High Salt Intake, Anxiety, and Aging

The aging processes are related to the functional weakening in the cognitive and cardiovascular aspects. Such changes may be influenced by external stressors such as high dietary salt intake, which may affect the cardiovascular and mental conditions. A study examined the effects of high salt diets on learning and memory abilities, anxiety, and blood pressure using rat models (Chugh et al. 2013).

The study discovered that the older rats fed with high salt diets had higher blood pressure and higher levels of anxiety-like behavior than normally fed adult or older rats. The older rats fed with high salt diets also showed impaired short-term memory. However, such changes were not observed in other groups (Chugh et al. 2013).

In addition, the older rats fed with high salt diets had increased levels of oxidative stress parameters and corticosterone. This group of rats also had lower expression levels of the antioxidant enzyme glyoxalase-1 in the brain regions including hippocampus and amygdala (Chugh et al. 2013).

The study indicates that excessive dietary salt intake may be related to aging-associated hypertension and behavioral changes including anxiety and impaired memory. Such effects may be mediated via the redox imbalance (Chugh et al. 2013).

Reference:

Chugh, G., Asghar, M., Patki, G., Bohat, R., Jafri, F., Allam, F., … Salim, S. (2013). A high-salt diet further impairs age-associated declines in cognitive, behavioral, and cardiovascular functions in male Fischer brown Norway rats. The Journal of Nutrition, 143(9), 1406–1413.

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Benefits of Qigong Exercise for Elderly with Depression

Researchers in Hong Kong performed a randomized controlled trial to investigate the psychosocial influences of Qigong on elderly with depression (Tsang et al., 2006). A total of 82 participants with depression were involved in the study. The intervention group received Qigong training for 16 weeks. The control group joined a newspaper reading program at the same time.

The study found that after 8 weeks of Qigong training, the patients had significant improvement in various aspects including mood, self-efficacy and personal wellbeing (Tsang et al., 2006). Other progress included the physical and social domains of self-concept. Upon finishing 16 weeks of the training, the improvement of the Qigong group included the daily task domain of the self-concept.

These findings indicate that regular Qigong training may be beneficial for healing depression and improving personal wellbeing among the elderly patients with chronic diseases and depression (Tsang et al., 2006). Further studies are needed to confirm the result and find out the mechanisms.

Reference:

Tsang, H. W., Fung, K. M., et al. (2006) Effect of a qigong exercise programme on elderly with depression. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry 21, 890-897.

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

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The Effects of Qigong and Tai Chi on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Researchers at Boston University explored the effects of Qigong and Tai Chi on helping survivors of torture and refugee trauma (Grodin et al., 2008). They assessed the general effects of torture and refugee trauma, emphasizing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). They analyzed the reports from the scientific literature on the applications of Qigong and Tai Chi in relieving symptoms among torture survivors.

Their examination of four cases, together with the study of the literature demonstrated the possible value of using Qigong and Tai Chi as a therapeutic intervention for torture and refugee trauma (Grodin et al., 2008). Further studies are still needed to verify their findings and to find out the mechanisms of the effects of such interventions on PTSD.

Reference:

Grodin, M. A., Piwowarczyk, L., et al. (2008) Treating survivors of torture and refugee trauma: a preliminary case series using qigong and t’ai chi. J Altern Complement Med 14, 801-806.

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

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Qigong Can Relieve Chronic Fatigue

According to Chinese Medicine, chronic fatigue is caused by the disharmony and weakening of Qi. Qigong can provide effective interventions to strengthen and adjust the conditions of Qi for disease prevention and treatment. Researchers in UK evaluated the effects of Qigong on relieving chronic fatigue (Craske et al., 2008).

A total of 18 Caucasian female participants were involved in the study (Craske et al., 2008). The participants had weekly Qigong training for 6 months, and practiced for 15 minutes each day. The study found that the Qigong training significantly improved factors associated with chronic fatigue. These factors included sleep quality, pain conditions, emotional attitude and general mobility.

The study indicates that Qigong training is safe with good effects for the treatment of chronic fatigue (Craske et al., 2008). Further studies with larger-scale trials and longer terms are still needed to confirm such effects. It is also necessary to explore the scientific mechanisms of such interventions.

Reference:

Craske, N. J., Turner, W., et al. (2008) Qigong Ameliorates Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue: A Pilot Uncontrolled Study. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med.

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

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Qigong Can Relieve Long-Term Neck Pain

Researchers in Sweden compared the effectiveness of Qigong and exercise therapy in patients with long-term nonspecific neck pain (Lansinger et al., 2007). A total of 122 patients were involved in the study and had either Qigong training or exercise therapy. Seventy percent of the participants were women with the mean age of 44 years. The patients received a maximum of 12 interventions within 3 months.

