- Chi Kung
- Eight Brocades
- Ba Duan Jin
- Yan Xin
- Wu Qin Xi
For Patients & Caregivers
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What Is It
Qigong combines body movements, muscle relaxation, meditation, and breathing to improve physical, mental, and emotional health. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine principles, disturbed or blocked flow of qi can produce discomfort and illness within an individual. Free flow of qi is associated with better health. Qigong is generally considered a low-intensity exercise.
How It Works
Studies show that qigong practice can have many positive effects, particularly among patients with cancer, chronic illnesses, and breathing problems, as well as older adults.
Benefits include improved lung function, mood, and quality of life, as well as reduced stress, pain, anxiety, and fatigue. It is also beneficial for overall health maintenance, particularly in older adults. Some studies have shown the amount of benefit corresponds to amount of practice.
Purported uses and benefits
Clinical studies show that qigong can help reduce anxiety and stress.
Regular qigong practice can help improve lung function and breathing efficiency.
Qigong can help reduce chronic fatigue.
Qigong reduced sense of pain in patients receiving chemotherapy and in those with other chronic conditions. It may also help reduce inflammation which can cause pain.
Studies in various populations suggest it can improve posture, balance, and coordination to improve daily tasks like walking.
Qigong practice may improve cognitive function, including increased attention and processing speed in older adults.
Is It Safe
Who Can Provide this Service
Where Can I Get Treatment
For Healthcare Professionals
Developed nearly 5,000 years ago in China, qigong is traditionally used for therapeutic purposes. As a mind-body practice, it integrates methods of movement, muscle relaxation, meditation, and respiratory exercise to improve physical, emotional, and psychological health.
There are many variations of qigong as well as similarities with tai chi, and they are often practiced together. Simplified versions, such as the Eight Brocades are taught to and practiced by a large number of people with minimal training. These have also been clinically studied because they have standardized movements with reproducible effects.
Qigong can help reduce
- Anxiety, stress
It can also help improve
- Mental functioning
- Motor function
Qigong in oncology settings
Clinical studies indicate positive effects on anxiety, mood, and quality of life (1) (20) (34) (46) (52) (53), and on physical symptoms such as posture, pain, numbness, dizziness, fatigue, inflammation, and cognitive function (1) (21) (22) (37) (45) (47) (48) (53).
Qigong is generally considered a low-intensity exercise. Patients should be aware that it is not a cancer treatment, but can be practiced to help alleviate associated symptoms. Those who are weak, particularly due to chemotherapy, should consult a physician before taking on more strenuous forms of qigong (27).
In other populations
Regular qigong practice may benefit patients with hypertension (6) (14), fibromyalgia (7) (41), chronic fatigue (8), and other chronic conditions (9) (10). It may also improve respiratory function, balance, motor function, and endurance (11) (12) (13) (14) (15) (16) (17) (19) (42) (49) (50).
Purported uses and benefits
Mechanism of Action
Qigong incorporates muscle relaxation, breathing exercises, meditation, and body movements to foster a free, stabilized, and unobstructed internal flow of qi (chee), an accepted concept of vital energy force (2). Through this mind-body dynamic, qigong can play an integral role in hypothalamic activity, easing both parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems (PNS, SNS) towards homeostasis (1) (27). Lower blood pressure exhibited following qigong exercise are compatible with stabilized SNS activity (6) (14). It also modulates urinary catecholamine levels (14).
Pulmonary benefits observed are likely due to the focused, deep breathing powered by lower abdominal muscles in an area known as tantien (dawn-dee-in), considered the body’s main energy center. This places less pressure on the lungs, increases lung capacity (13), and improves ventilatory function (14) and breathing efficiency (19). The potential to reduce BMI may also be related to tantien contractions, which strengthens the waist and increases calorific consumption (12).
Neurocognitive benefits in the elderly after qigong training are associated with greater reductions in peripheral IL-6 levels and increased right hippocampal grey matter volume (51). Qigong may modify inflammation by affecting immune response via neuroendocrine factors (1) (28). Potential antidepressive effects may occur via increased adiponectin levels (39) and downregulation of hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis hyperactivity (10).
The effect of qigong on numbness in breast cancer patients receiving chemotherapy may be due to its stimulatory action as an upper extremity exercise, which is often recommended for post-surgery patients (21). Its positive effect on balance is attributed to improved vestibular input and wider stances (16).
Qigong practice is generally safe.
Patients who are weak, particularly from chemotherapy, should consult a physician before taking on more strenuous forms of qigong (27).
Practitioners and Treatments
Organizations such as the National Qigong Association certify Qigong practitioners. The Medical Tai Chi and Qigong Association (MTQA) is working toward an accreditation standard guideline for instructors and training institutions (40).
Qigong classes are offered at hospitals as well as cancer and community centers.