As I have mentioned in a previous blog there many ways to skin a cat (and again this is not a recommendation for the skinning of cats as a form of exercise). During my studies there were two particular forms of activity that frequently arose that were reported to have positive benefits for the treatment/management of neuromuscular disease, balance and falls prevention, and mental health: Tai Chi and Qi Gong. I have used these forms of movement within a clinical setting and seen first-hand the improvements they can help achieve in neurological symptoms and in mental health.
How do Qi Gong and Tai Chi stack up to other forms of therapy for people with other forms of chronic disease? Some great researchers have luckily helped us with this question. First... a few details on what Qi Gong and Tai Chi actually are, and then a quick summary of their benefits!
What is Tai Chi and Qi Gong?
Firstly, I’d like to point out that these descriptions are extremely short. As a result, they won’t fully describe what Tai Chi and Qi Gong are, as they have been developed over thousands of years. So to say that I could accurately describe them in two paragraphs would be naive at best.
Qi Gong is a series of movements and postures coupled with breathing as a form of meditation, designed to harness and balance energies, or Qi within. By using movement, one is made more aware of how they breathe and where tension may be held. By focussing on the breath one can use this as a vehicle to quiet the mind and hopefully relax the areas where tension is held.
The more commonly known Tai Chi, translates roughly to “grand ultimate”. It has its roots in martial arts practice, but also is used as meditative movement, for internal healing, the cultivation of Qi, for longevity and personal tranquillity. Typically Tai Chi is more complex, highly choreographed with a lengthy series of movements.
I have found and summarised a very interesting article below that reviewed a large number of studies into the efficacy of Tai Chi and Qi Gong for a large array of conditions.
Details: The review looked at a variety of health outcomes of these practices as compared with both non-exercise control groups and conventional exercise therapies, with the majority of studies involving healthy populations. The review did however also include individuals with risk factors for diagnoses including heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis risk (e.g., peri-menopausal, fall risk determined by age and sedentary lifestyle or poor physical function and balance), breast cancer, depression, fibromyalgia, immune dysfunction (including HIV/AIDS and varicella history or vaccine response), muscular dystrophy, Parkinson’s disease, neck pain, sleep complaints, chronic disease, and traumatic brain injury.
Summary of results: Tai Chi and Qi Gong had positive outcomes comparable to conventional exercise therapies as well as significantly better outcomes than the non-exercise control groups in most of the studies. I’ve added the link to this blog should you wish to peruse these outcomes in greater detail.
So how can these results help you?
The above studies compare Tai Chi and Qi Gong to other therapies and exercise options, however in real life it is not a choice of one or the other. What if you were to use these practices as well as what is considered conventional exercise therapies? The outcomes for an individual with chronic disease could potentially increase more so than each of these as a stand-alone therapy. Not only that, these forms of physical activity have been shown to have minimal risk to individuals. With the studies analysing adverse events reporting none.
With such a wide body of evidence suggesting the positive benefits, maybe it’s worth giving it a go some time?
Low risk + positive benefits = good news!
B.ExSci&Nut, M.ClinExPhys, AEP, ESSAM
Michael is a masters qualified Exercise Physiologist with 5 years of clinical experience. During this time he has successfully applied exercise protocols to treat neurological, metabolic and cardiopulmonary disease. Michael is also a Ju Jitsu coach and Tai Chi/Qi Gong instructor.
In addition to our Lungs in Action class, individual sessions, small group training and other targeted classes, The Movement Team now offers a new weekly Tai Chi/Qi Gong class. For bookings or questions please contact the clinic.