similar characteristics were compared with those in 16 control subjects (eight men and eight women). The results of the exercise study (higher lipolytic activity and cardiopulmonary demand, as well as acceptance by the players) led to the RIT method being chosen for all training sessions in the longitudinal study. RESULTS: In RIT, significantly higher values for heart rate (148 (SD 10) v 124 (11) beats/minute) and lactate (2.8 (1.1) v 1.5 (0.6) mmol/l), significantly higher post exercise concentrations of serum glycerol (0.37 (0.15) v 0.29 (0.14) mmol/l) and high density lipoprotein cholesterol (1.31 (0.55) v 1.20 (0.50) mmol/l) and a higher acceptance than in TT (15 of the 16 players preferred RIT) were found. During the six week tennis training programme the changes in body weight (-1.41 (1.56) v 0.00 (1.50) kg) and anaerobic threshold (1.04 (0.84) v -0.08 (0.92) km/h) were significantly different between the training and control group. In the training group several parameters of the lipoprotein profile tended to change in an antiatherosclerotic direction. CONCLUSIONS: The results indicate that typical regular tennis training influences cardiovascular risk factors in a positive manner and can be suggested as an attractive alternative to other current health orientated sports programmes. A more frequent use of running intensive exercises during tennis training is recommended.
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