Medical Studies on Benefits of Qigong

Medical studies have proven the benefits of Qigong to be quite broad-ranging. Yet there is even more than the studies can measure.

As practitioners have always known through the centuries, regular Qigong practice helps develop internal awareness and knowledge of self; connection with the natural world and our innate wisdom; self love and compassion for others and the world around us; deeper spiritual connection, in whatever form that means for each individual. See my short video on how Qigong transformed my inner state to make me a much happier person.

You can experience the benefits for yourself with my online private and semi-private group sessions. Click here for more information.

Research Publications on the Benefits of Qigong

The benefits of consistent practice include regaining a youthful vitality, maintaining health even into old age, speeding recovery from illness, and reestablishing the body/mind/soul connection. People do Qigong to maintain health, heal their bodies, calm their minds, and reconnect with their spirit.

When these 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.

Qigong is especially suited for seniors because it is less physically challenging to learn and do, but has tremendous health benefits. The US Dept. of Aging states ‘Qigong can help prevent falls and chronic disease, improve overall well-being and reduce negative drug interactions.’ The National Council on Aging is strongly promoting Qigong and Tai Chi to help people live longer, healthier lives. (April 2005 NCOA News Release).

It’s also helpful for Gen Xers and Millenials, the generations currently ranked as under the most stress. The relaxation response is the body’s healing mode. Qigong stimulates the body to begin to heal itself, and can work at the gene and cellular level.

Harvard Medical School researchers prove that Qigong slows the aging process by stimulating the relaxation response in the body. Stress research at Harvard identified 3 activities that activate the relaxation response (parasympathetic nervous system) – repetitive movement, deep paced breathing, and meditation. Qigong uses all 3 of these activities and has been shown to significantly reduce perceived stress levels in adults. Stress has been identified as a cause or worsening factor for most chronic diseases and qigong can be an effective, low cost intervention for helping reduce the impact of chronic stress on the body.

Qigong can ‘reverse the cumulative effects of stress on the body’ by stimulating the relaxation response. “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.  This ground breaking research was published in 2008 is entitled “Genomic Counter-Stress Changes Induced by the Relaxation Response” by Jeffery A. Dusek, Hasan H. Otu, Ann L. Wohlhueter, Manoj Bhasin, Luiz F. Zerbini, Marie G. Joseph, Herbert Benson, Towia A. Libermann. Jeffery Dusek, PhD, co-lead author of the study notes, “Changes in the activation of these same genes have previously been seen in conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder; but the relaxation-response-associated changes were the opposite of stress-associated changes and were much more pronounced in the long-term practitioners.”

Physiological and Psychological Effect of Qigong In Older Practitioners: “One session of qigong exercise increased meridian electrical conductance, reduced anxiety, and improved balance in both the autonomic nervous system and the body overall. In conclusion, these findings provide scientific evidence for the acute physiological and psychological effects of qigong exercise in older practitioners. According to the results of this study, Chinese Bioenergy Qigong may be considered as one of the complementary therapies accompanied with conventional medicine to treat the patients with autonomic dysfunction or anxiety. More researches in the future are encouraged to investigate into the possible effects of Chinese Bioenergy Qigong on improving various pathological functions in different population.”

Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi: Significant results for a number of health benefits including bone density, cardiopulmonary effects, physical function, falls and related risk factors, quality of life, self-efficacy, patient reported outcomes, psychological symptoms and immune function.

The Effects of Qigong on Anxiety, Depression, and Psychological Well-Being: “The studies in this paper demonstrated that Qigong may have beneficial effects for a variety of populations on a range of psychological well-being measures, including mood, anxiety, depression, general stress management, quality of life, and exercise self-efficacy. The movements of Qigong is [sic] relatively easy to learn, when compared to other mind body traditions. Hence, people from diverse backgrounds practice Qigong for a variety of reasons, including exercise, recreation, well-being, self-healing, meditation, self-cultivation, and training for martial arts. We see a great potential for Qigong to be integrated for the prevention and treatment of various chronic illnesses, including psychiatric disorders.

Effects of Qigong in people with Type 2 Diabetes: a list of 23 studies showing positive effects, including this one from my own teacher Dr. Guan-Cheng Sun, founder of the Institute of Qigong and Integrative Medicine where I train.

