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continued...

It takes about 3 to 4 weeks to see improvements in equilibrium, Huff says, provided that you practice a few times a week for 10 to 20 minutes per session. Any of the pieces of equipment that skier Walsh uses -- a wobble board, physioball, or slide mat -- can be used at home. The equipment is available at stores and web sites selling fitness gear.

Yet Huff and other fitness experts say you don't really need any newfangled gizmos. Learning yoga, which has many poses that require you to stand on one leg, is a low-tech way to better your balance, as are many of the martial arts. Pilates, a regimen of controlled calisthenics-style movements done with the aid of specially designed machines, also promotes balance by strengthening the abdominal and back muscles crucial for keeping the body upright.

It's also simple to insert balance exercises into just about any regular fitness routine. Huff recommends standing on one foot with one eye closed during rest intervals between weight training sets. It's a productive way to use the down time -- and can be exhilarating, too.

Remember that "whee!" feeling you got the first time you rode a bike? Walsh and many others who've added balance exercises to their repertoire have found that when they're teetering on one foot -- wobbling a bit, but managing to stay upright -- for a fleeting moment, they feel like a kid again.

Daryn Eller is a freelance writer in Venice, Calif. Her work has appeared in Health, Fitness, and many other publications.

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