The patients in both groups had similar clinical and demographic features (Lansinger et al., 2007). Conditions in both qigong and exercise therapy groups significantly improved after the treatment. The effects were kept 6 and 12 months after the trainings.

The variables analyzed in the study included recent neck pain, current neck pain, neck disability, and cervical range of motion (Lansinger et al., 2007). These findings suggest that Qigong or exercise therapy can help reduce pain and disability. These interventions are suggested helpful for those with long-term nonspecific neck pain.

Reference:

Lansinger, B., Larsson, E., et al. (2007) Qigong and exercise therapy in patients with long-term neck pain: a prospective randomized trial. Spine 32, 2415-2422.

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

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The Effects of Qigong on Pain and Fibromyalgia (FMS)

Researchers investigated the effects of Qigong on pain using functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) (Yu et al., 2007). They examined four male Qigong masters who had more than 30-year experience of Qigong practice. The researchers observed the change of brain functions via the peripheral pain stimulation, before and after Qigong practicing. They also monitored the heart and respiration rates.

The study found that before the Qigong practice, the brain areas including the cigulate cortex, the thalamus, and the cerebellum were in active conditions (Yu et al., 2007). The levels of such activations reduced after the Qigong practice. The SII-insula area was activated in the two conditions, and the response amplitude in the state of Qigong was greater than that before the Qigong practice.

In another study, researchers in Sweden tested the effects of a seven-week Qigong training on Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS). A total of 57 female patients with FMS were involved in the trial (Haak and Scott, 2008).

The researchers collected data before and after the intervention, and at 4-month follow-up for the experimental and control groups (Haak and Scott, 2008). They observed remarkable improvements among the training group in various aspects of pain and stress. After 4 months of the training, most of the effects were kept or improved. More than 90% of the participants completed the training and was satisfied, which meant that the Qigong training had great potential.

These findings indicate that Qigong has good effects on relieving pain and FMS, probably by leading to functional changes of the brain activities. Such results suggest that Qigong interventions could be a helpful adjuvant to conventional treatment for pain and FMS. More studies are needed to find out the mechanisms of Qigong.

References:

Haak, T. and Scott, B. (2008) The effect of Qigong on fibromyalgia (FMS): a controlled randomized study. Disabil Rehabil 30, 625-633.

Yu, W. L., Li, X. Q., et al. (2007) fMRI study of pain reaction in the brain under state of “Qigong”. Am J Chin Med 35, 937-945.

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

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Effects of Qigong Exercise on Parkinson’s Disease

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Many alternative and complementary therapeutic methods have been used by patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Researchers in Germany examined the immediate and continuous effects of Qigong on motor and nonmotor symptoms of PD (Schmitz-Hubsch et al., 2006). A total of 56 patients with different levels of PD disease severity were involved in the study.

The researchers compared the Qigong training group and a control group about the progression of motor symptoms evaluated using Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale motor part (Schmitz-Hubsch et al., 2006). The Qigong group had the trainings of 90-minute each week for 2 months, followed by a 2 months break, then a second training for 2 months.

The study found that at the time point of 3 and 6 months, more patients showed improvements in the Qigong group than in the control group (Schmitz-Hubsch et al., 2006). In addition, the rates of several nonmotor symptoms reduced in the Qigong group only.

This study indicates that Qigong exercise may be helpful for relieving PD. More studies are still needed to confirm this effect and to find out the mechanisms.

Reference:Parkinson’s disease

Schmitz-Hubsch, T., Pyfer, D., et al. (2006) Qigong exercise for the symptoms of : a randomized, controlled pilot study. Mov Disord 21, 543-548.

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Qigong May Help during Epidemic Crisis

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Researchers studied the effects of Qigong practice among chronically sick patients during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Hong Kong (Siu et al., 2007). Researchers investigated how the training influenced the social environment of Hong Kong during the outbreak.

A total of 30 participants from three Qigong classes were involved in the study (Siu et al., 2007). The researchers observed that the underlying and trigger motivations prompted the chronically sick patients to take the training. The underlying motivations included the belief in Qigong on the effects of health promotion and the unpleasant feelings during the Western treatments. The trigger motivations included the seeking of coping strategies.

The study found that among those patients who practiced Qigong, the training improved their health and served as an effective coping strategy to achieve the active control (Siu et al., 2007). The practice helped the patients to overcome the social discrimination during the outbreak. The study suggests that Qigong may be a helpful mind-body technique to support chronic patients both physically and psychologically during an epidemic crisis. Further studies may help elucidate the mechanisms of such effects.