Qigong Improves Memory: Both Tai chi and Qigong groups showed significant improvement in memory scores, with Qigong also producing greater improvements in mental control, recognition, touch and comprehension memory sub-scores compared to the control group and the Tai Chi group.
Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci.
 2019 Jan 18. doi: 10.1093/scan/nsz001. [Epub ahead of print]

Qigong Moderates ACTH: ACTH is an important component of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and is often produced in response to biological stress. This one-month study found that Taoist qigong practice induces a significant modulation on the blood levels of ACTH in healthy subject with no previous qigong experience. First published: 14 November 2018

Qigong and Sleep Apnea: This study from the Sleep Disorders Center in Turkey provides strong evidence that a Tai Chi and Qigong program (three times per week for twelve weeks) can significantly improve breathing during sleep and improve the quality of sleep in patients with sleep apnea. Published Online:14 Nov 2018

Meta-Analysis of Benefits of Qigong for COPD:One difficulty for COPD patients is that due to breathlessness, they are often unable to comply with normal prescriptive exercises, and Tai Chi/Qigong (TCQ) might provide better relief.  CQ had significant effects on 6-minute walk distance, forced expiratory volume in 1 second (FEV1), predicted FEV1 percentage, and St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire score compared to the non-exercise control group.  TCQ also has significant effects over the exercise control group on the 6-minute walk distance test.In this review, the pooled effect sizes showed that TCQ might be more beneficial for improving lung function in people with COPD than non-exercise.”  

Gene Expression Changes Induced by Qigong: ‘This systematic review of 18 studies investigated Mind-Body Interventions (MBI) and their effect on gene expression. MBIs included Qigong, yoga, breathing practices, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, Tai Chi, and meditation. In regards to Qigong, it was found that practitioners who had practiced Falun Qigong for an average of 1-5 years experienced  enhanced immunity, down-regulated cellular metabolism, and delayed cell death. Also, Tai Chi was studied for its effects on inflammation and sleep deprivation in breast cancer survivors. It was compared to a Cognitive Behavioral Intervention. It was found that IL-6 was marginally reduced and TNF (pro-inflammatory cytokines) was significantly reduced after Tai Chi, indicating that it can reduce cellular inflammatory responses. Similarly, gene expression analysis found a 9% reduction in expression of 19 pro-inflammatory genes and a 3.3% increase in expression of 34 genes involved in the production of proteins that regulate anti-viral response and tumor activity in the Tai Chi group relative to CBT-I.’

Qigong Prevents Memory Deficits and Cognitive Decline: Objectively using MRI imaging, this study showed that Qigong and Tai Chi can increase gray matter in the brain in older adults. It showed that there truly are physical changes in the brain with qigong, when practiced for twelve weeks.   

Qigong Exercises for Patients Post Stroke: This high quality meta-analysis study review found that Mind/Body exercises (like Qigong) as an add-on treatment may potentially improve depression, activities of daily living, and mobility of these post-stroke patients. They limited the studies to those that were at least 5 weeks long, and they all showed positive results post stroke. This meta-analysis demonstrated a very high level of rigor (using the PRISMA checklist), and is the combined work of Chinese and American Researchers. “To our knowledge, this is the first meta-analysis that included the rehabilitative effects of tai chi and qigong among stroke survivors. The main findings from this systematic review are of great significance for the public health sector since many stroke survivors have varying degrees of depression and loss of functional capacity—both of which affect their mood, functioning, and quality of life.” Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018 Apr 11;15(4). pii: E721. doi: 10.3390/ijerph15040721.

Tai Chi and Qigong for Insomnia: UCLA has been doing high quality research in qigong and tai chi practiced as qigong. This study showed significant impact on insomnia, and the low cost and easy access to tai chi was emphasized as well making tai chi an excellent option for people suffering from insomnia. The new research shows that slow-moving meditation is just as effective as cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been considered the ‘gold standard’ treatment, with both showing enduring benefits over one year.

Evidence-Based Review of Qigong by the Natural Standard Research Collaboration: “A great number of clinical studies merging traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Western medicine have proved the complementary healing effects of Qi gong in medical science.37 Traditional Chinese respiration exercises help regulate the mind, body, and breathing and coordinate the internal organs, remove toxins, and enhance immunity. Domestic and foreign studies indicate that Qi gong can relieve chronic pain, reduce tension, increase activities of phagocytes in coenocytes, improve cardiopulmonary function, improve eyesight, and influence the index of blood biochemistry. Due to the obvious healing effects of Qi gong therapy, through introducing Qi gong concepts and related medical research, this paper aims to inspire healthcare workers to integrate Qi qong therapy into medical treatments and nursing care, or to carry out further studies in order to make good the shortfall in provision of holistic medicine and nursing in the interests of the quality of patient care.

Qigong and Hypertension: “Based on the available literature in English and Chinese, the results of this meta-analysis suggest that qigong is an effective therapy for hypertension. Qigong is superior to no intervention and antihypertensive drugs but inferior to exercise in lowering BP; qigong as an adjunctive therapy to antihypertensive drugs significantly lowers BP and could be recommended as a complementary approach for hypertensive patients.”

Effects of Qigong on Depression: A Systemic Review: All studies suggest that Qigong intervention for patients with major depressive disorder is safe and feasible; however, evidence for its effectiveness is limited. Future study with more robust design is warranted.”

Effects of Qigong on Immune Cells: “Within two hours after a Qigong session there is an increase in White Blood Cells. A single Qigong intervention will increase the monocyte and lymphocyte numbers. There is also evidence that Qigong practice strengthens the immune system and lowers the incidence of respiratory infections (viral colds and fly). The state of the immune system is an indicator of the overall state of health of the individual.”