Cancer patients who used a 5,000-year-old combination of gentle exercise and meditation experienced significantly higher wellbeing levels, improved cognitive functioning and less inflammation compared to a control group, new University of Sydney research has found.
Dr Byeongsang Oh, a clinical senior lecturer at the Sydney Medical School who led the study, said the reduced inflammation in patients who practised medical Qigong, a form of traditional Chinese medicine, was particularly significant.
“Several studies have indicated chronic inflammation is associated with cancer incidence, progression and even survival,” says Dr Oh, who will present his findings to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) conference in Chicago next week.
“Patients who practiced medical Qigong experienced significant improvements in quality of life, including greater physical, functional, social and emotional wellbeing, and enhanced cognitive functioning, while the control group deteriorated in all of these areas,” Dr Oh says.
He also found the patients in the medical Qigong group reported increased satisfaction with their sex lives.
The study involved 162 patients, with those assigned to the medical Qigong group undertaking a ten-week program of two supervised 90-minute sessions per week. They were also encouraged to practise at home every day for at least half an hour.
The mean age of participants in this study was 60, with ages ranging from 31 to 86 years. The most common primary cancer diagnosis among participants was breast cancer (34%) followed by colorectal cancer (12%).
When the study began there were no significant differences in measurements of quality of life, fatigue, mood status and inflammation between the intervention and control groups.
“To our knowledge, our study is the first statistically significant, randomised controlled trial to measure the impact of medical Qigong in patients with cancer,” Dr Oh says.
Qigong is a mind-body practice first developed over 5000 years ago, and an important part of traditional Chinese medicine. It uses physical activity and meditation to harmonise the body, mind and spirit.
It is based on the theory that discomfort, pain and sickness are a result of blockage or stagnation of flow in the body’s energy channel.
About the medical Qigong session in the study
Each session consisted of a 15 minute discussion of health issues, 30 minutes of gentle stretching and body movement in standing postures to stimulate the body along the energy channels, 15 minutes of movement in seated posture (Dao Yin exercise for face, head, neck, shoulders, waist, lower back, legs, and feet), 30 minutes of meditation, including breathing exercises and relaxation and feeling the Qi (nature’s/cosmic energy) and visualisation.