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5 ways to build your body’s own armor

Your body is designed to fight what threatens it

if you were to be physically attacked, internally or externally, what have you done to put yourself in a position to win that fight?

In the words of Rocky, fast forward to 1:37 if you’d like to get to the point.


1) Building Muscle Armor

Lack of muscle is an epidemic in and of itself. That may sound like a very “meat-heady” thing to say, but as you continue to read on, I think you’ll be inclined to agree with me, or at least think it wasn’t a “meat-heady” thing to say on my part. Muscle definitely plays a massive role in the strength of a human being; however, there are other factors that contribute to strength.

Interestingly, Researchers say grip strength can predict your overall strength and health, as well as your risk of cardiovascular disease. As you age, the stronger your grip, the more likely you are to survive diseases like cancer. Maintaining muscle mass (and, as part of that, grip strength) is important for mobility and strength. If you don’t work your muscles, they lose mass.

This is especially true after age 40, when muscles tend to lose their mass as part of aging. A strong grip at an older age is an indicator of longevity. In a 2015 study, researchers collected 142,000 grip strength measurements in 17 countries to test ongoing disease and discovered significant results. The study suggests that, for each 11-pound decrease in grip strength, there is a 16 percent higher risk of death from any cause. When faced with a physical altercation, I’d be willing to bet that you’d be glad if you’re the type of person that strength trains a few times per week. (https://www.eehealth.org/blog/2020/02/what-your-grip-strength-says-about-your-overall-health/)

That in and of itself should be a compelling enough reason to begin pushing some iron around. The best case scenario is people begin honoring their bodies at an early age, and continue to build/retain muscle by consistently strength training at a minimum of 2 times per week, but the best doses seem to be at higher frequencies (3-5 times per week). As you’ll see as you keep reading below, building muscle and total body strength has far reaching effects towards living your best life.

2) Building Skeletal Armor

Now let’s look at the skeletal system and the importance of keeping that system in good health and more importantly part of your body’s protective armor.
We bet you didn’t know this little factoid about human bone: bone is extraordinarily strong — ounce for ounce, bone is stronger than steel, since a bar of steel of comparable size would weigh four or five times as much. A cubic inch of bone can in principle bear a load of 19,000 lbs (www.livescience.com). Pretty incredible right!? Now imagine if you do the right thing with this precious tissue and stimulate it a few times per week to continue to reinforce it for all the years of your life!? 
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, approximately 10 million Americans have osteoporosis and another 44 million have low bone density, placing them at increased risk. This means that half of all adults age 50 and older are at risk of breaking a bone and should be concerned about bone health. Additionally, in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research,“Despite the known excess mortality in patients suffering from osteoporosis, life expectancy of newly diagnosed and treated osteoporosis patients is in excess of 15 years in women below the age of 75 and in men below the age of 60 who are treated for osteoporosis, highlighting the importance of developing clear guidelines for the management of long-term treatment.”
The long-term treatment is to start picking up the weights right now and develop a plan to get strong. People get sick of me for the soap box I climb up on shout from the rooftops that YOU NEED TO STRENGTH TRAIN, but the truth is most people would rather get their 10,000 steps, ride a bike, go a for plod (jog), and swim. These are good things, but none of these things induce nearly the positive effects on bone tissue like external resistance on the body, in particular the spine, hips, and lower limbs. 
Build your skeletal armor now by lifting weights and getting strong.

3) Building Immune System Armor

It may seem like we’re beating a dead horse with some of this stuff because of the profound impacts that few healthy habits can have over one’s life. It’s also no secret that our society’s health care system is really just a sick care system. Don’t take that the wrong way if you’re a health care worker. I know, you care about people and you’re good at what you do. Interestingly though, in my experiences as a personal trainer, the most prevalent occupation I had the privilege of working with were…….drum roll……..health care workers! That last sentence was a rabbit trail, but what’s important to point out is how our “health care” system largely focuses on symptomatic treatments and not the root cause of the issues. Sure, doc may say, “you need to lose weight,” but that doesn’t cut it. 

Anywho, here a some basic habits that anyone can employ to build up their immune system to be better at fighting.

