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 Qigong and Taiji: Anti-Aging Benefits of Qigong 

The favorable changes in estradiol levels, E2, brought about by qigong are summarized in Fig. 3 for both men and women.

In an auxiliary study, the 24-hour urinary estradiol levels were determined in 30 men ages 50 to 69. Qigong for one year resulted in a decrease of 31% in E2 and a decrease of 54% in the estradiol/testosterone ratio (E2/T). These changes were accompanied by improvements in symptoms associated with Kidney deficiency hypertension, such as soreness, dizziness, insomnia, hair loss, impotence, and incontinence. The average score for these symptoms was changed favorably by qigong from 5.5±2.3 to 2.8±1.3 (p<0.001).

Ye Ming and co-workers reported similar favorable changes in plasma sex hormone levels E2 in 77 male and female qigong exercisers after 2 months qigong compared with 27 controls. They did not observe significant changes in testosterone.

The three studies above show that qigong exercise can help restore the sex hormone levels that had deteriorated because of aging.

e. Changes in blood chemistry in hypertensive patients
Wang, Xu and co-workers made a series of determinations indicating the profound effects that qigong exercise may have on blood chemistry of hypertensive subjects. Improvements were noted in plasma coagulation firbrinolysis indices, blood viscosity, erythrocyte deformation index, levels of plasma tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA), plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI), VIII factor related antigen (VIII R:AG), and anti-thrombin (AT-III). In another study, they reported that qigong exercise beneficially changed the activities of two messenger cyclic nucleotides (cAMP and cGMP).

Reversing symptoms of senility
To study the mechanism of keeping fit by qigong, a controlled study was made of 100 subjects classified either as presenile or with senile impaired cerebral function. The subjects were divided into two groups of 50 people each with a mean age of 63 years and with a similar distribution of age and sex. The qigong group practiced a combination of static and moving qigong. The control group exercised by walking, walking fast, or running slow. According to TCM method of classifying the vital energy, more than 80% of the patients in each group were classified as deficient in vital function and vital essence of the Kidney. Criteria for judging outcome were based on measuring clinical signs and symptoms including cerebral function, sexual function, serum lipid levels, and function of endocrine glands.

After six months, 8 of the 14 main clinical signs and symptoms in the qigong group were improved above 80%, whereas none of the symptoms in the control group were improved above 45%. These results suggest that qigong can reverse some symptoms of aging and senility. In this regard, qigong exercise is superior to walking or running exercises.

Enhanced activity of anti-aging enzyme SOD
Superoxide dismutase (SOD) is produced naturally by the body but its activity declines with age. SOD is often called an anti-aging enzyme because it is believed to destroy free radicals that may cause aging. The effects of qigong exercise to treat disorders of retired workers were studied by Xu Hefen and coworkers and included determinations of plasma SOD.

For their study, 200 retired workers,100 males and 100 females, ranging in age from 52 to 76 were divided into 2 groups: the qigong exercise group and the control group, and each group consisted of 50 males and 50 females. The main qigong exercise was Emei Nei Gong (one kind of qigong exercises of the Emei School), and was practiced at least 30 minutes a day.

The result showed that the mean level of SOD was increased by qigong exercise. For example, the SOD level was larger in the qigong group (about 2700 µ/g Hb) and than in the control group (1700 µ/g Hb), and this difference was significant (p<0.001). This study shows that qigong exercise can stimulate physical metabolism, promote the circulation of meridians and regulate the flowing of qi and blood, thus preventing and treating disorders of aging and promoting longevity.

Cardiovascular function
Several studies reveal the potential benefits that qigong may have for improving the cardiovascular function of those with heart disease as well as old people. This conclusion is based on three studies reporting that qigong exercise can protect healthy pilots from altitude stress when they flew rapidly from a low altitude to the high altitude of the Tibetan highlands.

Before entering the Tibetan highland, 66 healthy young men were divided into two groups: a qigong group of 32 men who did Qiyuan Qigong exercise for 4 weeks, and a control group of 34 men who exercised to radio music. The two groups of men rapidly entered the highlands from a lower altitude. Before and after entering the highland, measurements were made of symptoms of altitude sickness and physiological changes. The qigong group suffered less altitude stress than the control group as measured by blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen consumption, microcirculation on the epex of tongue and the nail fold, and the temperature at the Laogong point of the left hand (p<0.01). The researchers suggest that qigong can prevent stress from altitude changes.

In another study of changes in altitude, healthy young men were divided into three groups. Forty males were in the qigong group and practiced Qiyuan qigong for 4 weeks prior to entering the highlands; 40 men were in the control group and exercised to radio music for 4 weeks prior to entering the highlands; and 40 males were residents living at high altitudes. The results show that the integral value of symptoms of acute mountain sickness was lower in the qigong than in control group (p<0.01 to 0.05). Pulmonary ventilation of the qigong group was significantly improved compared with the control group (p<0.01 to 0.05), and nearly equal to the resident group.

