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This page brought to you by Nikki Carrion of FitXpress Consulting Services. Thanks Nikki!

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The Pillow Squeeze

1st Quarter- 2012 Advise:  Understand that in the absence of efforts related to strengthening…we lose muscle mass at a rate of pound to a pound a year.  However, research suggests it is never too late to get started in terms of gaining muscle mass.  The human body is designed to adapt, and it will get stronger with repeated efforts of strength training.  Encourage your resident/patients (RPs) to get a move on versus sitting the day away.  Consider the fact that sitting the day away takes little-to-no effort, especially when it is passive sitting that includes the look of slouching and sliding into the chair/wheelchair.  Understand when you see your RPs shrinking/sliding into their wheelchair…you are literally observing the atrophy/weakening of their muscles.  Their muscles are virtually going to sleep.  Know, and more important believe, that you have the power to make a difference in terms of helping wake up their muscles!  Exercises done from the privacy and comfort of one’s bed, like the one that follows, not only reap results but are often less threatening as well. 
 1st Quarter 2012 Activity
: "The Pillow Squeeze"
Equipment needed:  A bed pillow OR a small ball (e.g. the type you find in the toy department).  
Cue to Action:
Any time the RP is lying in bed; morning, afternoon or evening.  This is a productive way to start, or to end, the day.
The Action: Put a
pillow (or ball) between the knees of the RP and quite simply…squeeze and release the pillow/ball repeatedly.  Each time the pillow is squeezed…push air out/exhale.  When the pillow/ball is released…pull air in/inhale.  Understand that you want them to do this slowly…and purposefully.  Try it yourself 1stfeel the various muscles working; legs, hips and the muscles of the torso. 

Feel free to make up your own verbiage, or to use the following guidelines:

1.       “OK…as we get started I want you to lay here on your back and put this pillow (folded in half works best) between your knees. 

2.       “Now…take a breath in through your nose…then slowly squeeze the pillow and BLOW the air out through your mouth.  Release the pressure as you breathe in…squeeze the pillow and breathe out again.  Slowly, and with good control, squeeze…and release.  Squeeze…and release.”     

                                I.            Repeat this as many times as the RP is comfortable to do.  Encourage the RP to close their eyes and to focus on the muscles they feel working.  Avoid tightening up in other areas (e.g. arms, neck, shoulders, etc).  The focus is on tightening the hips, legs and torso/abs.   

3.       “Now…think about those muscles you’re working.  Focus on feeling it in your legs…in your hips…and in your tummy.  That’s it…squeeze it like you mean it!” 

                                I.            When you think they’ve had about as much as they can handle you’ll have them hold it.

4.       “Good job!  Now…squeeze and hold without holding your breath.”

5.       “Way to go…now relax.”

                                I.            At this point consider either having them do an exercise for the upper body (e.g. alternating arm raises or circles) or simply have them relax and do some deep breathing.  The important thing is to have them take a break from working the muscles of the lower body.  After the break, feel free to repeat the pillow squeeze again. 

6.       To finish: Deep breathing is important, and is always a good to finish up any physical efforts.  Soothing music, during this time, is a great option that often serves to relieve stress and tension.    

Remember…there are a wide variety of determinants regarding physical balance, and strength tops the list.  If YOU are in the market to empower your RPs to improve their functional fitness, thereby reducing fall rates within your facility, keep checking the website for more great ideas.  Every fall you stop is one less fall, and improving strength is directly correlated to accomplishing just that! 

Check the FitXpress website; if you are in the market for cutting edge, class-formatted chair exercise DVDs to spice up your activity program.  You’ll be glad you did.   

Steps to Better Balance and Fall Prevention (SBBFP) is a FitXpress training module; NCCAP approved for 8 CEUs.   SBBFP is packed with great information on the subject of balance & falls, and is being used by professionals across the United States.  It is geared for 3 levels of function; frail, able & more able…and is designed specifically for professionals with a quest of empowering RPs to higher levels of functional fitness and/or wanting to reduce falls within their facility.  For more information, and/or a free module intro DVD, call 1-800-481-7449 or email me

Be healthy…be  J


Nikki Carrion is co-owner of Fit Xpress Consulting Services in Waterloo,
.  She has 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.  She is certified in the areas of personal
training, yoga  instruction and pilates instruction, and she is a master
trainer for 3 nationally recognized, research-based programs; A Matter of
Balance from Boston University, Chronic Disease Self-Management from
Stanford University and Enhance Fitness from the University of Washington.

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Jolene Ewert, All Rights Reserved