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.  
Physical Activity and the Brain

Welcome back!  As we spring into fitness, let’s think a bit more on the topic of brain

Physical activity is shown to enhance brain health!  That’s right…neuroscientists
(Nussbaum 2006; Abbott et al. 2004; Verghese et al. 2003) recommend swimming,
dancing, gardening, knitting, more frequent use of the non-dominant hand and leg, and
walking on a daily basis. Small (2006) encourages regular physical activity that
includes an adequate cardiovascular workout. Medina (2008) suggests that aerobic
exercise is the key to lowering the odds of getting Alzheimer’s by 60%.  An accumulation
of 30 minutes of walking a day can cut the risk of having a stroke, one of the leading
causes of mental disability in older adults, by up to 57%. Medina (2008) says that our
evolutionary ancestors walked up to 12 miles per day, which strengthened the
cardiovascular system and built a network of vessels that enhanced blood flow to the

Regular physical activity increases flow of blood to the brain.  Blood brings much-
needed oxygen and glucose for energy, stimulating the growth of dendrites and thereby
enhancing connections in-and-between neurons. Physical activity is also reported to
stimulate growth of new cells in the hippocampus.  Ratey (2008) refers to physical
activity as Miracle-Gro® for the brain, serving to fertilize the cells in an effort to keep
them functioning and growing.

Medina (2008) reports on the growing body of research that suggests physical activity is
a key factor in preventing and treating depression and anxiety.  Physical activity acts to
release three neurotransmitters that are directly associated with the maintenance of
mental health: serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters have
a positive impact on mood, feelings of harmony and well-being.

Physical activity optimizes learning in three ways (Wolfe 2001), serving to:
1. Heighten the ability of systems to function more efficiently and effectively.
2. Enhance the ability of cells to connect.
3. Promote new cell growth.

Arthur Kramer, PhD, of the University of Illinois, tested the cognitive functioning of 124
men and women, aged 60–75. Subjects were divided into two groups; one walked
briskly for an hour three times per week, while the other did yoga stretches. After 6
months of activity, they were given a memory test, and the walkers scored 25% higher
than those who stretched (Ratey 2008).

According to Verghese and colleagues (2003), older adults who dance regularly
decrease their risk of dementia by 76%. One such woman, active in square dancing,
reported she does it to keep her body and her brain healthy. Her square-dance group
once did a demonstration for a group of college students.  Those students, and their
professor, observed firsthand the quick responses these older adults had to the
various complex square-dance calls.  The students were even more impressed when
they joined in, learning just a few basic moves. Any time we challenge our brains by
doing something new and different, we strengthen neuronal connections (Jensen

With this in mind, encourage residents to get moving.   Share the facts found in this
month’s column with them.  If they’re just getting started, never fear!  Several of the
FitXpress DVD titles were designed with those folks in mind.  Go to
and visit the PRODUCT page.  The best titles for those who are just getting started, or
who may be somewhat frail, are Stars & Stripes Fitnesscize, Music in Motion, Yoga
Stretch and Easy Tai Chi.  If you have a question or comment, feel free to call me toll
free at 1-800-481-7449; ext 802.

“Happy Mother’s Day” to all the moms out there!  