Even before Dr Derek Yong became a cardiologist, he was already building excellent heart health at the tender age of 10 – thanks to tennis. “Playing tennis on a regular basis is not just good for your heart, it also produces long lasting physical, psychological and physiological benefits,” advocates Dr Yong.
Winning various local and international tournaments since he was 12, he was named Singapore Top Junior Player and was one of the top National tennis players at 14, making him the youngest tennis player in Singapore’s history to ever represent Singapore in the international Davis Cup competition. He competed in local and overseas International Tennis Federation (ITF) and ATP tournaments in Asia; was a member of tennis team at the SEA Games 1993; and was awarded Schools and National Sports Colours awards yearly from 1990 to 1995, Raffles Junior College Sports Colours in 1995, and Singapore Armed Forces Sport Association (SAFSA) colours in 1996. Today, he continues to be active in the tennis arena, helping top regional professional junior players build their games through regular matches and practice sessions at least 5 times per week.
While playing sports offers many benefits, Dr Yong reminds sports lovers that it is important to be vigilant about your heart, especially for those starting a new exercise regime or who have health concerns. To encourage active living and good heart health, Restore Heart Centre offers a special ‘Keep Sporty Health Screening’ package.
Find out why this cardiologist prescribes a game of tennis to keep you in the pink of health!
- Play tennis 3hours a week and your risk of death from any cause is cut by half.
- Tennis players have higher optimism, self-esteem and vigor while score lower in depression, anger, anxiety and tension when compared to other athletes and non-athletes, according to studies in the USA.
- Playing tennis promotes lifetime continuing development of the brain as it requires alertness and tactical thinking.
- Tennis players with life-long tennis participation have better bone health. Even those who take up tennis at middle age enjoy the same benefit.
- Playing a good tennis game is like running a thousand little steps and that quick anaerobic exercise translates into a good workout, which burns calories and promotes good cardiovascular health. Its level of exercise intensity also meets the exercise recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine and American Heart Association.
- Research shows that people who play tennis regularly have positive health benefits such as enhanced aerobic fitness, favourable lipid profile (lower “bad” and higher “good” cholesterol levels) and lower body fat percentages (hence a leaner body). These equate to better heart health and lower your risk for heart disease.
- For exercise to have a positive effect, one has to commit a lifelong exercise regime. Tennis is one of the most popular sports and tennis players are likely to continue playing when they grow older (compared to other sports such as soccer and basketball), thus more likely to maintain the positive effects on heart health. Research shows that high ability in tennis during school and college days is associated with lower risk of heart disease in later life, likely as a result of continued participation of the sport.
- Tennis is suitable for all ages and skill levels. Because it is a non-impact sport, you can play tennis for a lifetime and there is never a bad time to start learning. Socially, it’s a fantastic way to meet people and interact over a good tennis game.
Keen on picking up tennis? Dr Derek Yong, a former Singapore national tennis player, dispenses some tips:
- To enjoy tennis and ensure continued participation in tennis, consider getting proper coaching initially if you have never played it before. Otherwise, you may find it frustrating if you can’t keep the green ball in play and end up picking balls more than playing it.
- Play with partners with the similar level of fitness and abilities to get maximum enjoyment from the sport.
- The tactical aspect of a tennis game keeps your mind engaged constantly and while you’re enjoying yourself, you’ll also have unknowingly given your body a great workout.
- The satisfaction of achieving the short-term goals of keeping the ball in play will keep you coming back for more. Set up regular matches to keep yourself motivated. It’s important to have tennis partners who also love the sport, to ensure continued participation.
- If you have not played for a while and decide to pick up the game again, I advise against over-exerting yourself. Start by playing doubles, then gradually pick up your fitness and your level of play.
- I strongly suggest getting a cardiac screening, especially if you have not done one and have not engaged in any form of exercise for a long time, or if you, in any way, think that your level of fitness is questionable. It will be especially important to seek cardiac evaluation if you think you experience abnormal symptoms during exercise such as chest pain, unusual lack of stamina, shortness of breath, fainting spells or sensation of irregular heart beat. If you have any previous heart conditions such as blocked heart arteries or heart murmur, I will strongly encourage you to seek cardiac evaluation also.
- We will conduct a comprehensive history and physical examination as well as an electrocardiogram (ECG). Further tests such as an echocardiogram or exercise treadmill test may be required depending on what we find during the initial examination.
This is even more important if you do have significant cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol level and diabetes. Our goal is to help you manage and minimize your cardiac risk and also to gradually ease you into an exercise regime that will reduce your cardiovascular risk in the long run.
Care for your heart before, and as, you play and you’ll find tennis an excellent partner in maintaining good heart health!