FUNdamentals in FUNctional FITness
by Nikki Carrion, MA
FitXpress LLC
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Co-Owner; FitXpress
Nikki Carrion is co-owner of Fit Xpress
Consulting Services in Waterloo, IA.  
She has over 25 years of experience
in the field of health promotion and
says her passion for her work comes
from her desire to practice preventive
health and promote positive lifestyle
changes.  Although she works with a
wide variety of ages, from college
students to older adults, she says her
focus is on empowering older adults
to higher levels of functional fitness.   

Nikki has a graduate degree in
Community Health Education with an
emphasis in Gerontology from the
University of Northern Iowa.  She also
has a number of certifications
including balance training, chronic
disease self- management, exercise
for hip & knee replacements, group
exercise instruction, personal
training, yoga and pilates.


  • MA; Community Health
    Education.  University of
    Northern IA.  Emphasis in


  • Enhance Fitness Master
    Trainer ~ University of
    Washington, WA.
  • Chronic Disease Self-
    management Master Trainer
    ~ Stanford University, CA.
  • Balance Trainer ~ Cal State
    Fullerton, CA.
  • Personal Trainer / Fitness,
    Yoga & Pilates Instruction ~
    Nat'l Exercise Trainers
FUNdamental 1: Exercising the Full Lung Capacity

Last month’s column gave an overview of the 5 FUNdamentals of FUNctional FITness.  
If you missed out…take a look in the archives in an effort to familiarize yourself.  
Consider introducing these fundamentals to your residents/patients (R/P) as you come
to understand them yourself…1-at-a-time over the course of the months to come.  This
building block approach will serve to allow R/Ps to slowly incorporate these healthy
lifestyle habits which are designed to improve functional fitness and quality of life.

The first of the F’s is the idea of exercising the full lung capacity.  This is essential for all
of us!  “Why?”  Because the majority of us are shallow breathers by nature, meaning
that we pull our breath into the upper lobes of the lungs and back out it goes…very little
use of the lower lobes.  “What is the result?”  The lower lobes of the lungs store CO²
waste and gradually lose capacity.   

“Why” should R/Ps try this?  The following benefits are shown to be associated:
1.        Maintain or increase lung function.
2.        Maintain or decrease blood pressure.
3.        Eliminate CO² waste from the lower lobes of the lungs.
4.        Relax the mind, thereby contributing to improved sleep patterns and reduced
stress and anxiety.

There are many things we need for survival such as air, food, water and shelter.  
However, air is said to be our vital force.  We can live without food, water and shelter for
days.  We can survive only a matter of minutes without air.  Our breath is fundamental  
to our survival.  

“How” is it done?  This can be taught one-on-one or to a group.  Although it may be
taught in a seated position, encourage R/Ps to perform the breaths lying down.  Lying
down lengthens the torso and serves to pull the lungs away from the diaphragm so that
there is access to the lower lobes of the lungs.  From a seated position, begin with
visualization for the purpose of brining individuals into proper alignment so they may
access the lower lobes of the lungs.  Ask the R/P(s) to visualize a string coming down
from the ceiling.  The string is attached to the top of the head and it is pulling up
(compare to a puppet-on-a-string).  With proper alignment in place the process begins
by pulling the breath in through the nose.  Discourage participants from creating
tension in the shoulders and neck by asking that they put one hand over the ribcage
and the other over the tummy.  Narration: “When breathing in, the shoulders stay
relaxed and the breath comes all the way down into the ribcage and belly area.  The
ribcage expands front, sides and back against the chair.  Pull air in until the lungs are
completely full.”  The exhale is most critical and needs to take 3-5 times as long as the
inhale.  Narration: “Now make a very small opening in your mouth as if you are holding
onto a cocktail straw.  Let the air sneak out very slowly as if you are pushing the air out
of a small hole in an inner tube tire.  Push…push…push the air all the way out.  When
you think your lungs are completely empty…push a little bit more.”  Also, encourage
participants not to be distracted by others.

Distraction can be reduced by simply having participants close their eyes.  Narration:
“Now that we have all tried this, it is important to understand that each of us is unique
with respect to our individual lung capacity.  Therefore, we’re going to focus only on
ourselves by closing our eyes so that we will not be distracted by anyone around us.  
So..sit up nice and tall, relax your hands on your lap, and let’s begin again.  Breathe in
until your lungs are completely full and then very slowly exhale until your lungs are
completely empty, not allowing yourself to distracted by anyone else in the room.  As
you breathe think about breathing in positive energy and breathing out negative energy
and toxins from your body.  Positive energy in…negative energy out.  Positive energy
in…negative energy out.”  

Before this practice is implemented APs need to understand, and be able to explain,
the fact that light-headedness is a common occurrence.  R/Ps should understand that
they need not be frightened or alarmed, but that they do need to be aware and need to
“listen to their body”.  Light-headedness is the natural reaction from the body in
response to an increase of O² in the blood stream.  The body must be slowly
conditioned and will adapt to this new practice.  Narration: “Becoming light-headed is a
common occurrence.  Don’t be alarmed.  Understand that you will need to slowly get
your body used to this new concept and you are going to do this by counting your
breaths and listening to your body.  If…by the 3rd breath you begin to feel light-headed,
this means you will do 3 breaths each time you practice…each day for the 1st week.  
When your body seems to have adjusted to the idea of doing 3 breaths you will begin to
do 4.  A few days later, when you have adjusted to 4…you will move on to do 5 and so
on until you are doing about 10 nice long breaths each time you do this.  You are
teaching your body a new skill.”

Many of you are probably already trying out this new concept.  For those of you who want
to learn the concept in depth, consider the NCCAP-approved training module entitled
“Relax & Breathe”.  The module is approved for 2 CEUs, $10/credit, and is available
only from FitXpress.  Find it on the product page when you visit
See you next month when we will discuss FUNdamental #2…flexibility.  Until then,
empower R/Ps to just breathe.