September 22, 2020

What Are the Health Benefits of Qigong?

This ancient practice is quick and easy to do — and could boost your well-being

woman practicing Qi Gong in park

It’s safe to say many of us are under more stress than usual these days. And sure, you’d love to do something to lower your stress and improve your health. But who has time for that?

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Actually, if you have 10 minutes a day, you have enough time to do qigong. This ancient Chinese practice can reduce stress and help your body function at its best.

Integrative medicine specialist Yufang Lin, MD, talks about this age-old practice. It requires no special training or equipment and has some amazing potential health benefits.

What is qigong?

Qigong originated in China about 4,000 years ago. It is based on traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) principles, which state that qi, or energy, is present in everyone’s body.

“According to TCM principles, a person’s qi must flow throughout the body in order for people to feel their best,” Dr. Lin explains. “If qi becomes stagnant in a certain area, health problems can occur.”

Qigong uses simple poses and breathing patterns to promote a healthy flow and reduce stagnation of qi. Proper flow of qi can help the body engage its own healing processes. The literal translation of qigong is “to work with qi.”

Yoga versus qigong

Qigong is not a form of yoga. Yoga’s poses tend to require more strength, balance and stretching than qigong. Yoga also originated in ancient India and is not rooted in TCM.

“As a child in Taiwan, I would see people doing qigong in the park on my way to school,” Dr. Lin recalls. “A lot of them were older people. The slow, purposeful movements of qigong are less challenging to your balance. These movements are easy for most people to do and you can modify them. People can also do chair-based qigong if they can’t stand.”

Advertisement

Qigong’s health benefits

Dr. Lin says many smaller studies have shown that qigong offers a variety of benefits. However, more large, controlled studies are needed to prove that qigong can treat or even prevent health problems. Still, Dr. Lin says, qigong’s potential benefits make it well worth the effort. It’s generally safe and easy for nearly anyone to try. Here’s what the research says about qigong:

Reduces depression and relieves stress

One study found that qigong could reduce symptoms of depression. In this study, those who practiced qigong also experienced less anxiety and better moods as compared to those who didn’t. Qigong was also shown to have positive effects on bone and cardiovascular health and improve balance.

Lessens chronic fatigue

Chronic fatigue syndrome is a common disorder that causes extreme tiredness. There is no known cause, and it doesn’t go away with rest. It can be difficult — or nearly impossible — for someone with chronic fatigue to function in their daily life.

In a study, 64 people with chronic fatigue experienced improvements in their symptoms after four months of practicing qigong. They had better mental functioning and less fatigue than those who didn’t. If you’re tired all the time, and your doctor has ruled out any medical conditions, qigong could help.

Boosts the immune response

Your immune system’s job is to fend off unwanted guests like viruses, bacteria and diseases. That’s an important responsibility. And qigong may give your immune system a little extra help.

A review of several studies found that qigong had a noticeable impact on immune functioning. It increased levels of certain immune cells in people who practiced it regularly.

Improves well-being in people with cancer

Many people who are undergoing cancer treatment need relief from side effects and the stress of treatment. Often, they turn to alternative medicine practices like acupuncture, yoga or massage. Qigong may have a place on this list, too.

Advertisement

Some evidence suggests that using qigong can help patients with cancer fight fatigue and mood disturbances. This boost may be a welcome relief.

Keep in mind that qigong is not an overnight fix. Like any exercise, you need time to master it to get the full benefits.

How do I get started?

While taking a class is helpful, Dr. Lin says this isn’t necessary. Many people learn qigong from online videos and instructions. “Pay attention to the form and learn it properly. Then you can focus on breathing and being present,” Dr. Lin says.

Qigong can help you feel your best — plus, it’s free, easy and doesn’t require much time. Not many other wellness activities can make those claims.

Regular exercise — such as 30 minutes of walking a day — is also an effective way to improve your health, reduce stress and help you sleep better. If you exercise regularly or plan to start, qigong is a great addition to your routine. Working it in could be the healthy one-two punch you need during stressful times.

Related Articles

Giseng root and ginseng tea on reed mat
February 16, 2024
Can Ginseng Boost Your Health?

Two types of ginseng work in different ways to help improve energy, immunity and heart health

cupping therapy
June 2, 2022
What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

These ancient practices are all about mind/body balance

An acupuncturist applies ear seeds, or small latex stickers, to a person's ear.
December 19, 2021
Thinking About Using Ear Seeds? What You Should Know

An acupuncturist explains how they can help promote symptom relief

person sitting in a growing flower, as they're watering the pot from above
February 9, 2024
Self-Love: Why It’s Important and What You Can Do To Love Yourself

Like being your own best friend in times of trouble, self-love is an act of self-preservation

Closeup of person putting red and white capsule in mouth
February 2, 2024
Know the Dangers of ‘Gas Station Heroin’

It’s labeled as a supplement, but tianeptine is an addictive, dangerous drug

person standing on exclamation point holding up a No. 1 finger, wearing cape and mask in front of crowd
February 1, 2024
How To Make the Most of Your ‘Villain Era’

It’s not about embracing your dark side — it’s about showing up for yourself

Silhouette of person turned away from group of people talking
January 23, 2024
How the Grey Rock Method Can Protect You From Abusive People and Toxic Interactions

Like a boring ol’ grey rock, the goal is to be unresponsive and uninteresting to dissuade a harmful situation

person looking at reflection in hand-held mirror
January 22, 2024
9 Signs You’re Dealing With a ‘Narcissist’ (and Why That’s the Wrong Word to Use)

Narcissistic personality disorder is a mental health condition, not an insult

Trending Topics

White bowls full of pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate and various kinds of nuts
25 Magnesium-Rich Foods You Should Be Eating

A healthy diet can easily meet your body’s important demands for magnesium

Woman feeling for heart rate in neck on run outside, smartwatch and earbuds
Heart Rate Zones Explained

A super high heart rate means you’re burning more than fat

Spoonful of farro salad with tomato
What To Eat If You’ve Been Diagnosed With Prediabetes

Type 2 diabetes isn’t inevitable with these dietary changes

Ad