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

Nikki Carrion’s primary
passion and mission is to
empower older adults to
higher levels of functional
fitness.  Besides the Relax &
Breathe CEU module,
FitXpress has a series of
chair exercise DVDs as well
as a training module for
activity professionals.  
FitXpress methods are safe
and effective AND
demonstrate how to put the
FUN into FUNction!
For more information go to:
check out the product page.
Empower yourself with
or call 319-404-4219.  
FUNdamental #2 Flexibility = Mobility

“Welcome back!”  The 2nd fundamental (F) will demonstrate to Activity Professionals
(APs) just how flexibility can work to improve mobility.  Before moving on, talk to
residents/patients (RPs) and ensure that they are comfortable with F #1; the idea of
exercising the full lung capacity.  Ask for a report as to whether or not they are indeed
making an effort to do the breathing each day.  Put them in the driver’s seat…ask them
if they are ready to move on.  Keep in mind that the 1-step-at-a-time approach will result
in RPs having feelings of empowerment and success, and will lead them to improved
functional fitness and enhanced quality of life.  If you happen to have missed out, take a
look back in an effort to familiarize yourself.    

“What is flexibility?”  It is the ability of a joint to work through its normal, full range-of-
motion and it is vital to an older adult’s functional fitness.  Flexibility increases in
response to regular efforts of stretching, and it decreases with inactivity.  Therefore,
inactive older adults often experience problems with flexibility which is shown to
hamper even the simplest of daily activities.  Aging also decreases natural elasticity of
muscles and joints, but it is never too late to get started.  Potential benefits to share with
your R/Ps include the following:
  • Helps to prevent arthritis, and often serves to lessen the pain for those who
    have it.
  • Serves to increase balance and stability.
  • Is often the best treatment for muscle cramps.
  • Improves posture and alignment.
  • Enhances development of strength.
  • Creates the relaxation response.
  • Slows the breathing rate, reduces mental stress and blood pressure.

“What do I need to know before I start?”  Stretches, like F #1 from the last article, can be
done one-on-one or in a group.  However, R/Ps should again be encouraged to stretch
periodically throughout any given day for best results.

“Where do I start?”  After discussing the benefits, perform a couple of simple tests that
will serve to give your R/Ps a starting point.  

•        The “back scratch” (shoulder flexibility): TRY IT!  To access the R shoulder, reach
over the L shoulder with the L hand.  Reach as far as you can…as if you are trying to
reach a spot in the middle of your back that itches and you can’t quite reach it.  
NOW…reach the R hand down and under, reaching your R fingertips up toward your L
fingertips.  In your mind’s eye…estimate the distance between the finger tips.  Switch
sides, and compare the flexibility of the L shoulder to that of the R.

•        The “sit-n-reach” (back, hips and leg flexibility): TRY IT!  Sit up towards the front
edge of the chair…extend the R leg forward, toes flexed up towards the ceiling.  The L
hand is placed firmly over the L leg for support.  Reach toward the toes of the R foot with
the fingertips of the R hand.  Repeat with the L leg.  The closer the fingers are to the
toes (not bending the knee) the better the flexibility in the back, hips and back of the leg.  
“How do I help my R/Ps improve their flexibility?”  For the purpose of this article I will
focus on 3 main areas; shoulders, chest and hips.    

•        Back, hip & leg flexibility: “sit-n-reach” stretch.  The leg is long, the toes are up to
the ceiling, the torso is lengthened and the stretch is taken to the point that it is felt.  
•        Chest flexibility: “wings of a bird” stretch.  Hands come behind the back; elbows
fanned out comparable to the wings of a bird.  “Open the wings and pinch the shoulder
blades together feeling the stretch across the chest and in the front of the shoulders.”  
•        Shoulder flexibility: “roll back” stretch.  This is done in 3 steps for R/Ps with varying
levels of capability.
1)        Alternate rolling the shoulders back with the arms hanging by the sides.
2)        Alternating elbow circles (only if option 1 is comfortable).
3)        Back stroke.  Only for those comfortable to do so…alternating, the arms move
forward, up and back; emphasizing the back action.  NOTE: Explain that forward circles
can be done, but we actually do enough forward action each day.  Therefore, it is the
back action that is needed to increase range-of-motion.   

“What else should I be aware of?”  Be aware that safety is priority, and understand that
overstretching--stretching the muscles to the extreme—can decrease the stability of the
joint.  The best advice to give R/Ps is to “listen to your body”.  Help them to understand
that when they do a stretch…they should feel it, but it should not create pain and/or
discomfort.  In addition, know that older adults often hold their breath when they are
holding a stretch.  Lastly…muscles need oxygen to work so “keep a relaxed and even
breathing pattern” is something the AP should say to R/Ps repeatedly during a class /
stretching session.

I’m sure you are already stretching!!  Understand that although the stretches discussed
here take priority in terms of improving functional fitness, there are many other stretches
that are also important.  You are welcome to email me for a one-page R/P stretch
handout.  This 1-page handout is 1 of a set of 24 handouts offered by FitXpress on CD.  
This CD is 1 of a 7-disk training module made specifically for APs striving to empower
R/Ps.  Available at   

See you next time when we will discuss FUNdamental #3…strength.  Until then,
empower your R/Ps to “Increase flexibility for improved mobility, functional fitness &
quality of life”.