In another study, air force pilots were randomly divided into two groups: a qigong group of 22 men who had practiced Qiyuan Qigong exercise for eight weeks, and a control group of 18 men who did physical exercise for eight weeks before entering the Tibetan highlands. Microcirculation was measured at tongue apex and the nail fold, and also from the temperature at the Laogong point in palm of the left hand. When the men entered the high altitude, abnormal blood pressure and microcirculation of tongue apex and nail fold occurred in both groups. The abnormalities were statistically less in the qigong group than in the control group (p<0.01). The temperature at Laogong kept steady in the qigong group, but was reduced in the control group (p<0.05).

The results of these three studies with healthy subjects lead to the conclusion that qigong also should be effective in improving the health of people with cardiovascular conditions including the aged. In fact several research studies have reported such beneficial effects of qigong on cardiovascular diseases. The three studies also provide evidence that qigong exercise is superior to physical exercise such as calisthenics.

Blood flow to the brain
Qigong exercise has been shown by rheoencephalography to increase blood flow to the brain. For 158 subjects with cerebral arteriosclerosis who practiced qigong for 1 to 6 months, improvements were noted in symptoms such as memory, dizziness, insomnia, tinnitus, numbness of limbs, and vertigo headache. During these studies, a decrease in plasma cholesterol was also noted. These results may offer hope to people with cerebral arteriosclerosis.

Feng Lida pioneered in research showing that emitted qi from qigong masters produced marked changes in cell cultures of cancer cells from mice. Several studies reported the effects of emitted qi on tumors in animals. For example, emitted qi was reported to inhibit the growth of implanted malignant tumors in mice but did not destroy the tumors. Encouraged by the results with animals, researchers carried out clinical research on the effects of qigong on human subjects with cancer.

In a clinical study of qigong as a therapeutic aid for patients with advanced cancer, 127 patients with medically diagnosed malignant cancer were divided into a qigong group of 97 patients and a control group of 30 patients. All patients received drugs, and the qigong group practiced qigong for more than 2 hours a day over a period from 3 to 6 months. The results summarized in Fig. 4 show that both groups improved, but the qigong group showed improvements four to nine times greater than the control group in strength, appetite, diarrhea free, and weight gain of 3 kg. The phagocytic rate, which is a measure of the immune function, increased in the qigong group but decreased in the control group. There are claims that qigong can cure cancer. Researchers, who seem to be more conservative, generally express the opinion to the author that qigong can at least slow the growth of cancerous tumors and reduce their size.

Combination therapy of qigong & drugs is superior to drug therapy alone
There is ample evidence in the literature that therapy by a combination of qigong exercise and drugs is superior to that of drugs alone. The advantages of a combination therapy of qigong and drugs over drugs alone were discussed earlier in this paper for hypertension and cancer.

The mechanism of this apparent synergism is not entirely understood, but undoubtedly relates to the fundamental mechanism of qigong. Qigong is believed to remove blocks to the ready flow of the qi (energy), blood, oxygen and nutrients to all cells of the body as well as to promote removal of waste products from cells of the body. Blocks to energy (qi) flow may result from injury, disease or stress.

Increases in qi flow and blood circulation help
nourish diseased or stressed tissue, providing a means for the body to heal itself. This mechanism suggests that qigong also could promote drug uptake to tissue and cells via increased blood circulation. Omura's research shows that drug uptake was increased by using qigongized paper (i.e., paper to which emitted qi was sent) applied to afflicted area of the body.

This review deals with a small fraction of the large collection of clinical research on medical applications of qigong. The information presented is intended to illustrate the potential of qigong exercise for restoring normal body functions in people with chronic conditions, many of which accelerate the aging process. The main conclusion from many studies is that qigong exercise helps the body to heal itself. In this sense, qigong is a natural anti-aging medicine. Two studies indicate that qigong exercise is superior to some physical exercises.

Qigong can complement Western medicine in many ways to provide better healthcare. For example, qigong has special value for treating chronic conditions and as a preventive medicine, whereas Western medicine has special value for treating acute conditions. There are many medical applications of qigong that can complement Western medicine to improve health care. Some examples include chronic problems such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, aging, asthma, allergies, neuromuscular problems, and cancer. These areas of public health deserve consideration by the Western medical establishment.



1.Kenneth M SANCIER, Ph.D., Copresident & Director of Research, 561 Berkeley Avenue, Menlo Park, CA 94025, USA. Phone/Fax +1-415-323-1221.

2. Some of the material in this article was adapted from the article, "Medical Applications of Qigong," by K.M. Sancier, Ph.D., and published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. 1996;2 (1): 40-46.

3. Qigong Databaseª is available from the Qigong Institute, East West Academy of Healing Arts, 450 Sutter Street, Suite 2104, San Francisco, CA 94108, USA.

4. The p-value is the probability that two quantities are not the same: the smaller the p-value smaller the probability and the more significant the result.

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