Tai Chi and Qigong Show Significant Health Benefits

Release Date: June 30, 2010 | By Christe Bruderlin-Nelson, Contributing Editor
Research Source:

An across-the-board review of the health effects of Qigong and Tai Chi finds these practices offer many physical and mental health advantages with benefits for the heart, immune system and overall quality of life.

The review, which appears in the July/August issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion, included 77 randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on Qigong or Tai Chi interventions published in peer-reviewed journals between 1993 and 2007. Taken together, there were 6,410 participants in the studies.

“We see this as moving the understanding of the potential of Qigong and Tai Chi forward, with an emphasis on combining the evidence across these practices,” said co-author Linda Larkey, Ph.D., of Arizona State University College of Nursing and Healthcare Innovation.

The authors say that the review provides a “stronger evidence base” for bone health, cardio-respiratory fitness, physical function, balance, quality of life, fall prevention and psychological benefits.

Qigong is a “very general term to describe exercises that will enhance qi flow or balance,” said Shin Lin, Ph.D., a professor at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, Irvine. Qigong combines “qi” for energy and “gong” for work or exercise.

Tai Chi is much more specific, focusing on a series of 24 to 108 movements that have a long written history over 19 generations, said Lin, a member of the National Advisory Council for Complimentary and Alterative Medicine

“The research studies reviewed here showed that simplified routines that are more practical for RCTs are in fact quite effective in health enhancement.” With that in mind, individuals could “forego learning complicated routines except for cultural or artistic purposes,” said Lin, who had no affiliation with the review.

Of the studies analyzed 27 considered psychological symptoms, 23 looked at falls and related risk factors, 19 looked at cardiopulmonary effects and 17 evaluated quality of life. Other included studies looked at bone density, physical function and immune function. Participants’ average age was 55, and for studies that looked at balance, 80 was the average age.

Larkey said that there was not a way to “combine the studies statistically and determine effect sizes – that is, how strong the evidence is – for many of the outcomes reviewed since the interventions, study design quality and measures were so wide ranging.”

Nevertheless, she said, the authors found quite consistent evidence of several benefits from this particular category of exercise.

“Tai Chi and Qigong have many health benefits and therefore should be considered a high priority when one is selecting an exercise to practice,” Lin said.

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Reach the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, at (202) 387-2829 or hbns-editor@cfah.org.

American Journal of Health Promotion: Call (248) 682-0707 or visit www.healthpromotionjournal.com.

Jahnke R, et al. A comprehensive review of health benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi. Am J Health Promot 24(6), 2010.

Tags for this article:
Complementary and Alternative Medicine   Exercise/Physical Activity  

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James Lee says
January 18, 2011 at 3:20 PM

I have a more logical scientific explanation about Chi Kung. I can explain how and why it works. However, I need to discuss my ideas with someone, for a second opinion, that has the basic knowledge on Chi Kung and how the human body functions internally.

James Lee says
January 18, 2011 at 4:13 PM

The first thing that come to the people's mind, Chi is energy and building concepts around energy instead of Chi. Now, the question comes to is

James Lee says
January 18, 2011 at 4:18 PM

The ancients once thought that 'Chi' was the primal essence that compose all matters of the universe. In traditional Chinese medicine(TCM), 'Chi' was defined as the function of the human body organs. Chi flow was considered that the functional activities of the organs interacting with each other inside the human body. When the organs are malfunction, it was said to be that the Chi was blocked.

James Lee says
January 18, 2011 at 4:21 PM

Western science has pertinent information about the human body cells. Modern science has microscopic knowledge about the mitochondria which generate the biochemical energy by decomposing the glucose with oxygen. This biochemical energy is called adenosine triphosphate(ATP). People who practice Chi Kung may not or do not have the basic knowledge about the energy concept. It seems to me they do not because they are still using the old myth about Chi to explain Chi Kung.

James Lee says
January 18, 2011 at 4:23 PM

Since Chi Kung involves with breathing which generates a tremendous body energy, have we thought about the Cell Respiration process. It seems to me that breathing oxygen and the energy generated from Chi Kung corresponds to the Cell Respiration process. Here is the basic chemical formula to prove it:

Glucose + Oxygen => H2O + CO2 + Heat + Energy(ATP)
This is a very good indication that the oxygen is from Chi Kung breathing; and the energy is generated from the oxygen and the glucose. By the way, using the Chi Kung abdominal breathing method, the air intake is twenty times more than normal breathing per minute. As a result, more ATP energy can be generate by practicing Chi Kung. ATP energy dissipate in seconds, that is why a constant source of oxygen is required to generate the ATP energy to sustain life.

James Lee says
January 18, 2011 at 4:27 PM

People with breathing problem should practice with Tai Chi, to start with, is recommended rather than with Chi Kung. Tai Chi is a form of Chi Kung, but Chi Kung is not necessary Tai Chi. However, they both have something in common, the slow movements and deep breathing. Tai Chi has more complicated movements than Chi Kung. Chi Kung always concentrate on breathing more than the movements. If people tried to practice Chi Kung to correct their breathing problems, they will become very fatigue at the beginning.

