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 #7: Balance - Upper Body Exercises

Welcome back!  This month we’re continuing on the topic of physical balance.  Last
month’s discussion was related to the resident/patient’s (RP) home environment, and
how important it is for the RP to have a high level of awareness with regard to hazards
within his or her living quarters.  Now…let’s move on to discuss the physical self, and
what steps a RP can take to improve his or her physical balance.  If you’ve been reading
along on a regular basis, you’ll recognize some of this information from previous
columns.  This is because our physical balance, as I mentioned before, is highly
dependent upon the ideas of posture, strength, flexibility and overall body awareness
already discussed.  Let’s examine these components one-at-a-time:

1)        Posture:  Carrying the head forward of the body is often the norm as we age and
this can oftentimes be improved with awareness and effort.  In order for anyone,
regardless of their age, to have good posture they need to have:
a.        Strong back muscles.
b.        Flexible chest muscles.
2)        Strength: Without regular strength training-type efforts in place, we begin to lose
muscle mass at a rate of .5 – 1 pound per year beginning around the age of 25.  
Specific to balance, RPs need to develop strength in:
a.        The muscles of the back.
b.        The muscles of the lower body with particular attention to lower legs and ankles.  
3)        Flexibility: The mobility of joints, regardless of one’s age, deteriorates over time in
the absence of regular efforts to stretch and maintain the elasticity of the muscles that
support those joints.
4)        Overall body awareness: Body awareness is the simple idea of coming to
understand the body processes and then taking action to do what needs to maintain
those processes.  As an individual, regardless of his or her age, becomes more
physically active his or her body awareness automatically increases.  A high level of
body awareness in-and-of-itself serves to decrease risks for falling.

The more physical activity an individual participates in the better.  But…something is
better than nothing, and you may be thinking about the fact that not all of your RPs will
be interested in participating in a structured activity class.  If this is the case, consider
providing “balance tips” that correspond with a daily activity such as lunch.  If you do
have a structured activity class, use these same tips as the educational aspect of the

There are a multitude of actions that can be taken, but a few key actions for the upper
body are:

1)        Chin tucks: Using the analogy of a turtle, have the RP(s) pull their chin back like a
turtle pulls their head into their shell.  As this is done, encourage the RP(s) to exercise
his or her body awareness…being very aware of 2 relationships; *head-to-body and
*neck-to-spine.  Explain that holding the head pulled back, vs forward of the body,
serves to enhance balance because it balances the weight of the head above the body
where it belongs instead of carrying the weight forward which only serves to throw off
2)        Chest stretch: Using the analogy of a bird, the RP(s) takes his or her hands
behind their back and claps one wrist.  The arms coming out to the sides are then
compared to the wings of a bird.  The RP(s) then opens the arms, pinching the
shoulder blades together while breathing and holding for at least 20 seconds.  The
stretch is felt across the chest.   
3)        Strengthening the back: Using the analogy of rowing a boat, have the RP(s) sit up
tall and reach straight out in front with both hands.  Now…the RP(s) does a rowing
action…pulling back with both arms and pinching their shoulder blades together.  
Using added weight is another option.  This is done by holding a weight (e.g. a bag of
rice or a dumbbell) in one hand and putting the other forearm across the lap so as to
lean forward.  Now the analogy is starting a lawn mower in slow motion.  Pulling up,
shoulder blade toward the spine, and slowly coming back down.  Do several and repeat
on the opposite side.

You’re off to a good start with these upper body exercises.  Next month we will discuss
what lower body-type actions can be taken to improve balance, thereby reducing the risk
for falls.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to visit our website
or give me a call; 1-800-481-7449.  If you do visit the website, sign our guest book at the
bottom of the home page.  We’d love to hear what you think.

Until next month, be healthy…be happy!