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It's fun. It makes you feel like a kid again. It challenges the whole body. It helps improve your balance and coordination, promotes correct posture, improves muscle tone, increases muscle endurance and strength, increases flexibility and enhances spinal stabilization.

Just what is it? It is none other than a large rubber ball, fit to accommodate all ages and all sizes (up to 660 pounds). The brand name for the ball shown here is Resist-A-Ball from Ground Control Inc. in Indianapolis, Ind.; telephone (800) 476-8631. For the more mature exerciser, the company offers a large peanut-shaped ball called the Physio-Roll that provides more stability by limiting movement to a forward and backward rotation.

This heavy-duty inflatable ball, originally called a Swiss Ball, had its origin in Switzerland back in the 1900s. It was designed as a rehabilitation tool to help improve children's coordination and to strengthen their trunk muscles. This challenging ball then traveled to the United States, introduced to physical therapists as a rehabilitation aid for injured people who needed to reestablish balance, muscle tone and coordination.

By having to contract key muscles to stabilize and balance yourself on this round and mobile surface, you train your body to become aware of its correct alignment, and at the same time be strengthen and stretch every muscle of the body. The body works as a whole unit, not in isolated parts.

Text: Sally Anderson

Model: Key Songster

Photographer: Kathleen Cabble

Location: Exercise Barre

Squats: a lower body exercise.

Primary muscles worked: gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps.

Starting position: Place the ball between a wall and your lower back. Move your feet several steps in front of your body, placing feet about shoulder-width apart. Keeping your arms extended directly in front of your chest will help you to maintain balance.

The exercise movement: As you slowly bend your knees into a squat position, keeping your back pressed flat against the ball, allow the ball to roll up the back.

Reverse fly: an upper body exercise.

Primary muscles worked: rhomboids, trapezius, posterior deltoids.

Starting position: While supporting your trunk on the ball, extend your arms, placing hands lightly on the floor. You may hold light weights if you wish.

The exercise movement: Slowly lift your arms to the side; hands will be approximately shoulder-height with elbows slightly relaxed. Hold a few seconds, then slowly lower arms to the starting position.

Tipbox

1. Warm up the muscles for approximately five minutes by walking, marching or practicing a few low-impact aerobic steps.

2. Follow the easy movement with some static stretches.

3. Maintain a natural alignment of the lumbar spine (low back) and the cervical spine (neck); the head should be comfortably balanced, with the chin level or parallel to the floor.

4. Try to keep the knees over the heels while doing squats; do not let them extend beyond the toes.

5. Do not allow the spine to extend or the chest to lift off the ball as you raise your arms with the reverse fly.

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