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.  
Strength = Independence

“Did you know that your muscles make up approximately 40% of your body, and that
after the age of 25 the average person loses muscle mass at a rate of ½ - 1 pound a
year?”  That’s right, but the good news is that it’s never too late to get started!    
Research has actually shown that the most sedentary individuals are among the
quickest to show results.  With that in mind, let’s talk about the fundamental of
muscular strength and endurance.

A resident/patient (RP) who increases his or her strength will gain a sense of
empowerment by being able to perform activities of daily living (ADLs) in a much more
competent manner.  The activities to be discussed in this month’s column will assist
RPs with ADLs such as getting up from a seated position, lifting something or simply
walking from point A to point B.        

This month we will focus on lower functioning RPs limited to spending the majority of
their time in a chair.  The following exercises serve to increase strength and endurance,
and they can be done individually or in a group.
Lower body exercises:

1.        Chair “popcorn”!  That’s right…this is the simple idea of squeezing the derriere
against the chair in an effort to strengthen the outer layer of the hips (the glutes).
2.        “Leg extensions”.  With hands on the lap, the RP alternates pushing the heel
forward.  A good visual is to have them pretend they are pushing their heel against an
imaginary wall, making sure to feel the muscles in the front of the leg (quads) tighten
each time.  
3.        “Step-step-pull”.  Exactly how it sounds…the RP moves the R foot forward, then
the L, and with the heels digging slightly into the floor…pulls back to the starting point
feeling the muscles behind the legs (hamstrings) tighten up.
4.        “Ball squeeze”.  This one is very effective and requires a small play ball like the
type you would find in the toy department of a discount store for around $1.  The ball
goes between the knees and is slowly and repeatedly squeezed.  Encourage RPs to
have a ball of their own, and to have it handy when they are sitting on the sofa watching
TV.  Occasionally they pick it up, put it between their knees and squeeze it.  With each
squeeze they also tuck their tummy in!  This squeezing action works several muscle
groups between the knees and the ribcage!!    
5.        “Knee lifts”.  Pull one foot off the floor at a time, slowly lifting the knees right…then
left.  This serves to work the muscles of the hips and the legs as well as the lower
abdominal region.  Adding the arms up over the head, as I mentioned last month,
serves to elevate the heart rate for a bit of cardio.
6.        “Calf raises”.  With their hands on their lap, pushing slightly down to create a bit
of resistance, the heels slowly lift up-and-down.  Ask them to focus on tightening the
muscles of the calves.
7.        “Toe taps and toe lifts”.  As it sounds…tap the toes repeatedly and/or lift the toes
up-and-down until a warm sensation is felt on the front of the ankles and along the
outside of the shin bone.
a.        Know that the muscles between the knees and the floor are the most important
muscles in the body for balance.  Therefore, it is critical to keep these muscles strong.  
One way to keep them strong is encouraging the idea of walking with a “heel strike, roll
through”.  Striking the heel as an RP steps forward engages the muscles of the front of
the leg, while lifting the heel behind (roll through) engages the muscles of the back of
the leg.  This means discouraging the idea of walking flat-footed and/or shuffling.

Forming an exercise group demonstrates that physical activity is important to you as an
activity professional.  Such a class is most effective if it meets 2-3 times per week, and
it will serve to help your RPs become stronger and better able to perform their ADLs.  
Such a class also promotes the buddy system as your RPs exercise with their friends,
and this support system encourages RPs to keep moving.

Use the list above to get started!  Begin by typing (large font) up a list of exercises.  Put
the list on the floor next to your chair, and use it as a guide.  Practice on a peer or a
friend first, and when you are ready…give it a go with your RPs following along.

Consider playing some fun tunes too!  Get your RPs involved in the process by having
them count aloud the number of repetitions you do; maybe when you are doing
something like #1or #4 above.  When you are doing something like #2 or #5 you might
have them say right…left…right…left.  Getting them involved will not only help to pass
the time, but it also keeps them breathing!  When an older adult is doing something that
is not of the norm, like new exercises, oftentimes they hold their breath.  They are
focusing so hard on what they’re doing that they forget to breathe.  However, it is almost
impossible to talk and hold your breath at the same time.  

Don’t let your RPs be “dis’ed”.  Help them to understand that disability has been shown
to be a direct result of disease and/or disuse.  Explain to them that they may not have
control over the disease aspect of this equation…but they have total control of the
disuse aspect.  Tell them to disarm the idea of being dis’ed by adding a dose of
physical activity into their life.  An increase of even the smallest proportion can make all
the difference in the world.     

Maybe you’re not comfortable to lead an exercise class at this point.  If not, consider the
FitXpress DVD series.  There are 9 titles designed specifically for low-to-moderate
functioning older adults.  These titles are used by 100’s of older adults across the U.S.,
and most all of them have the component of muscular strength and endurance.  If you
would like a FREE sample DVD, call us at 1-800-481-7449, or email me;
See you right back here next month when we will continue this discussion, taking a look
at opportunities for strengthening the upper body of the lower functioning RP.  Until
then…be healthy!