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Qigong: Mind-Body Health Connection in Practice

Author: Amy Dailey

Are you looking for a convenient way to improve your quality of life? Well, you don’t have to look much further than your own mind and body. Studies show that your thoughts, feelings, and attitudes can have a significant impact on your health and well-being.

The belief that it matters what you think is not a new, trendy fad.  In fact, mind-body practices are being used in a variety of settings as an additional tool in the treatment of psychological and physical illnesses. Research has shown promising positive outcomes by incorporating these practices in professional clinical settings as well as part of personal training regimens. And that’s what we do here at Noom!

The mind-body connection can be strengthened through various alternative health approaches like meditation, yoga, visualization, and qigong. Qigong is one practice that you may not be as familiar with, yet the practice is rooted in a history which dates back more than 3000 years.

Qigong (pronounced chee gong) is an ancient Chinese exercise that incorporates breath work, gentle movements, and meditation.  Qi is the vital energy or life force, and gong is working the qi. Together, qigong is a beautifully blended practice of strengthening, cultivating, balancing, and utilizing your energy through movement, breath, visualization, mindfulness, and meditation.  

What makes qigong so appealing is that it is convenient, inexpensive, requires no equipment, is non-strenuous, and has been shown to have many physical and psychological benefits.

Here are a few of the most notable benefits of qigong.

1. Relief for achy joints, muscles, and tissues

Chronic pain can be debilitating.  Arthritis is a broad term that describes many different forms of joint disease. These joint diseases cause chronic pain along with stiffness and swelling of the joints and other connective tissue. Limited mobility and function, depression, and fatigue can have a significant impact on a person’s well-being. Conclusions from a comprehensive 2017 study suggest that the practice of qigong may improve the quality of life for arthritis sufferers, as it was effective in reducing pain and improving mental health. 

Likewise,  Fibromyalgia is a painful condition that can contribute to sleep disturbances, fatigue, headaches, sensitivities, digestive issues, and more. While the jury is still out on how effective qigong can be for people with fibromyalgia specifically, it may be useful as a complementary tool to provide relief from low mood, pain, and fatigue.

In 2018, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a study that analyzed the data from over 25 studies. The outcome suggested that qigong may be a useful practice for people who experience neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, low back pain, and widespread body pain. Chronic pain can also impact a person’s sleep quality. Qigong facilitated the improvement of sleep quality in patients with chronic conditions like insomnia, diabetes, hypertension, and in conditions that affected the muscles, bones, tendons, and nerves.   

2. Nurturing for the heart and lungs

People with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) have difficulty breathing and often feel limited in their ability to exercise. Qigong has shown to improve the quality of life through improvements in their pulmonary function, mental health, and their ability to exercise.

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common condition that can put people at risk for heart disease. A 2015 systematic literature review suggested that qigong, in conjunction with antihypertensive medications, significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, compared with using the drugs alone. Furthermore, qigong had a profound effect on decreasing blood pressure measurements in patients who were not using any other interventions to control their blood pressure.  

3. Favorable improvement for mental health

Mindfulness-based practices like qigong may even be beneficial to those who struggle with mental health issues. Improvement has been shown in many areas of mental health, including emotional regulation, cognitive function, and reduced stress. A 2008 study found a reduction of PTSD symptoms in people who have experienced severe physical and psychological trauma. 

The psychological benefits, as concluded in a 2013 systematic review, were decreased depressive symptoms, and improved mood. Overall, qigong showed to have a positive effect on stress management, depression, anxiety, and quality of life.

Additionally, as noted in a 2019 published study, COPD patients who practiced qigong three times per week for more than 30 minutes had an effective decrease in depression. Those who pushed the practice between thirty and 60 minutes showed an improvement in their symptoms of anxiety. To increase the effectiveness of reducing anxiety, duration (24 weeks in this study) plays an important role.

Qigong as a Mind-Body Connection Practice

Feeling stiff, emotionally down, or stressed? Maybe it’s time to work your Qi. There are hundreds (possibly thousands) of types of qigong and numerous ways to start your own practice. While many free videos can be found on the internet, in the interest of better form it may be worth your while to find a class or instructor near you. 

Finding that perfect routine to boost your well-being is unique to you. Exploring your options and experimenting with mind-body connection practices like qigong may have a positive effect on your physical and mental health.

If you want to experience how the practice of mind-body connection can support you on your weight loss journey, check out Noom today!