Qigong is an ancient Chinese health care system that integrates physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention such as qigong meditation. For over 2,000 years these highly effective techniques have be perfected and proven successful. Tai chi is the most well known form of qigong but there are over 10,000 different forms or exercises. They are just what we need now to help us manage our stress response.
Qigong is a highly effective health care practice for self healing. Many health care professionals recommend Qigong as an important form of alternative complementary medicine. Harvard Medical School, Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, National Council on Aging, and others are all recommending qigong.
Other more traditional exercises do not involve the meridian system used in acupuncture nor do they emphasize the importance of adding mind intent and breathing techniques to physical movements. When these dimensions are added, the benefits of exercise increase exponentially.
The gentle, rhythmic movements of Relaxation Exercises such as Qigong:
- reduce stress, build stamina, increase vitality, and enhance the immune system.
- improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulation, lymph and digestive functions.
- Western scientific research confirms that Qigong reduces hypertension and the incidence of falling in the aged population. Research for other medical conditions is ongoing.
Benefits of a consistent practice:
- regain a youthful vitality,
- maintain health even into old age,
- helps speed recovery from illness.
- reestablishes the body/mind/spirit connection.
People do Qigong or Tai Chi to maintain health, heal their bodies, calm their minds, and reconnect with their spirit. When these three aspects of our being are integrated, it encourages a positive outlook on life and helps eliminate harmful attitudes and behaviors. It also creates a balanced life style, which brings greater harmony, stability, and enjoyment. Additionally, Yoga for Seniors is a wonderful exercise.
Qigong’s great appeal is that everyone can benefit, regardless of ability, age, belief system or life circumstances. (National Qigong Association www.nqa.org)
Qigong is An Effective Technique for Preventing and Easing Stress
Stress has been linked with such physical problems as heart attack, stroke, gastrointestinal problems and asthma, as well as emotional problems like depression, anxiety and an inability to enjoy life. Stress can affect digestion and metabolism (insulin resistance) leading to weight gain and diabetes, immune system for lowered disease resistance and slower tissue repair and healing, and reproduction system leading to infertility and erectile dysfunction.
Qigong Stimulates the Relaxation Response
It can “reverse the cumulative effects of stress on the body”.
“The relaxation response alters the expression of genes involved with processes such as inflammation, programmed cell death and how the body handles free radicals – molecules produced by normal metabolism that, if not appropriately neutralized, can damage cells and tissues.” says Dr. Herbert Benson, Mind/Body Medical Institute, Harvard Medical School (retired). The relaxation response stops the stress response and starts the healing process. It is the body’s natural antidote for stress. We need to relearn how to use it effectively.
Qigong can slow the aging process!
Dr. Oz says… “If you want to be healthy and live to 100, do Qigong.” “Qigong reverses the aging process.” Stress induced disease and debilitation is not part of the natural aging process. We can stay flexible in our minds and bodies as we age!
National Council on Aging says…
“Two ancient Chinese wellness exercises—Qigong and Tai Chi—could help you live a longer and healthier life. Recent studies have demonstrated their effectiveness in preventing falls and chronic disease, improving overall well-being and reducing negative drug interactions.” Stay In Your Home Longer. NCOA March/April 2006 Newsletter
Qigong and tai chi are slow and gentle exercises that don’t leave you breathless. They still can address the key components of fitness — muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and, to a lesser degree, aerobic conditioning.
- Muscle Strength. The slow, smooth arm exercise involved in tai chi and qigong strengthen the upper body similar to working with weights or resistance bands. Tai chi and qigong strengthen both the lower and upper extremities and also the core muscles of the back and abdomen.
- Flexibility. Women significantly boosted upper- and lower-body flexibility as well as strength (2006 Stanford study).
- Balance. It improves balance and reduces falls. Proprioception is the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space, and it can get harder with age. Tai chi and qigong help train this sense (inner ear and muscles). They also improve muscle strength and flexibility, which makes it easier to recover from a stumble. Fear of falling can make one more likely to fall; tai chi training can help reduce that fear.
- Aerobic conditioning. Tai chi can provide some aerobic benefits and burns calories.
The Complimentary and Alternative Medicine Department of the US National Institute of Medicine is in the process of funding rigorous research that collaborate the many Chinese studies that support the effectiveness of Qigong for healing the body.
- A 2003 Korean randomized control trial study has indicated that a single Qigong intervention can increase the immune system’s disease fighting white blood cells (monocytes and lymphocytes).
- Research supports qigong and tai chi for such conditions as arthritis, diabetes, low bone density, breast cancer, heart disease, heart failure, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, sleep problems, and stroke.
Medical News Today includes press releases on research for qigong on a variety of medical conditions. The May 2009 issue of Harvard Woman’s Health Watch was on the health benefits of tai chi, and as was the November 2007 Mayo Clinic Newsletter. A comprehensive review of the research on the health benefits of tai chi and qigong was published in American Journal of Health Promotion in 2010 by Drs Roger Janhke and Linda Larkey. The Qigong Institute has a data base of over 3,0000 research publications as well as summary white papers for review.
Examples of Research on Qigong and Tai Chi for Medical Conditions
Recent research is showing how tai chi and qigong can be helpful for many chronic medical conditions.
- An hour of tai chi twice a week for 12 weeks reduced pain and improved mood and physical functioning more than standard stretching exercises in people with severe knee osteoarthritis. (Tufts University study presented at October 2008 at a meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, 40 person study)
- Eight weeks of tai chi classes followed by eight weeks of home practice significantly improved flexibility and slowed the disease process in patients with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful and debilitating inflammatory form of arthritis that affects the spine. (Korean study published in December 2008 in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine)
- Low bone density.
- A review of six controlled studies showed tai chi may be a safe and effective way to maintain bone density in postmenopausal women (Dr Wayne at Harvard University) .
- Breast cancer.
- Tai chi has shown potential for improving quality of life and functional capacity (the physical ability to carry out normal daily activities, such as work or exercise) in women suffering from breast cancer or the side effects of breast cancer treatment. ( 2008 study at the University of Rochester published in Medicine and Sport Science 12 weeks of tai chi) Functional capacity includes aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and flexibility.
- Heart disease.
- A year of tai chi significantly boosted exercise capacity, lowered blood pressure, and improved levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, and C-reactive protein in people at high risk for heart disease. ( 53-person study at National Taiwan University published in the September 2008 Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine)
- Heart failure.
- 12 weeks of tai chi improved participants’ ability to walk and quality of life. It also reduced blood levels of B-type natriuretic protein, an indicator of heart failure. (30-person pilot study at Harvard Medical School, a 150-patient controlled trial is pending)
- Tai chi lowered blood pressure — with improvements ranging from 3 to 32 mm Hg in systolic pressure and from 2 to 18 mm Hg in diastolic pressure. (review of 26 studies in English or Chinese published in Preventive Cardiology Spring 2008 by Dr. Yeh of Harvard University)
- Parkinson’s disease.
- people with mild to moderately severe Parkinson’s disease showed improved balance, walking ability, and overall well-being after 20 tai chi sessions ( 33-person pilot study by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis published in Gait and Posture October 2008)
- Sleep problems.
- healthy older adults with moderate sleep complaints, 16 weeks of tai chi improved the quality and duration of sleep significantly more than standard sleep education. (I 112 person study by UCLA researchers published in the July 2008 issue of the journal Sleep.)
- Twelve weeks of tai chi by people who had suffered a stroke at least six months earlier improved standing balance more than a general exercise program that entailed breathing, stretching, and mobilizing muscles and joints involved in sitting and walking. (136 person study in January 2009 issue of Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair.)