What is the science behind qigong

Tai chi, qigong, and baduanjin improve cardiovascular health

Tai Chi in Shanghai / dpa

Shanghai - Traditional Chinese exercises such as tai chi, qigong and baduanjin, which have been practiced in China for more than 2,000 years, have been published in Journal of the American Heart Association (2016; 5: e002562) favorable effects on the heart and circulation.

The slow meditative movements that countless Chinese people perform in public places every day have long been ridiculed by Western sports medicine experts. Since neither pulse nor blood pressure increase during the exercises, the exercises could not have any effects on the cardiovascular system.

In China, doctors see it differently and Yu Liu, who heads a school for kinesiology at the Shanghai Sports University, is likely to surprise his colleagues in Western countries with the results of a meta-analysis. Over more than five years, the researchers have compiled a total of 35 randomized studies with a total of 2,249 participants in international databases.

They came to the result that patients with previous cardiovascular diseases can lower their systolic blood pressure at rest by an average of more than 9.12 mm Hg and their diastolic blood pressure at rest by more than 5 mm Hg. As hypertonologists know, these are not trivial differences. Liu and co-workers refer to other meta-analyzes in which a decrease in blood pressure of 10/5 mm Hg reduced the number of strokes and coronary heart disease by 41 percent and 22 percent, respectively (BMJ 2009; 338: b1665).

The analysis also found that tai chi, qigong, and baduanjin also lower LDL cholesterol and triglyceride, and raise HDL cholesterol, albeit to a minor extent. The traditional Chinese exercises had a significant influence on the B-natriuretic peptide (BNP), which could indicate a protective effect against cardiac insufficiency in old age. And the 6-minute walking distance, also a marker for cardiac health, has been increased by almost 60 meters in studies.

Tai Chi, Qigong and Baduanjin also have a beneficial effect on the mind. Declines in the Hamilton and POMS scales indicate that people with depression benefit from slow meditative movements. In contrast, there was no evidence of an influence on heart rate, aerobic fitness or the assessment of general health issues.

In a press release, the American Heart Association was also impressed by the effects of traditional Chinese exercises, but added that the meta-analysis had weaknesses. The inclusion criteria of the individual studies are very different (which makes the joint evaluation more difficult), many participants were observed for a year or less. And the fact that the results of the study were mostly assessed by the non-blinded study directors indicates possible biases that may make the health effects appear in a one-sidedly favorable light. © rme / aerzteblatt.de