Reference:

Siu, J. Y., Sung, H. C., et al. (2007) Qigong practice among chronically ill patients during the SARS outbreak. J Clin Nurs 16, 769-776.

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The Effects of Medical Qigong on Quality of Life in Cancer Patients

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

How to Practice Qigong: The Basics and Principles

In cancer patients, quality of life (QOL) of is often reduced because of the side effects of anticancer treatments. Medical Qigong is the integration of gentle exercise, relaxation meditation, and breathing exercise. The practice of Qigong has the basis of Chinese medicine theory.

Medical Qigong has been suggested as a useful intervention for promoting quality of life, relieving symptoms and side effects, and improving longevity of cancer patients. In a study done at the University of Sydney in Australia, researchers evaluated the feasibility and effects of Medical Qigong on outcomes among cancer patients (Oh et al., 2008).

A total of 30 patients with cancers were involved in the study (Oh et al., 2008). The intervention group practiced Qigong for 8 weeks in addition to the regular medical care. The progress of disease was measured by the inflammatory biomarker c-reactive protein (CRP).

The study found that the Qigong intervention group had better quality of life (QOL) (Oh et al., 2008). In the Qigong group, the symptoms of side effects from cancer treatment and the levels of the inflammatory biomarker CRP were also reduced, compared with the control group.

In another study of 162 patients with different cancers, researchers observed that the Qigong group had remarkable improvement in the aspects of overall QOL, fatigue, and mood disturbance, compared with the control group (Oh et al., 2010). The levels of the inflammatory biomarker CRP were also decreased.

These studies suggest that Medical Qigong may help promote the quality of life of cancer patients, improve mood conditions, and decrease some side-effects of cancer therapy. The exercise can also lower the levels of inflammation, which is beneficial in many aspects. Further investigations with larger scale of clinical trials and biomedical studies are needed to confirm such effects and to understand the mechanisms of the benefits of Qigong.

References:

Oh, B., Butow, P., et al. (2008) Medical Qigong for cancer patients: pilot study of impact on quality of life, side effects of treatment and inflammation. Am J Chin Med 36, 459-472.

Oh, B., Butow, P., et al. (2010) Impact of medical Qigong on quality of life, fatigue, mood and inflammation in cancer patients: a randomized controlled trial. Ann Oncol 21, 608-614.

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Qigong Practice and Blood Biochemical Parameters

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Researchers in Spain studied the effects of Qigong practice on blood biochemical variables (Vera et al., 2007). A total of 29 healthy subjects were involved in the study. Sixteen people were in the experimental group and 13 in the control group. The experimental subjects had Qigong practice everyday for one month.

The study found that the experimental group had reduced serum levels of the enzymes including glutamic-oxaloacetic transaminase (GOT), glutamic-pyruvic transaminase (GPT), as well as urea. There were also changes in the enzyme gamma-glutamyltransferase (GGT).

The study suggests that Qigong practice may lead to significant changes in some blood biochemical variables. More studies are necessary to confirm these observations and the relevant mechanisms.

Reference:

Vera, F. M., Manzaneque, J. M., et al. (2007) Biochemical changes after a qigong program: lipids, serum enzymes, urea, and creatinine in healthy subjects. Med Sci Monit 13, CR560-566.

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The Effects of Qigong Practice on Saliva

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Can Qigong have physical effects? Researchers analyzed the effects of Qigong practice on saliva (Bayat-Movahed et al., 2008). They measured the volume, pH and secretory immunoglobulin A (S-IgA) level of the saliva in Qigong practitioners.

A total of 23 healthy volunteers about 24-year old were involved in the study (Bayat-Movahed et al., 2008). These participants had special Qigong training and massaged acupuncture points to promote the energy cycle and body water energy. The researchers measured the saliva volume and pH before and after the volunteers practiced Qigong.

The study showed that the saliva volume and S-IgA level after Qigong exercises were remarkably increased, compared with those before the exercise (Bayat-Movahed et al., 2008). The researchers did not find obvious changes in the pH levels.

The study indicates that Qigong training may have its health effects through promoting salivary volume and other parameters (Bayat-Movahed et al., 2008). Such results suggest that Qigong may be helpful for those who have the problem of salivary hyposecretion. More studies and larger scale clinical trials are needed to study the mechanisms of Qigong and how these mechanisms can be used for disease treatment.

Reference:

Bayat-Movahed, S., Shayesteh, Y., et al. (2008) Effects of Qigong exercises on 3 different parameters of human saliva. Chin J Integr Med 14, 262-266.

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Finding the Best Practice Duration for Qigong

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Qigong exercise has been found to have many psychological and physical benefits. However, it is not known how long it should be practiced for the best effects, i.e., the best durations. Researchers in Sweden studied the optimal time or length of Qigong practice (Johansson and Hassmen, 2008).

