A new form of tennis, pioneered in Bristol, is helping people play the sport for longer and others recover from long-term health problems.

Walking Tennis, a slower and low impact form of the game, was introduced across the city earlier this year and is one of the many free tennis activities on offer at venues in Bristol this weekend as part of the LTA’s Nature Valley Big Tennis Weekend initiative.

The group sessions, which currently take place at four tennis venues in the city, are giving people the chance to get back into the sport at an older age by adapting the rules of the game. These include allowing the ball to bounce twice and using low compression balls to make it easier to play.

The new sport, introduced by Helen Abbott, who works for the LTA as a disability tennis lead for Bristol and Peter Coniglio, an exercise specialist and sports coach in the city, has grown in popularity after being included as part of the Bristol Walkfest in May.

Abbott said: “There’s walking football and walking netball so we thought why not walking tennis. It’s really taken off since we started and it has helped people physically, mentally and socially. It gives people the opportunity to get out of their houses and try something a bit different.

“The social side of it is a really important part of what we are trying to do. Everyone enjoys the sessions, it’s not too competitive and at the end we have a coffee together, it’s a great atmosphere.”

Susan has got back into sport and tennis through sessions at the University of Bristol in Coombe Dingle after losing her job.

She explained: “I was made redundant and it hit me pretty hard. I was at retirement age but wasn’t planning on stopping work. It was a difficult time and I had a void to fill so I wanted to try and get fit.

“I’d always been quite sporty but didn’t feel ready for full games of tennis and that’s when I found walking tennis and it was ideal for me.

“I was a bit nervous about going to my first session but it was great. I’ve met so many people, and socially it’s just been fantastic – it’s so much more than just tennis. I don’t sit at home wondering what to do anymore and I’ve made some great friends through it. I’ve got a lot more confidence to into any group and mix in.”

Free Walking Tennis sessions are taking place this weekend at Cotham Park Tennis Club, one of many venues across the region and the country who will be opening their doors for people to give tennis a try. Other free activities on offer include cardio tennis, junior and mini-tennis and family time sessions.

To find your nearest Nature Valley Big Tennis Weekend participating club or venue and sign up for a free activity visit https://clubspark.lta.org.uk/OpenDays

Follow @LTA on Instagram, @LTA – Tennis For Britain on facebook or @the_LTA on Twitter to keep up to date with all the news surrounding Nature Valley Big Tennis Weekends.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.