  1. Do you exercise most, if not all, days of the week?ACSM exercise guidelines, better known as physical activity guidelines, state that all healthy adults aged 18–65 yr should participate in moderate intensity aerobic physical activity for a minimum of 30 min on five days per week, or vigorous intensity aerobic activity for a minimum of 20 min on three days per week. The word minimum was italicized for your benefit.
  2. Do you eat at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies everyday? It’s no secret that most of us could probably stand to eat more fruits and vegetables. Now, there’s more incentive than ever to do so, as a new analysis finds that eating more than five servings of fruits and veggies per day can reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, cancer, and early death. The researchers found the greatest benefit came from eating 10 portions of fruits and vegetables a day. They estimate that if everyone ate this amount – equivalent to about 800 grams, or 28 ounces – approximately 7.8 million premature deaths worldwide could be prevented. To arrive at these figures, scientists from Imperial College London analyzed 95 studies on fruit and vegetable intake. The meta-analysis included 2 million people from populations worldwide and assessed up to 43,000 cases of heart disease, 47,000 cases of stroke, 81,000 cases of cardiovascular disease, 112,000 cancer cases, and 94,000 deaths. The results are published in the International Journal of Epidemiology. “We wanted to investigate how much fruit and vegetables you need to eat to gain the maximum protection against disease, and premature death,” Dr. Dagfinn Aune, lead author of the research from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, said in a statement. “Our results suggest that although five portions of fruit and vegetables is good, ten a day is even better.”
  3. Do you supplement intelligently? It’s crazy how this is still a hotly debated topic in many circles. I think where a lot of it stems from in the vast quality disparities that can be found within the supplement communities. However, when the science, quality, and efficacy is there with a supplement, they can have a very pronounced impact on one’s health. Don’t believe us? Keep on reading. A landmark study on the topic by Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. They studied U.S. Department of Agriculture nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century. Davis and his colleagues chalk up this declining nutritional content to the preponderance of agricultural practices designed to improve traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) other than nutrition. “Efforts to breed new varieties of crops that provide greater yield, pest resistance and climate adaptability have allowed crops to grow bigger and more rapidly,” reported Davis, “but their ability to manufacture or uptake nutrients has not kept pace with their rapid growth.” There have likely been declines in other nutrients, too, he said, such as magnesium, zinc and vitamins B-6 and E, but they were not studied in 1950 and more research is needed to find out how much less we are getting of these key vitamins and minerals. The Organic Consumers Association cites several other studies with similar findings: A Kushi Institute analysis of nutrient data from 1975 to 1997 found that average calcium levels in 12 fresh vegetables dropped 27 percent; iron levels 37 percent; vitamin A levels 21 percent, and vitamin C levels 30 percent. A similar study of British nutrient data from 1930 to 1980, published in the British Food Journal found that in 20 vegetables the average calcium content had declined 19 percent; iron 22 percent; and potassium 14 percent. Yet another study concluded that one would have to eat eight oranges today to derive the same amount of Vitamin A as our grandparents would have gotten from one. This is why we nearly always recommend people look into a high quality greens/fruit powder as a basic starting point to help fill in some gaps and help your immune system. Some other ingredients have shown some strong promise as well. One that is new to us that we personally like is the ingredient called Acemannan. Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the processing of stabilized Aloe vera changed very little. Then in 2005, the discovery was made that only certain sizes of Acemannan molecules (Aloe vera’s bioactive molecule) were small enough to be absorbed directly into the bloodstream, and other slightly larger fractions actually facilitated the plant’s amazing immunomodulatory effect. The largest fractions of Acemannan become prebiotic nourishment for friendly bacteria in the gut. With this new information, Dr. Santiago Rodriguez, one of the world’s leading experts on Aloe Acemannan processing, developed Alovéa Immūn—a proprietary Acemannan composition. Alovéa Immūn is a revolutionary new Aloe vera extract with a proprietary concentration of these immune activating and bioavailable Acemannan fractions, making it a powerful, non-toxic addition your integrative health strategy to support the body’s normal functions of defense, repair, and regeneration. Here’s an abstract of a literature review of this ingredient: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25233608/

