October 6, 2022

QiGong- Therapeutic for All Ages

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What is QiGong?

If you’re a young adult living in the West, you know that our culture glorifies two things: an athletic body, and a high-impact fitness culture that claims to help a person achieve said body (think of the CrossFit regimen, running marathons, plyometrics, or burpees). High-impact exercises fit with some people’s lifestyles, but they can also strain the joints and they aren’t for everyone. What’s a person to do when she sits at a desk all day and wants to be more physically active, but she also wants to do it gently?

Qigong, which has its roots in traditional Chinese medicine, is a practice of body movements and breathing. (Tai chi, for example, is a form of qigong.) (National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, 2022) My therapist suggested I try qigong, advising that it isn’t just for the elderly.

How Does QiGong Work?

Although you burn calories when doing qigong, it’s more of a moving meditation instead of a cardio workout (Jodi Helmer, 2021). Continually doing qigong won’t, for example, help you get shredded abs (though that isn’t the point!) You can think of qigong as a bunch of long-term benefits rolled into one activity, provided that it’s done consistently. These benefits include:

  • Simultaneous utilization the legs, arms, core, and back;
  • Continuous flow of movement without pause;
  • Improved balance and flexibility;
  • Improved posture;
  • Building strength using only the body weight;
  • Mental focus, including paying attention to breathing.

And the best part? You don’t need any equipment, running shoes, or even a class (although classes are available – for example, some YMCAs offer qigong). Personally, I follow the YouTube videos of Mimi Kuo-Deemer, a UK-based teacher of qigong and mindfulness.

This is not to discredit traditional gym workout routines like running, lifting weights, or climbing on the StairMaster. But qigong involves a variety of full-body fluid movements instead of repetitive impact. Unlike at the gym, you can’t put in your AirPods and tune out during a qigong session. When following Ms. Kuo-Deemer’s exercises, I find myself momentarily forgetting about my daily worries, because I have to focus on balance, posture, and breathing.

Other Benefits of Practicing QiGong

More research is needed to confirm qigong’s impacts on physical and psychological wellbeing. A study from the Hospital Authority of Hong Kong found that qigong may help reduce stress and anxiety in healthy adults, possibly due to mechanisms like deep diaphragmatic breathing (Chong-Wen Wang et. al., 2014). Another study (Roger Jahnke, 2010) identified nine possible categories where qigong and tai chi may provide favorable outcomes:

  1. Slowing down bone mineral loss;
  2. Cardiopulmonary benefits (though not necessarily weight loss);
  3. Improved physical function in older adults;
  4. Reduced risk of falls;
  5. Improved Quality of Life (QOL) outcomes;
  6. Enhanced self-efficacy;
  7. Improvements in self-reported pain (like neck pain);
  8. Decreased anxiety;
  9. Improved immune function.

The evidence is suggestive, not conclusive. Still, whether as part of a regular workout routine or a supplement to other exercises, qigong can be a rewarding low-impact activity, calming busy minds and strengthening bodies of all ages.

It’s Fetch is a community that provides a safe space for members to discuss health and wellness topics. We provide access to archived health related content, note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content shared, regardless of date should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

-Written by Laura Miller

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