Review explores effects of Qigong, Tai Chi on participants' health

Source: American Journal of Health Promotion, July-August 2010

In this comprehensive review of 77 articles, American researchers tried to uncover the differences and similarities between Qigong and Tai Chi (TC) as it relates to their effects on a person’s health. Both Qigong and TC sessions incorporate a range of physical movements, including slow, meditative, dance-like motions, and they incorporate the regulation of breath and mind coordinated with the body’s movements.

The main difference is that while TC is a lengthy practice that includes a complex series of movements, Qigong is a simpler, easier-to-learn, and more repetitive practice. The articles analyzed in this study used a randomized control trial study design and were published between 1993 and 2007. The review identified 163 different physiological and psychological health outcomes, which were grouped into nine health benefits categories: cardiopulmonary effects; physical function; falls, balance and related risk factors; quality of life; patient reported outcomes; psychological symptoms; bone density; self-efficacy; and immune- and inflammation-related responses. The latter three categories have the fewest number of studies. 

The majority of studies showed significant, positive results on the tested health outcomes, particularly when studies included minimally active or inactive control groups. Most of the studies also show similar health outcomes between Qigong/TC controls and exercise controls.

The researchers concluded that it is difficult to note the health differences and similarities between Qigong and TC since most studies use research designs that incorporate aspects of both. However, there is no doubt that these practices yield a wide range of health benefits to those who practice them for eight or more weeks at a time.