HAVING A BALL: Alec Harslett and Morwenna Arcidiacono have been playing tennis since the 70s.
HAVING A BALL: Alec Harslett and Morwenna Arcidiacono have been playing tennis since the 70s. DEIRDRE SMITH

Age-old game aces longevity charts

WANT to live longer? You can forget goji berries and giving up alcohol. All you need to do is pick up a tennis racquet.

In a widely-reported study, tennis players added ten years to their lifespans, beating out badminton at six years and soccer at just under five years.

The Tuesday morning social group at Stanthorpe's Lock Street courts would agree with that. Brother-and-sister Alec Harslett and Morwenna Arcidiancono have been playing for at least 50 years and intend to add a few more yet.

"It's a great sport for old people,” said Alec.

"You just bring the standard back to where it suits you.

"There are shots I don't get it but Roger Federer would have.”

And the trick for older people has nothing to do with their own abilities and plenty to do with their opponents. A better player can keep a rally going by hitting the ball to his opponent rather than trying to win. One club player was 'head and shoulders above us' and could keep a rally going endlessly.

"But he's go up a gear when he needed to and win a point,” he said.

That teamwork was seen as the great strength of tennis as opposed to other sports in the study of heart health published in Denmark last year. More than 9000 participants were tracked for 25 years to match their sporting interests with their longevity.

Variations for age, sex, smoking, income and education were taken into account, with an initial perception that tennis players had higher incomes and therefore access to better health care being dispelled as a contributing factor.

Instead, researchers came to the conclusion that the sociability of tennis was the main reason for its positive effect on people's health, noting that it took at least two people to play and could be played at any level from a gentle hit to fierce competition and that the social element added an important feel-good factor.

Which the Tuesday morning social group would certainly agree with. There is continual rotation, with the server coming off at the end of the game and replaced with one of the waiting members, meaning each person plays four games but each one is with a different partner and competitors. This allows all abilities to be mixed up, along with ages and gender and while each game is scored, no overall tally is kept.

"We all get exercise and feel good,” said Alec.

And they're a proud bunch too. It might be social tennis but they do draw the line at some types of behaviour.

"We might be in our geriatric years,” said Alec

"And even though out bones are creaky, we don't do an underarm serve.”