In the 51 years since a company called Wham-O made a plastic saucer and named it Frisbee, we've gotten disc golf, a team disc sport called Ultimate and even an annual World Canine Disc Championship, featuring disc-catching dogs performing jaw-dropping aerial gymnastics. Those dogs are on to something. As you twist your body, whip your arm, then run after and catch a flying disc, you stretch your muscles, strengthen your back, build coordination and burn as much as 200 calories an hour, according to www.fitday.com. It's stealth fitness, masquerading as pure fun, that you can do anywhere at any age. Here are four spins on the concept
-- Roy M. Wallack
A heavy, long-range driver
Innova Valkyrie golf disc: A long-distance driver, 5.5 ounces and about 8 1/3 inches across, that has a wind-cutting flat profile and a sharp, dense edge. Owns the disc world distance record of 820 feet.
Likes: Great for teeing off (like a wood club in regular golf), it flies far and straight -- even in bad conditions. My 13-year-old son and I fought over it during a windy 18-hole match last week at the La Mirada Disc Golf Course, the best in the region. Most of the golfers there were teeing off with this disc.
Dislikes: Very golf-specific, it is not comfortable for casual catching. A hard throw hurts your hand, due to the sharp, heavy edge.
It does not hover well, so of course is not a good choice for shorter approach shots and putting.
Price: $8.99. (800) 408-8449; innovadiscs.com.
No-hole-in-one dog disc
Hyperflite Jawz: This puncture-resistant dog disc, 5.5 ounces and about 9 inches in diameter, is made of a urethane-based polymer. Designed to prevent damage from repeated dog bites.
Likes: Great flight and catch characteristics, soft to the touch but dense enough for straight tracking and good distance. Tough materials; my dog Bruce, untrained in catching a Frisbee, barely marked the disc during a game of tug of war. The company says the disc will last months with aggressive use, versus hours for standard discs, which are made of more brittle, low-density homopolymers. Grippy strips on the top and bottom make for good fingertip control. Cool, see-through material.
Price: $15.95 (includes 90-minute dog-training DVD). (770) 751-3882; www.hyperflite.com.
Record-breaking ring toss
Aerobie Pro Ring: 4-ounce, 13-inch-diameter ring with a polycarbonate core and soft rubber skin that set a Guinness world record of 1,333 feet (more than a quarter of a mile) two years ago and stayed aloft for 30 seconds, making it the world's farthest-thrown object.
Likes: Launches like a rocket. Just an eighth to a quarter of an inch thick, it holds a flat, fast trajectory for a stunningly long duration. On my son's first throw, it left the park and hit people across the street. Luckily, it has a soft edge, so no one got hurt. The design, made by Stanford engineer Alan Adler in 1984, encourages creative catching, with feet and hands able to go through the ring.
Dislikes: Flies so far (and rolls like a hubcap on steroids) that losing sight of it is easy.
Price: $9.99. (650) 493-3050; www.aerobie.com.
The classic Frisbee
Wham-O Frisbee Pro-Classic: The original flying disc. This model is 5 ounces and 10 inches across.
Likes: Same great design I played with for years growing up. Large, rounded edge of pliable U-Flex plastic is the most comfortable for catching. Hovers great. Best of the bunch for boomerang throws. Dislikes: Not as fast or stable as the Jawz. Not suitable for golf on windy days.
Price: $7.99. (888) 942-6650; www.wham-o.com.
Irvine-based endurance cyclist and runner Roy M. Wallack is the co-author of "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100." Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org