Playing tennis will make you more fit - and bring you more fun.

Americans are obsessed with fitness. So we count carbs and try fad diets that are named after places we'll probably never see and people we'll obviously never know. We take vitamin supplements, even though we're never exactly sure what they're supplementing. We buy treadmills and inevitably turn them into coat racks. We eventually lose interest in the whole thing.

The irony in all this, of course, is that we're trying to get fit in order to enjoy our lives more, but the process of getting fit is too often anything but enjoyable. That doesn't have to be the case. If you're looking for something that combines fun with fitness, you need not look any farther than your local tennis court. Playing tennis will make you more fit - and bring you more fun. You hardly ever hear anyone say that about abdominal crunches.

Tennis truly is the "sport for a lifetime"-you can play from your earliest years until your latest. Tennis keeps you healthy, fit and in shape, too, so it's also the sport for a longer lifetime. Grab a friend and your racquet and get to the courts. You'll see that tennis can be just the fitness vehicle you've been looking for.

According to Consumer Reports (January 2005), tennis ranks among the top five activities for most calories burned per workout. In a mere half hour of singles tennis, you'll burn more calories than someone who uses a rowing machine, or rides a stationary bike, or does yoga or plays golf. Tennis can help you get fitter - and have fun doing it. Covering the baseline means you won't have to cover your waistline.

What's more, tennis is a heart-healthy sport, as documented by a recent study at Johns Hopkins University that showed that middleaged men who stayed active in tennis - more than any other activity - had a significantly lower incidence of cardiovascular disease as they aged. Further, The Cleveland Clinic, the nation's top-ranked heart care facility, has called tennis "an ideal sport for a healthy heart."

Indeed, the many benefits of playing tennis are well documented, but the sheer fun of playing tennis is something you have to experience for yourself to truly appreciate. More than just being good for your heart, tennis is a sport you can put your heart into. It is a sport in which you can meet people, make new friends, involve your family and connect with them for life. It is, after all, a sport that can be enjoyed by every age and every ability level. You're never too old, never too young.

As the warm weather begins to creep into all corners of the country, tennis courts everywhere begin to bustle with activity. Old friends and new partners come together, eager to revel in the unparalleled enjoyment unleashed by the simple act of popping the top off a new can of balls. This is the essence of Tennis Month. Be part of it. Pick a day, grab a friend and get connected with the sport for a lifetime - a fit and healthy lifetime.

Your warm-up jacket is hanging on the treadmill.