Inexpensive tools help body conditioning

TOPEKA, Kan. - An inexpensive tool that physical therapists have been using for years is showing up in Pilates studios and fitness centers across the nation.

Foam rollers can help people with balance, strength, stretching and releasing muscle tension. The rollers come in a variety of sizes and models.

At 5-foot-6 and 125 pounds, Sonja Garrett is stronger than some athletes because she knows how to use the core of her body. Ms. Garrett, who is the clinical director at A Healing Place in Topeka and a wellness consultant and strength and conditioning specialist, uses foam rollers with her clients.

"The foam roller is a great tool for incorporating core training," she said. "It can mimic the movement on the Pilates Reformers (exercise devices) without the expense of a Pilates Reformer."

T.J. Leonard, a 17-year-old junior wrestler in high school, has been training with Ms. Garrett for about three months. The foam roller has helped him develop more balance, he said.

Foam rollers have become popular at fitness centers and Pilates studios, said Robert Lindsey, the director of education for Power Systems, which provides health, exercise and sport performance and fitness equipment.

The rollers are usually 36 inches or 12 inches long and 6 inches in diameter and come in full round and half round shapes.

"It's amazing how hard it is just to sit on it and balance with correct posture," Mr. Lindsey said. "They are structuring whole classes around these things. It's an economical piece of equipment that anyone can afford."

Desima Dawdy, the director of Pilates at Wood Valley Racquet Club & Fitness Center in Topeka, uses foam rollers in the classes she teaches, such as Pilates Mat with Props.

Carol Cutter takes Ms. Dawdy's class. She said the classes have helped her after having suffered falls and knee surgery.

"My walking has improved tremendously," she said. "Boy, I can do a lot of things I haven't done for years."

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