Qigong (pronounced che-gong) is a form of gentle exercise that is a fundamental component of self-care in traditional Chinese medicine. Less acrobatic than many yoga forms and more active than most meditation practices, this movement therapy gently strengthens, calms, and supports both body and mind. It involves meditation and repeated movements that improve circulation and increase qi (energy), encouraging an overall sense of well-being.
While qigong has been practiced in China for centuries, it is relatively new to the States and increasingly embraced by the medical communities of North America and Europe because of its demonstrated health benefits and minimal risk.
Will qigong benefit me?
Some of the most common ways that qigong can support wellbeing include:
- Improved mood: Qigong helps reduce symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Several systematic reviews have shown that qigong lowers levels of cortisol (a known stress hormone) (1), significantly diminishes depressive symptoms (2), and reduces anxiety (3).
- Increased energy: There's evidence that qigong improves energy levels in cases of fibromyalgia, depression, and cancer-related fatigue (2, 4, 5). Anecdotally, people often report feeling more energetic, more focused, and better sleep, after incorporating a regular qigong practice into their routine.
- Decreased pain: Qigong and other mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques are recommended by the American College of Physicians as among the most effective tools for managing chronic back pain (6). Other studies show that chronic neck pain is significantly lessened with regular qigong practice (7). Additionally, a two-year clinical study that focused on opioid dependency in northern Maine showed that a Group Medical Visit protocol which included group check-ins, guided imagery exercises, and qigong had a staggering effect on reducing opiate use (8).
- Improved cardiopulmonary health: Multiple randomized controlled studies show positive effect on respiration in patients with COPD (9). Several others suggest that qigong may lower blood pressure in patients who are prehypertensive or mildly hypertensive (10). Diabetes can also affect cardiovascular health, and a new systematic review showed qigong lowers both fasting and postprandial glucose levels as much as other higher-impact cardiovascular exercises (11).
How can I learn qigong?
Jade is offering an Introduction to Qigong workshop in February that is open to all levels. It will provide contextual information about the history and health benefits of qigong, and an opportunity to practice and ask questions. Participants will leave with knowledge of several applicable movements and meditations to use at home. This workshop is led by Elizabeth Arris, DAcOM, L.Ac.. Elizabeth is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist at Jade Integrated Health, NCCAOM Diplomate of Oriental Medicine, and AOBTA-certified Medical Qigong practitioner.
- Jahnke R, Larkey L, Rogers C, Etnier J, Lin F. A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi. American journal of health promotion : AJHP. 2010;24(6):e1-e25. doi:10.4278/ajhp.081013-LIT-248.
- Liu X, Clark J, Siskind D, et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of Qigong and Tai Chi for depressive symptoms. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2015;23(4):516-534. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2015.05.001.
- Wang C, Chan C, Ho R, Chan J, Ng S, Chan C. Managing stress and anxiety through qigong exercise in healthy adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC Complementary And Alternative Medicine [serial online]. January 9, 2014;14:8. Available from: MEDLINE with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed January 23, 2018.
- Lauche R, Cramer H, Häuser W, Dobos G, Langhorst J. A Systematic Overview of Reviews for Complementary and Alternative Therapies in the Treatment of the Fibromyalgia Syndrome. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine (Ecam) [serial online]. July 13, 2015;2015:1-13. Available from: Alt HealthWatch, Ipswich, MA. Accessed January 24, 2018.
- Larkey L, Roe D, Guillen-Rodriguez J, et al. Randomized controlled trial of Qigong/Tai Chi Easy on cancer-related fatigue in breast cancer survivors. Annals Of Behavioral Medicine: A Publication Of The Society Of Behavioral Medicine [serial online]. April 2015;49(2):165-176. Available from: MEDLINE with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed January 24, 2018.
- Qaseem A, Wilt TJ, McLean RM, Forciea MA, . Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2017;166:514–530. doi: 10.7326/M16-2367
- Côté P, Wong J, Salhany R, et al. Management of neck pain and associated disorders: A clinical practice guideline from the Ontario Protocol for Traffic Injury Management (OPTIMa) Collaboration. European Spine Journal: Official Publication Of The European Spine Society, The European Spinal Deformity Society, And The European Section Of The Cervical Spine Research Society [serial online]. July 2016;25(7):2000-2022. Available from: MEDLINE with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed January 24, 2018.
- Mehl-Madrona L, Mainguy B, Plummer J. Integration of Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies into Primary-Care Pain Management for Opiate Reduction in a Rural Setting. Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.) [serial online]. August 2016;22(8):621-626. Available from: MEDLINE with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed January 23, 2018.
- Ding M, Zhang W, Li K, Chen X. Effectiveness of t'ai chi and qigong on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.) [serial online]. February 2014;20(2):79-86. Available from: MEDLINE with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed January 24, 2018.
- Park J, Hong S, Choi S, et al. Randomized, controlled trial of qigong for treatment of prehypertension and mild essential hypertension. Alternative Therapies In Health And Medicine [serial online]. July 2014;20(4):21-30. Available from: MEDLINE with Full Text, Ipswich, MA. Accessed January 24, 2018.
- Meng D, Chunyan W, Xiaosheng D, Xiangren Y. The Effects of Qigong on Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine (Ecam) [serial online]. January 3, 2018;:1-8. Available from: Alt HealthWatch, Ipswich, MA. Accessed January 23, 2018.