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.  
Enhance Strength for Increased Independence

“Welcome back!” As I promised last month, we’re going to look at how you can
empower your lower functioning resident/patients (RPs) even further, by helping them to
develop their upper body strength.  Examining the primary functions of the upper body
first, understand the upper body’s main movements; pushing, pulling, bending and
turning.  All of these movements are included in sequence to follow, and the sequence
includes all the components of a safe-and-effective routine so feel free to try with an
individual RP or with a group.  I’ll give you several options to choose from, all of which
are economy-minded.  You can choose from these options based on the equipment
that is available to you at your facility.  Ready…set…go!  

Warm-up: (Bending and turning, as mentioned above, are included)

1.        Sitting up tall lift both arms together and breathe in…both arms down and
breathe out.  Repeat slowly 4-8 times to increase oxygen flow.
2.        Stomp…clap…stomp…clap to the music repeatedly to increase blood flow.
3.        Marching gently to the tune of the music while pumping the arms by the sides.
4.        Legs relaxing…reach up right (R) bending slightly to the left.  Then reach up left
(L), bending slightly to the right.  So…you’re simply reaching up slowly R,L,R,L as many
times as you wish.
5.        Proceed to reach forward R & L.  Reach R, turning slightly to the L, then reach
forward L turning slightly to the R.  Again, repeat as many times as you wish.  
6.        Now…wrap your arms around your head one-at-a-time as if to comb the hair on
the opposite side of your head.  Wrap the R arm slowly around…and then the L arm.  
Repeat several times.  Great for the range-of-motion of the shoulders.
7.        Finish the warm-up by pulling the elbows toward the wall behind you R, then
L…R, then L repeatedly.
8.        #2 through #7 can be done a second time of your RPs are having fun with it.   

Exercises: (Pulling and pushing options, as mentioned above)

PUSHING OPTIONS; choose one:

1.        Seated chest press w/ NO EQUIPMENT ~ The RP participant(s) place the palms
of the hands together, level with the heart…elbows lifted.  Without elevating the
shoulders, simple press together and release.  Each press is held while the RP
pushes the breath all the way out.  At the end of the breath, release the pressure and
breathe in.  Repeat.
2.        Seated chest press w/ a PLAY BALL ~ Have the RP participant hold a small play
ball (e.g. found in a discount store for around 99 cents) at heart level.  Slowly push and
released with the elbows lifted and the shoulders relaxed.  Repeat 5-15 times keeping
the breathing pattern even throughout.
3.        Seated chest press w/ a RESISTANCE BAND ~ The RP participant takes a
resistance band across his or her back.  Coming from under the arms, he or she holds
the ends and pushes forward slowly…bending the elbows to return.  Again, repeat 5-15
times and breathe evenly.

PULLING OPTIONS, choose one:

1.        Seated rows w/ NO EQUIPMENT ~ Have RPs hold both arms out in front fully
extended.  Next…they bend at the elbows pulling both arms back and pinching the
shoulder blades toward one another.  Explain that strong back muscles are essential
for posture improvement, and good posture helps with balance.
2.        Seated rows w/ a WEIGHTED OBJECT such as a dumbbell or a bag of rice ~
With the weighted object in one hand, the RP bends slightly forward and places his or
her opposite arm across the lap for support.  With the spine lengthened as much as
possible, pull the weighted object up…the elbow coming past the body and the
shoulder blade coming toward the spine.
3.        Seated row w/ a resistance band ~ The RP sits up tall, holding onto the ends of
the resistance band.  The band is then slipped across the bottom of one shoe.  Feet
stay on the floor, band right across the middle of one shoe in order to provide
resistance.  Still sitting tall, the RP pulls slowly with both arms.  The shoulder blades
come toward one another on the pull, and then gently release.  Breathing pattern
relaxed and even.

Rest if needed and then go on to perform a second set; something from the pushing
list and then something from the pulling list.

Cool down:

1.        Chin tucks ~ With the chin parallel to the floor, slowly slide it forward and slowly
pull it back.  Here you are asking RPs to think about the relationship of the head to the
body and the neck to the spine.  Older adults often carry their head forward of their body
which in-and-of-itself can throw off balance.  Stooping point is the pulled back
position…explaining this is ideal neck/spine alignment; balance enhancer.
2.        Chest expansion ~ Grab the chair’s frame and lean forward, reaching with the
chest and pinching the shoulder blades toward one another to stretch chest and
3.        Sit up again, arms dropped by the sides, and slowly shrug the shoulders up-and-
4.        Roll the shoulders slowly back one-at-a-time.
5.        Circle the elbows slowly.  R…L…R…L as many times as you wish.
a.        3, 4 & 5 serve to improve range-of-motion in the shoulder region.
6.        Pick the R foot slightly off the floor; point and flex repeatedly.  Same with the L foot.
7.        Pick up the R foot again, and slowly trace the face of a clock.  Repeat with the L
8.        RPs finish by relaxing…closing their eyes and taking some really deep breaths.  
Eyes are closed in an effort to keep them focused on their own breath, and you ask
them to pull the breath in until they feel their lungs are nice and full.  Then…you ask
them to let it back out very slowly.  Then…the most important part in terms of improving
lung capacity is to have them push…push…push the air all the way out at the end of the

“Thank you” from your RPs for caring enough to invest in them by getting them moving!  
Don’t have time to invest in learning to teach the classes yourself?  Need an alternative
when you are on vacation or ill?  Visit the FItXpress website and see ALL of the
FitXpress exercise titles!  These titles are being used by APs across the US, each
having an economy-minded design that serves to enhance the health and wellness of
the older adults being served by a host of APs.

I look forward to seeing you right back here next month when the topic will be physical
Keep up the great work you all do, and remember to take some time-out each day for

The FitXpress staff wishes you and yours a happy, healthy holiday season!