Qigong Research Update
(8/2015) As I have discussed in previous articles, TCM is the oldest continuously practiced medical system in the world (more than five thousand years). TCM deals with balancing the flow of the natural vital energy, or Qi (pronounced "chee"), which flows through all living things. This Qi flows through the body on specific pathways called
Meridians, and is essential for health.
When the Qi is balanced, moving smoothly, and in sufficient quality and quantity, health and wellness are promoted. When the Qi is unbalanced or blocked in any way, disease or dis – ease, will occur. This dis – ease may show up as symptoms on a physical, mental/emotional, or spiritual level. It is important to realize that these symptoms
are only the end result of an imbalance, and not the illness itself.
TCM uses Qigong (pronounced "chee gung") along with acupuncture, acupressure, massage and herbal medicine as a way to open the door to healing and allow the body's organ systems to work in harmony. Qi is usually translated to mean the vital life force that flows through all things in the universe. The second word, Gong, means
accomplishment, or skill that is cultivated through steady practice. Qigong is the art and science of increasing vitality, health maintenance, illness prevention, and healing that originated thousands of years ago.
Qigong can be divided into martial, medical, or spiritual categories depending on the purpose of the specific practice. No matter what style of Qigong is practiced (there are thousands of styles), it involves a combination of simple movements and postures, breathing techniques, and focused intentions (including meditation and
visualizations). Most styles are simple and gentle, so that anyone can practice them at any age.
We all have the inner capacity for healing, and most of us are aware that the state of our mind and spirit directly affects our physical health. Many individuals do not remember their passcode to "unlock the door" to tap into this inner ability of healing and health. During Qigong the goal is to focus your mind on something that allows you
to enter a quiet, meditative state. The greater the level of peace and quietness that can be achieved mentally, the greater healing that can be achieved, thus demonstrating how the state of our mind affects our healing and overall health.
Furthermore, as an 83-year-old breast cancer survivor stated in an article about qigong in the June 15, 2015 edition of the Baltimore Sun, "Qigong teaches that stress is not what happens to you but how you choose to respond to what happens. That puts me in the active healing role. I like to have an active role in my health."
Research has shown that the gentle, rhythmic movements of Qigong reduce stress, build stamina, increase vitality, and enhance the immune system. It has also been found to improve skeletal, cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive functions. Kevin Chen, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland’s Center for
Integrative Medicine, states, "Regular practice of qigong can help people in many ways. It can improve energy and strength, balance the autonomic nervous system, improve coping skills, improve mood and, improve health and vitality." In fact, in June of this year, the University of Maryland’s Center for Integrative Medicine hosted its first weeklong qigong retreat
to teach cancer patients, cancer survivors and their families qigong for self-healing.
Resistance training and other weight bearing exercises are known to increase bone formation and have been recommended for post-menopausal women for that purpose. Interestingly, most Qigong practices involve no resistance and only minimal weight bearing (such as gentle knee bends), and yet studies have shown positive effects on bone health
(slowed bone loss, fewer bone fractures, and increased bone mineral density).
One of the most consistent findings was the significant reduction in blood pressure reported in multiple studies; thus, providing preliminary evidence that Qigong practices achieve similar results to conventional exercise.
Other indicators of cardiac health have been evaluated. Reduced heart rate is reported as well as improvements in heart rate, and heart rate variability suggest that one or several of the key components of Qigong, that is body, breath, and mind, may affect sympathetic and parasympathetic balance and activity. Lipid profiles improved in two
studies comparing Qigong to inactive controls.
One of the primary risk factors for cardiac disease is obesity. Qigong has demonstrated a greater reduction in Body Mass Index (BMI) as compared to an exercise control.
Decreased physical activity is related to declining physical function in all populations and that decline is compounded by the natural process of aging. Changes in physical function were assessed, and most of the studies were conducted with older adults (i.e., studies in which mean age = 55 years or older) and several studies dealt
specifically with participants with chronic pain (e.g., osteoarthritis, neck pain, or fibromyalgia).
Physical function was measured using a wide variety of performance indicators, including: chair rise, 50-ft walk, gait speed, muscle contraction strength, hand grip, flexibility, and function as measured on the Western Ontario and McMaster Universities Osteoarthritis Index (WOMAC, an osteoarthritis-specific assessment for function,
stiffness, and pain). These studies successfully demonstrated potential for Qigong to build performance, even with health compromised individuals.
Falls and Balance
Falling is a risk associated with declining physical functioning. Fall prevention, balance, and physical function tests related to falls and balance (such as one-leg stance) and outcomes related to falls such as balance, fall rates, and improved strength and flexibility have been studied in several studies.
Qigong has been less studied in relationship to balance-related outcomes; however, results suggest that there was a trend to maintain balance using Qigong in sedentary women and with elderly healthy adults (mean age 80.4 years).
Quality of Life
Quality of life (QOL) is a wide ranging concept derived from measures of a person’s perceived physical health, psychological state, personal beliefs, social relationships and relationship to relevant features of one’s environment. In 13 studies of a wide range of participants (including healthy adults, patients with cancer, post-stroke,
arthritis, etc.) at least one of the components of QOL was reported to be significantly improved by Qigong. Overall, the majority of research studies indicate that Qigong has great potential for improving QOL in both healthy and chronically ill patients.
Qigong, because it benefits your vital life force (Qi), works from the inside out. There is an ancient Chinese saying, "To change the outside of yourself, you must begin from the inside." Qigong helps improve your body’s function; it balances your emotions, and sharpens your intuition. Discover your unlimited potential with Qigong!
"The magical property of Qigong is its ability to help you deal with the kind of stress that makes us age. Qigong helps slow aging at the cellular level." - - Dr. Michael Roizen, Cleveland Clinic
Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist, physical therapist, and Reiki Master with over 20 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA. She can be reached at 717-752-5728.