Looking for Medical Conducted Studies on Qigong? Read about 8 Different Segments Qigong was Tested Along with 16 Peer Reviewed Reports.
I have a very personal connection with qigong and practice it every day. It’s over 4,000 years old (it could be much older), so I’m in very good company.(1)
Qigong can be performed by all ages and while it is typically utilized to promote the flow of qi, many practitioners simply see it as a form of low-impact exercise and dynamic meditation.
In this guide, I’ll look at some of the many studies conducted on qigong, highlighting everything from its popularity and benefits to potential side effects.
I have my own feelings about how it works. If you also practice it, I’m sure you have your viewpoints as well. But the purpose of this guide is to see what the science says and acknowledge whether or not they support my own findings.
Qigong and Blood Pressure Medical Studies
It probably won’t surprise you to learn that high blood pressure is common. In fact, over 1.3 billion people have this condition.(2)
It’s manageable with diet and lifestyle changes and qigong could be an important piece of the puzzle. In one 2021 study, conducted by the BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, 370 subjects were analyzed across a number of qigong trials. It noted that qigong could greatly reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressure, concluding that it’s useful as a complementary therapy.(3)
Another study analyzed the effects of tai chi and qigong over 1.5-6 months with similar results, noting higher levels of nitric oxide and lower levels of endothelin-1.(4)
Nitric oxide dilates the blood vessels and improves blood flow; endothelin-1 causes fibrosis in the vascular cells. High levels of the former and low levels of the latter produce positive cardiovascular outcomes.(5)(6)
Qigong, Tai Chi, and Comparisons Between the Two
I enjoy tai chi on occasion and I’m not alone in that. I also practice yoga and meditate on a regular basis. These practices typically go hand in hand, and that’s why you will usually see them mentioned in the same studies. But… how do they compare to one another?
The results are similar. Researchers examined multiple studies on these practices and found they both had similar benefits, including many of the things outlined herein.(7)
Some studies have leaned more toward tai chi as being the more beneficial practice, but just as many seem to point in the other direction. It’s all about doing what you like and what interests you, and if you have time for both, the more the merrier!
Qigong, Neck Pain, and Other Chronic Pain Medical Studies
Qigong is a form of physical therapy that can reduce chronic pain.
A 2019 review looked at previous studies on neck pain and concluded that qigong was beneficial. However, they noted that the effects were not necessarily more effective than traditional physical therapy exercises.(8)
A 2019 review by BMC Public Health drew more positive conclusions when looking at how qigong benefited older adults, but these treatments were not compared to traditional physical therapy.(9)
Qigong on Pregnancy and Maternal Well-Being
Authors Eun Sun Ji and Hae-Ra Han published a study in 2010 that analyzed the effects of qigong exercises on pregnancy and maternal well-being. They drew data samples from a women’s wellness center and a women’s health clinic, both based in Seoul, South Korea and included information from 70 pregnant women.(10)
Twice a week for 12 weeks, the participants were guided through 90 minutes of qi exercises, after which their reactions were recorded via questionnaires and scales (including a questionnaire on mother-baby relationships and ones focusing on anxiety and comfort levels). The results were then compared to a placebo group.
The authors of the study noted that maternal/fetal interactions were much higher in the qigong group, and they also reported fewer depressive symptoms and lower discomfort. Anxiety was the only data point that remained unchanged. The conclusion was that qigong could be used during pregnancy to help mothers reduce discomfort/depression while building a stronger connection with their unborn babies.
Qigong and Bone Density
A 12-week randomized controlled trial conducted in 2006 sought to discover whether Baduanjin qigong (a common type of qigong that focuses on medical ailments) had any impact on bone loss in middle-aged women. A number of carefully-selected participants were separated into an experimental group and a control group, with 44 in the former and 43 in the latter.(11)
The experimental group was added to a 12-week Baduanjin qigong program whereas the control group did nothing. Bone density levels were measured before and after the research period and there were significant differences between the two groups once the 12 weeks had passed. The experimental group maintained bone density levels throughout the 12 weeks and also recorded lower levers of Interleukin-6 (IL-6), which has a pro-inflammatory response and is associated with bone loss.(12)
Bone Strength and Balance
A 2018 study by Romy Lauche et al adopted a similar approach as the trial above, but with a different result. It studied the effects of qigong practice on several groups:
- survivors of chronic illness with some qigong experience
- survivors of chronic illness with no qigong experience
- a control group not exposed to any qigong and used as a barometer for the other groups.
All groups had dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry scans to measure bone density in various parts of the body. The participants’ balance was also tested via a simple one-leg-standing test.(13)
Results were similar across the board, but with a few notable exceptions. The group that practiced qigong more frequently displayed 27.3% better balance than the group without any qigong experience. However, there were no changes in the prevalence of falls or bone density across the 3 groups.
This study was very small and had fewer than 100 participants. The researchers also didn’t study whether qigong could improve balance and bone density.
Qigong on Stress Medical Studies
Some of the most notable studies on qigong are on stress and depression. In one, 34 healthy adults did qigong over 8 weeks, with the results then compared to a control group of 31 subjects.(14)
Mood and other variables were measured using a variety of tests (including stress scales and cortisol level tests), and the data was analyzed periodically.
By week 8, the qigong group had reduced cortisol levels, a key indicator of lower stress levels. Blood pressure levels were also lower in the group that had practiced qigong. Researchers noted that the qigong group enjoyed a “better quality of life” and suggested that the practice could be used to reduce stress and anxiety while improving general well-being.
Another study, published in 2013 by BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, focused on “distressed individuals” in Korea. 50 participants were randomized and split into two groups:
- A group given a qigong-based stress-reduction program, with regular qigong practice monitored throughout.
- A control group with no qigong practice or anything else that could influence the results.
Researchers measured stress and quality of life and results from the two groups were then compared.(15)
Salivary cortisol levels remain unchanged in the qigong group, but Perceived Stress Scale scores were noticeably lower, as were anxiety scores and levels of anger (measured using the Hwa-Byung Scale).
Qigong on Fatigue
Fatigue is one of the side effects of many treatments for long-term illnesses, one that can leave patients drained. A research article first published in 2023 aimed to discover whether this condition could be treated with qigong and a carefully moderated diet and exercise plan.(16)
The research, conducted by Chloe S. Zimmerman et al, studied women with fatigue in a single-blind randomized controlled pilot efficacy trial. The effects of qigong were compared to strength/aerobic exercise and plant-based nutrition, with the goal being to test whether these non-pharmacological interventions could ease their symptoms.
Both interventions significantly improved self-reported fatigue levels in tested individuals. The exercise and nutrition group scored slightly higher than qigong, but the differences were slight. The sample size was small, but researchers were able to conclude that qigong practice could improve fatigue symptoms in a similar manner to a diet and exercise plan.
The trials and medical studies on Qigong highlighted above point toward the many possible benefits of qigong. They explain why this practice is so popular worldwide and include:
- Improved mood and lower stress
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved bone strength and density
- Better balance
- Better support for an array of conditions that cause chronic pain
- May help with respiratory conditions
Everyone has their reasons for practicing this ancient art; everyone gets something unique out of it. For me, personally, it’s about reducing stress and anxiety. It’s about improving mood and physicality. It’s also a fun practice, and enjoying something is always a great reason to do it. For others, it’s all about specific benefits related to blood pressure or chronic pain. Whatever the reason, it’s good to know that there are many clinical trials and peer-reviewed studies supporting the anecdotal claims we’ve been hearing for years.
If you’re new to qigong and looking for an excuse, this is a pretty good one. If you’re an older and more experienced practitioner seeking validation (much like me), then you have it!