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Maintaining perfect balance

If you've got basics down, it's time for more advanced moves

As we age, our balance usually deteriorates. This often leads to falls or fear of falling. And loss of confidence creates a vicious cycle, as restricting activities leads to weakened muscles.

Simple balance exercises can help

prevent future deterioration.

Last week, we demonstrated basic exercises for those just starting out with a balance program. This week, we offer more advanced exercises for those who already have good balance and want to maintain it.

Kapahulu personal trainer Li Si Yang of Journey to Fitness (e-mail lisi@journeytofitness.com or visit www.journeytofitness.com) shared five exercises to challenge and improve balance. They are demonstrated by her client, Kazu Mitake of Kapahulu, a professional chef who maintains a rigorous fitness and balance regimen, which is why he looks and feels so much younger than his 52 years.

If you are new to balance exercises, these are probably too advanced for you. It would be more appropriate to start with last week's workout.

As with all exercise programs, it's important to check with your physician before beginning.

The stability ball and BOSU ball (a "both sides up" ball that can be used on both its rounded and flat sides) offer endless possibilities for balance and core exercises, from beginner to highly advanced.

We found our equipment at Total Fitness USA in Iwilei, across the parking lot from Costco; the balls are available at most sporting goods stores.

In addition to Western-style balance exercises, tai chi, yoga and martial arts can also help maintain and improve balance.

the moves

1) Sit on a stability ball.

Sit on the ball with both feet on the floor. Slowly lift one foot off the ground and hold it for several seconds. Once this feels easy, try lifting both feet off the ground. A more advanced version of this exercise is to place hands and knees on the balance ball and balance, or, highly advanced, to kneel on the ball with no hands.

2) Plank on a stability ball.

A plank requires engaging the core (abdominal muscles) to stabilize the body with feet on the ball. A less advanced version of this would be to place clasped hands and forearms on the ball and extend the legs in plank position. A more advanced version is to do push-ups in the plank position.

3) Lunge with a stability ball.

This exercise strengthens the quadriceps while challenging balance. Stand with one foot on the ball and the other leg slightly bent in front, as shown. To increase the difficulty, bend the standing knee and push the leg on the ball back and forth while creating a deeper lunge.

4) Stand on a BOSU ball.

Start with both feet centered on the curved side of the BOSU ball. When this feels easy, try putting one foot in the center of the ball and lifting the other foot slightly. When first starting this exercise, be sure there is a wall, chair or table close enough that you can grab it if you start to fall. Or use a broom stick to hold onto.

5) Squat on a BOSU ball.

This exercise can be done on the curved side of the ball (easier) or the flat side of the ball (more challenging). Carefully climb on top of the ball with feet apart and get your balance. When feeling stable, lower your torso into a squat (as if you're sitting down in a chair) and repeat.

Reach Paula Rath at paula rath@aol.com or 595-4904.

Reach Paula Rath at paularath@aol.com.

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