Have you ever tried Qigong? Qigong, a practice based in Traditional Chinese Medicine, integrates posture, breathing, and movement. Through supporting the movement of qi, the vital life energy, throughout the body, Qigong aims to promote health and healing.
Research has demonstrated significant results for various health benefits from Qigong practices. These benefits include modulation of the immune system and impacts on specific diseases including hypertension, cancer, and depression.
In two of the included randomized controlled trials, the mean difference in systolic blood pressure in the Qigong group compared to the control was -18.5 mmHg. From both a statistical and a clinical perspective, that decrease is significant!
A systematic review later in 2015 included randomized controlled studies that implemented Qigong adjunct to antihypertensive drugs. The analysis found the addition of Qigong to lead to an additional decrease in blood pressure in hypertensive patients.
The group with Qigong plus antihypertensive drugs had significantly lower systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure compared to the group that received antihypertensive drugs alone.
A randomized clinical trial in 2004 studied the effects of Qigong on hypertension. To evaluate hypertension, researchers measured blood pressure and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol along with several other lipid levels. The study randomly divided 36 patients to either practice qigong or participate in a wait-list control group.
After eight weeks, the average blood pressure in the Qigong group decreased significantly. Additional measurements of hypertension also decreased significantly included total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and apolipoprotein A1.
Alternative biomarkers for hypertension include hormones such as norepinephrine, epinephrine, and cortisol. A randomized controlled study in 2003 randomly allocated 58 patients with hypertension to either participate in a Qigong group or a waitlist control group.
After 10 weeks, the blood pressures of the Qigong group participants decreased significantly. And reductions in the related hormones additionally decreased. These reductions support the idea that Qigong may play a role in stabilizing the hormones in the sympathetic nervous system and through that, overall blood pressure.
Blood pressure measurement of a patient with hypertension
Qigong for Cancer
A systematic review in 2007 evaluated Qigong as a stand-alone or additional therapy in cancer care. The review analyzed nine studies: four randomized and five non-randomized.
The studies varied too much for a conclusion to be met however, two of these studies demonstrated that those who participated in Qigong had a longer life than those who did not.
One of these studies randomized patients with hepatocellular carcinoma into two groups. One group received transcatheter arterial chemoembolization (TOCE) with Qigong and the other received TOCE without practicing Qigong.
The Qigong practice included two hours of exercise in a group class twice a week for 6 weeks and 3.5-5 hours of home practice for 24 weeks. The study was too small to extrapolate the data to a larger population but notably, the survival rate was 52.6% in the Qigong group and 29.0% in the control group.
A randomized controlled trial in 2003 analyzed the psychosocial effects of a qigong exercise program. The researchers recruited 50 geriatric patients in the sub-acute stage of chronic physical illnesses for either a control group or an experimental group with qigong practice for 12 weeks.
The group that practiced Qigong had improvements in self-reported measurements of psychological health, social relationship, and general health. The study concluded that Qigong could be a beneficial intervention for elderly with chronic physical illness to improve their biopsychosocial health.
Another randomized controlled trial in 2006 randomly allocated 82 participants with depression into either an intervention or comparison group to study qigong. The study lasted for 16-weeks where the intervention group practiced Qigong while the comparison group read the newspaper for the same duration and frequency.
The researchers collected self-reported measurements on mood, self-efficacy personal well-being, physical health, and social health. The study found that the group that practiced Qigong had greater improvements in depression and personal well-being.
The Immune System
A clinical trial in 2004 found that one month of practicing Qigong produced significant immunological changes. Researchers placed 29 participants into either an experimental group with Qigong practice or a control group.
The Qigong practice consisted of daily practice for one month. To evaluate the immune system, the study collected blood samples and measured immunological parameters including leukocytes, monocytes, and eosinophils. The study found statistically significant differences between the two groups.
The experimental group had lower numbers of total eosinophils, monocytes, and complement C3 concentration. These lower measurements could suggest an immunological protective mechanism of Qigong.
A randomized controlled trial in 2016 found Qigong to additionally exert an immunomodulatory effect. The study placed 43 healthy participants into either an experiential group or a control group for one month.
In the Qigong group, participants practiced Qigong daily. The experimental group had significantly higher numbers of B lymphocytes and lower numbers of natural killer cells. This difference demonstrates an acute immunomodulatory effect on multiple immune responses: innate and adaptive.
Individual practicing Qigong
I would encourage you to explore this practice! The above studies support the implementation of Qigong whether it be for general health or significant reductions in blood pressure in a hypertensive individual.