If you’ve never heard of qi gong, you are missing out!
The Eastern practice of harnessing your body’s natural flow of energy (or “qi”) has been scientifically proven to enhance longevity, improve brain structure and function, and reduce stress.
Plus, it will be amazing for slowing you down and helping you to focus on your breathing, physical sensations, and movements. It’s a mindfulness practice that can change your life for the better.
Below, we’ll take a deep dive into what qi gong is, how it works, and what it can do to improve your life. By the end of this post, you’ll know everything you need to know to understand why it may just be the solution to a healthier, happier life you’ve been looking for.
In China, the name “qi” refers to the life force or energy that is believed to flow inside all of us. Qi gong is a form of movement, breathing, and mindfulness practice that optimizes that energy flow in order to improve the health of your mind, body, and spirit.
During any qi gong practice, there are a few crucial components:
Gentle, smooth movements that encourage physical and mental relaxation. Typically each movement is repeated in order to focus on a specific body part or internal system.
Long, slow, and deep breathing patterns. Breathing may shift from standard deep abdominal breathing to breath techniques combined with sounds (similar to the “Om” chant in Yoga) and back again.
Mindfulness practice, visualizing the flow of your qi and paying attention to the way your body feels with each movement.
By combining these three components, you can obtain a lot of benefits (as you’ll see in a section below).
Typically, qi gong is broken down into two types of techniques:
Passive techniques, also called meditative techniques. These include the breathing patterns and visualizations, and can be performed seated, standing, and even lying down. They’re intended to be practiced frequently throughout the day even when you’ve finished with the movement portion of the qi gong.
Dynamic techniques, also called active techniques. These involve movements of your body, either your whole body or just your arms and/or legs. The dynamic techniques harness the natural flow of your blood and breath to improve energy flow.
This is a question that gets asked a lot!
Tai chi is a form of exercise and movement that bears a lot of similarities to qi gong. In fact, many tai chi practices incorporate qi gong techniques and movements.
However, tai chi focuses on harnessing the entire body at once, while qi gong is more focused on a specific problem, muscle group, or body part.
While qi gong has been practiced in Chinese culture for centuries, it has only recently become a subject of interest and study in the Western world. There have only been a handful of studies conducted to provide concrete evidence as to how qi gong can improve your body and what benefits it can provide.
But what research has been conducted has yielded some very promising results!
A few of the scientifically backed benefits of qi gong include:
Lower Depression Rates
In one study  conducted on more than 6,400 adults, it was discovered that regular qi gong practice led to significant decrease in depression rates. Though these were patient reported outcomes rather than measured by any other more “controllable” standard, it’s still evidence enough to back up the claims.
In the same study, research was cited with 27 articles that provided evidence that qi gong also improved mental health, lowered anxiety, reduced stress levels, and even elevated self-esteem.
Improve Chronic Fatigue
People suffering from chronic fatigue were found by one study  to have higher mental functioning and few fatigue symptoms thanks to regular qi gong practice. The study concluded, “Qigong exercise may be used as an alternative and complementary therapy or rehabilitative program for chronic fatigue and chronic fatigue syndrome.”
Better Quality of Life
One study  looked specifically at how qi gong might have an effect on cancer patients, and found it noticeably improved quality of life. Out of the 162 patients tested, a significant number saw reduced fatigue, mood disturbance, and even inflammation. It may even “reduce specific side-effects of treatment” for cancer.
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Improved Immune Health
In one medical review  of 19 randomized controlled trials, it was proven that qi gong could not only help to boost immunity by directly increasing the production of immune cells, but also reducing inflammation levels in the body (as marked by C-reactive protein). By decreasing inflammation (which slows down immune response) and simultaneously increasing immune cells, it enabled the bodies of those studied in those 19 tests to fight off infections and diseases more effectively.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) , qi gong can also provide additional benefits:
Pain reduction. Though the data collected offered some conflicting evidence, it’s suggested that the practice may help to relieve neck, lower back, and other musculoskeletal pain among older adults.
Improvement in fibromyalgia. In the two limited studies mentioned by the NCCIH, people who regularly practiced qi gong saw improvement in both their physical pain and their sleep quality. Mental function improved alongside physical function. Anxiety decreased and quality of life improved as well.
Improvement in Parkinson’s disease. People who practice qi gong may find their balance and mobility will be improved.
Lowered blood pressure. There was little “firm evidence” cited by the NCCIH, with only data from 7 studies “suggesting” that regular qi gong practice could help to lower blood pressure, both systolic and diastolic.
Increased mobility. Qi gong has been shown to improve mobility among arthritis sufferers, decreasing pain and stiffness while also increasing physical function of the joints. However, there is only limited evidence to back up this claim.
This is the question a lot of older adults will ask. After all, they want to find a practice that they can take up safely without worrying about injury.
The good news is that qi gong is an incredibly low-impact, low intensity practice that involves only gentle, slow movements paired with deep breath and mindfulness practice.
None of the studies conducted into qi gong (as quoted by the NCCIH) discovered any negative side effects of the practice.
Qi gong was even proven safe for pregnant women! Pregnant women who did a qi gong-like practice saw a number of improvements, including:
Reduced material discomfort
Lower rates of maternal depression, and fewer symptoms
Greater maternal and fetal interaction
Because many of the passive techniques can be performed sitting and lying down, a qi gong-like practice should be perfectly safe for women in any stage of pregnancy.
(All the same, please consult with your doctor and get approval before undertaking any practice.)
As you’ve seen above qi gong has the potential to offer a lot of benefits with no side effects whatsoever.
It may seem strange to think that a practice that involves slow, gentle movements and deep breathing techniques can be so good for you, but that’s actually why it’s good for you. Harnessing your body’s natural energy, improving circulation, being more mindful of your body, and decreasing inflammation will all make you a healthier and happier person.
If you want to improve your mind, body, and spirit, it’s absolutely worth considering qi gong.
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