Ask the doctor

 If you have well-controlled blood pressure and are otherwise healthy, most types of strength training — which includes weight lifting — are generally considered not only safe but beneficial for your overall health. You should take precautions, however.

But let’s start with some definitions. Strength training (also called resistance training) refers to any exercise that works your muscles against an opposing force. You can train your muscles using your own body’s weight or equipment such as elasticized bands, dumbbells and other free weights, or specialized machines.

These muscle-building exercises may be dynamic or isometric. Dynamic exercises are those in which you move your muscles and joints, such as a biceps curl or a squat. Isometric exercises are performed against an immovable object, such as a wall or the floor, and include things such as planks or wall sits (see photo).

When you perform any type of exercise — whether it’s aerobic, strength training, stretching, or even balance exercises — both your blood pressure and heart rate increase to meet the greater demand for oxygen from your muscles. Some research suggests that during exercise, isometric exercise may boost blood pressure more than dynamic exercise, but the evidence isn’t conclusive. However, it’s clear that just as with aerobic or endurance exercise (such as walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming), strength training can help lower your blood pressure if you do it consistently.

Most adults should do strength training exercises at least two days a week, according to the federal activity guidelines. Beginners should start with exercise bands or light hand weights. If you’re more experienced, weight machines are a good option. Use a weight that’s challenging but manageable. The general advice is to start with a single set of eight to 12 repetitions (reps) and then gradually build up to three sets over time. Rest for at least a minute between each set.

However, people who have high blood pressure, especially if it’s not optimally controlled, should be cautious about any movements that involve lifting very heavy weights—not just loaded barbells at the gym, but also heavy furniture or boxes of books. That’s because the sudden, intense effort can cause your blood pressure to spike—especially if you hold your breath, which people sometimes do in an attempt to increase their effort. During strength training exercises, be sure to exhale as you lift, push, or pull, and inhale as you release. Counting out loud as you lift and release can help you remember to keep breathing.

— Deepak L. Bhatt, M.D., M.P.H.
Editor in Chief, Harvard Heart Letter

Bible verses for today’s meditation and inspiration: Matthew E. McLaren

2 Corinthians 13:9 For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.

Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.

Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of your number, a bondslave of Jesus Christ, sends you his greetings, always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God.

2 Corinthians 10:15-16 not boasting beyond our measure, that is, in other men’s labors, but with the hope that as your faith grows, we will be, within our sphere, enlarged even more by you, so as to preach the gospel even to the regions beyond you, and not to boast in what has been accomplished in the sphere of another.

2 Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brethren, as is only fitting, because your faith is greatly enlarged, and the love of each one of you toward one another grows ever greater;

2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

Ephesians 1:17-18 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

Ephesians 3:16-19 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, read more

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