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Health Benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong

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What Is Qigong?

Qigong -- pronounced chee gong -- is a practice that involves a series of postures and exercises including slow, circular movements, regulated breathing, focused meditation, and self-massage.

There are a variety of styles, and they are classified as martial, medical, or spiritual. Some qigong styles are gentler like tai chi and can easily be adapted. Others are more vigorous like kung fu.

One unique feature of qigong is its ability to train the mind to direct the body’s energy, or chi, to any part of the body. Some believe that, when moved correctly, chi can bring your body to a natural state of balance.

What Are the Health Benefits of Qigong?

Qigong is believed to relax the mind, muscles, tendons, joints, and inner organs -- helping to improve circulation, relieve stress and pain, and restore health. It’s practiced widely in China’s clinics and hospitals.

Some believe that as a complement to Western medicine, qigong can help the body heal itself, slowing or even reversing the effects of certain conditions. For example, in a study lasting 20 years, people with hypertension were given drugs to control blood pressure. At first, all participants had a drop in blood pressure, but blood pressure among those who were practicing qigong stabilized over time. The qigong group members were also able to lower their use of blood pressure drugs. The control group, however, had an increase in blood pressure, requiring greater use of drugs.

In addition to lower blood pressure, qigong may have other benefits, including:

  • Increased stamina and vitality
  • Reduced stress
  • Enhanced immune system
  • Improved cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic, and digestive functions
  • Decreased risk of falling
  • Reduced symptoms and improved function in people with fibromyalgia

Are There Any Special Precautions for Tai Chi or Qigong?

Both tai chi and qigong are gentle exercises with few risks. However, if you are older, have a health condition, or have not exercised in a long time, talk to your doctor before you try either of these practices. Think of both as complements to Western medicine, and not replacements for it.

In general, use caution if you are pregnant or if you have a joint problem or severe osteoporosis. It’s best not to do tai chi or qigong right after eating, if you are very tired, or if you have an active infection.

For more information about qigong, tai chi, and energy medicine, visit The Qigong Institute online.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on June 10, 2013
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