  4. Do you get quality sleep?  According to the Mayo Clinic, Yes, lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep. So, your body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases. Long-term lack of sleep also increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease. (www.mayoclinic.com) As you can see, you won’t find increased screen time and scrolling and trolling as healthy habits to increase your immune system’s effectiveness.
  5. How do you handle stress? We like to tell people that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to compound problems in our lives with more problems. For example, a person is stressed by their job for whatever reason, so because they are stressed, they decide to drink a 6er every night and eat like a black bear that found a garbage can. This is compounding stress in your life, and it’s not an intelligent thing to do. “yeah but….” No yeah but. When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced. That is why we are more susceptible to infections. The stress hormone corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system (e.g. lowers the number of lymphocytes). So how we handle stress in our life alone impacts our immune system, so why don’t we learn to counteract that inevitable stress with proactive measures in numbers 1 – 4 above? It is important to mention once again, if you’re not practicing habits 1 – 4 above, really all you’re doing is leaving yourself super susceptible to sickness in your life. This is on you. No finger pointing.

4) Building Organ system armor

This may be obvious and sound like common sense, but if we exercise regularly, I think everyone would agree that our heart, or cardiovascular system improves its function. Additionally, it would also make sense that our lungs, or respiratory system, also improves with regular exercise. Interestingly, I did my biggest Master’s paper on the impact and benefits of HIIT (high intensity interval training) on COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) patients. This was incredibly eye opening at the power of intense exercise and lung function/capacity. I wish I could find my paper 🙁  If HIIT can do that for COPD patients, what could it do for COVID folks? That study doesn’t exist yet, but I’m betting on HIIT training being a worthy approach. Now about the nervous system? Think about the incredibly designed network of nerves that run throughout our entire body. That alone shows us how amazing our creator in Heaven is. What’s even more incredible is how this advanced network of neurons can become increasingly more efficient and capable when the stimulus of strength and power training is applied to it! A person can use exercise to improve the functioning of the nerves that serve the muscles and other peripheral parts of the body. Increasing the activity in the peripheral nervous system strengthens the nerves, in the same way that exercise strengthens the muscles. (www.brainandspineni.com)



5) Building metabolic armor

We all know this already, but exercise increases your metabolic rate. But what you may not know is the significance of strength training and muscle building on your metabolism. In a recent comprehensive research review, Donnelly and colleagues (2003) note that the majority of peer-reviewed resistance training studies (lasting from 8 to 52 weeks) show increases of 2.2 to 4.5 lbs of muscle mass. Therefore, the 4.5 lbs of muscle mass would increase the resting metabolic rate by about 50 kilocalories per day. Although not near as much as is promoted, this small change does help to close the “energy gap” between energy intake and energy expenditure. Therefore it is appropriate to share (but not over tout) with students and clients that more muscle creates a higher demand for energy, since muscle will need to maintain itself at rest and during exercise. Perhaps one of the most meaningful benefits of resistance training during a reduced-calorie intake intervention is that it helps to prevent the loss of fat-free mass (muscle) (Donnelly et al., 2003).

Let’s break this down a little bit further. Think about those 50 extra calories you gain from strength training and having built a few extra pounds of muscle. That alone, in a vacuum setting, could lead to 18,250 extra calories burned per day just because you have that precious tissue on your body. This amounts to basically a 5lb loss in fat throughout the year. Remember what those 5lb models of fat look like? Think that’s significant? It sure the heck is! But here’s where it gets even more important, when most people aim to lose weight, they diet, maybe do some aerobic exercise, and likely do not strength train as part of their regimen. This is a MASSIVE mistake metabolically speaking. You can’t diet yourself to zero calories to keep losing weight, but that’s basically what most people do on a diet. They just keep restricting calories, losing muscle, and their metabolic rate declines to snail’s pace. This happens ALL THE TIME! 

Wouldn’t you rather build your metabolic rate by adding muscle to your frame (and all the other benefits mentioned above), which in turn elevates your metabolism while you carve the fat off your body leaving you with a much healthier body composition? Heck, over time, it’s quite attainable for most flacid individuals to gain 10lbs of lean mass, which would equate to an estimated extra 100 calories of extra metabolic burn throughout the day. Now double your math on what you can do with fat loss. 

Build your metabolic armor with strength training. NOTHING PAYS BIGGER DIVIDENDS THAN BUILDING STRENGTH AND MUSCLE. 


Just listen to Rocky:

You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!