Tai Chi will not have the fatigue problem, as in Chi Kung, because it concentrates on the slow complicated movements at the beginning. The slow movements will guide the breathing, progressively, from shallow to deep. Besides, most Tai Chi beginners, started cold in their practice. The muscles and joints are stiffly tight and not very flexible. Indeed, the slow movements will help them to get use to the stress and muscle pains slowly. In the first three months, the body was adjusting to the changes due to the stress of the muscles by the Tai Chi exercise. After six month, the body should have some improvement by feeling a little more strength in the muscles; the breathing should be improved also.

James Lee says
January 18, 2011 at 4:29 PM

The key to Tai Chi is during practice, the arms and legs are bent causing slight contraction in the muscles to activate the body cells to generate the bio-energy, adenosine triphosphate(ATP) . During the ATP reproduction process, requires oxygen, ATP consumed as fast as it generates. Therefore, breathing will be increased to meet the high oxygen demand by the natural response of the body.

The continuing practice of Tai Chi for a year or more, breathing are improved tremendously . As a result, deep breathing shall be able to guide the body movements at a faster speed without the shortness of breath . One should breathe deeply while stresses were applied to any muscle at the same time. That will meet the high demand for oxygen as required for energy reproduction. One will see that the reactions are quicker; and the arms and legs are more flexible with greater strength . The best part of Tai Chi is that the movement can be done at a faster speed by following the rhythm of breathing. Finally, Tai Chi will meet the Chi Kung requirement by concentrating more on the breathing at last.

James Lee says
January 18, 2011 at 4:33 PM

Chi Kung encourages to perform the abdominal breathing with slow movements to bring out its effectiveness in two folds. The abdominal breathing is to increase the volume of air intake; the slow movement is to increase the rate of cell respiration.

Under normal breathing, one inhalation of an average person is 500cc of air. If breathing 12 times per minute, then it would be 6 liters (500cc times 12). Those who practice Chi Kung under abdominal breathing may be up to 120 liters. Thus a Chi Kung practitioner inhales 20 times more oxygen by volume per minute than normal. The significant of the oxygen intake is the amount of the biochemical energy that can be generated by the body cells.

James Lee says
January 18, 2011 at 4:34 PM

Under normal breathing, the body cells can only generate enough energy for the body to carry out its function. Under Chi Kung breathing, the energy generated by the body cells is more than enough for the body to function. Therefore, the excess of energy can be used to support the external activities of the body such as weight lifting. The body energy will be consumed as soon as it was generated; however, any unused portion will be collapsed after the next exhalation. New energy will be generated by the next inhalation. Another word, if the oxygen was not constantly provided to the body cells, then no energy will be generated. Thus the more oxygen provided the more energy will be generated.

Why is oxygen a dependent of the body energy ...??? It is because the breakdown of the glucose depends on the oxygen to decompose into water, carbon dioxide, heat and energy. The energy is the biochemical energy generated by the body cells called adenosine triphosphate(ATP). The more oxygen provided to the body cells, the more the ATP will be produced by the cell respiration process.

James Lee says
January 18, 2011 at 4:34 PM

The rate of cell respiration depends on the speed of the Chi Kung movement with slight muscle contraction. The faster the movement, the faster the energy was produced and faster it consumes. In the contrary, the slower the breathing and movement, the more energy will be generated but at a slower dissipation rate. However, the energy that was not consumed will be available only for a very short time as reserve. The constant provision of energy allows the body to function more effectively and do strenuous work without fatigue. Unfortunately, under the normal breathing condition, there was no such opportunity for the reservation of energy and the body becomes tired more easily with any light task. Indeed, the effectiveness of Chi Kung for the body cells to generate the maximum amount of ATP energy was based on the abdominal breathing with the slow movement.

James Lee says
January 18, 2011 at 4:54 PM

Scientific Explanation of Chi Kung No. 9 - Optimize Your Immune System With Chi Kung
James Lee
By James S. Lee

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Nature only allows a maximum number of white blood cells in the Immune system; and this number must be maintained in order to be effective. A strong Immune System is not determined by how active the Immune System is; but by the amount of normal white blood cells present. The maximum number of white blood cells in the Immune System are required to standby as a defensive system against any foreign invaders. If the maximum number has not been reached, it was considered that the system is weak or too weak to fight off any antigens. In order to have a strong Immune System, the human body must have an efficient amount of biochemical energy(ATP) to produce the white blood cells.

The biochemical energy(ATP) is synthesized by the decomposition of glucose with the oxygen which we inhaled. Indeed, the more oxygen, the more energy can be generated. Thus, the more energy, the more white blood cells can be reproduced to replace the dead ones. Hence, the amount of oxygen inside the body has a great impact on the health of the Immune System as well as the whole body system.

James Lee says
January 18, 2011 at 4:55 PM

It was well known that the 'abdominal breathing' method is the most efficient breathing method; it is the highest goal to be accomplished in Chi Kung. The abdominal breathing method has twenty times more air inhalation than regular breathing per minute. Thus it provides a maximum amount of oxygen for body consumption. Besides it maintains a strong Immune System, all the rest of the body systems are kept in homeostasis too.

The Immune System is maintained by the biochemical energy(ATP), in the mitochondria, generated by the decomposition of glucose with oxygen. In order to generate a large amount of ATP, a continuous ample supply of oxygen is required. One must learn to practice and go into abdominal breathing; and make it a habit even during regular breathing. Indeed, abdominal breathing, it is the highest goal to be accomplished in Chi Kung.

RAY says
May 2, 2011 at 7:25 PM