In the study, a total of 41 Qigong practitioners were involved in either 30 or 60 minutes of Qigong exercise (Johansson and Hassmen, 2008). The researchers examined the changes in mood, anxiety, activation, and hedonic tone before and after the practice.

They found that the two durations resulted in the same level of benefits including improved mood, decreased anxiety, and promoted perceived pleasure (Johansson and Hassmen, 2008). They concluded that 30 minutes of Qigong exercise was enough for achieving certain psychological benefits, while the 60 minute-training did not provide additional benefits remarkably.

This finding indicates that even short exercise trainings may provide psychological benefits (Johansson and Hassmen, 2008). It encourages those with little time or motivation for Qigong exercise to seek beneficial results even with a short period of practice.

Reference:

Johansson, M. and Hassmen, P. (2008) Acute psychological responses to Qigong exercise of varying durations. Am J Chin Med 36, 449-458.

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Qigong Exercise with Intrinsic Motivation has Better Effects

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Qigong exercise has been found as a useful intervention for improving both mental and physical health. Researchers in Sweden examined the roles of self-determined motivation and perceived stress in the effects of Qigong exercise (Jouper and Hassmen, 2008).

The researchers surveyed 279 leisure-time Qigong exercisers using the parameters measuring sport motivation, stress, and concentration (Jouper and Hassmen, 2008). They found that the participants with a Calm energy mood and low stress had higher levels of concentration on qi-flow.

In addition, according to the study, the stress-level was negatively associated with health, energy, concentration, and training time (Jouper and Hassmen, 2008). On the other hand, intrinsic motivation was related to the higher levels of concentration and lower stress levels. The researchers also observed that those who practiced Qigong exercise regularly were more intrinsically motivated with lower stress levels and higher levels of concentration, compared with those who do not practice regularly.

The study shows that the factors of mood, intrinsic motivation, and regular practice habits may influence the effects of Qigong exercise, especially the stress and concentration levels (Jouper and Hassmen, 2008). More studies would be helpful to find out the effects of Qigong on the brain and immune functions.

Reference:

Jouper, J. and Hassmen, P. (2008) Intrinsically motivated qigong exercisers are more concentrated and less stressful. Am J Chin Med 36, 1051-1060.

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The Effects of Qigong on Stress Management in Computer Workers

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Qigong training has been found to relieve psychosomatic and physical problems by adjusting the sympathetic nervous system. Computer operators often work in a stressful environment. Researchers in Sweden studied the effects of Qigong on stress in computer operators (Skoglund and Jansson, 2007).

A total of 10 female subjects were involved in the study received the Qigong training (Skoglund and Jansson, 2007). Researchers measured the testing subjects’ heart rate, blood pressure, and finger temperature at the beginning and the end of each working day for 5 weeks. They also measured catecholamine excretion in the urine and recorded their stress levels.

The study found that Qigong training decreased levels of noradrenaline excretion in urine, and adjusted the heart rate and temperature (Skoglund and Jansson, 2007). These changes suggest decreased activities of the sympathetic nervous system. Qigong was also found to relieve low-back problems.

These findings indicate that Qigong training may relieve stress among those with intense computer work (Skoglund and Jansson, 2007). Further studies with larger scale of trials are necessary to confirm the results and to find out the mechanisms, especially those relevant to psychoneuroimmunology (PNI).

Reference:

Skoglund, L. and Jansson, E. (2007) Qigong reduces stress in computer operators. Complement Ther Clin Pract 13, 78-84.

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Tai Chi and Qigong Training May Help Improve Balance

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Tai Chi, a combination of Qigong meditation and exercise, has been found helpful for improving functional balance among older people. Researchers at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) studied the influence of a Tai Chi-Qigong exercise training program on the sensory and biomechanical balance mechanisms (Yang et al., 2007).

A total of 49 healthy older adults with a mean age about 80 joined in the study and the test group for the Tai Chi-Qigong (TQ) training. The training was 1 hour per session, 3 sessions each week and lasted for half a year.

The study found that vestibular ratio scores were remarkably improved in the TQ group, compared with the control group. In addition, the TQ group had an increase in quiet stance Base of Support (BoS) while the feet opening angle did not change. This meant that the increase in BoS was caused by wider stances.

These findings indicate that the Tai Chi-Qigong training may promote the use of vestibular input and lead to wider stances. These may be the mechanisms of the benefits on older adults’ balance functions. More studies are necessary to find out the neurological mechanisms such as the effects on the brain.

Reference:

Yang, Y., Verkuilen, J. V., et al. (2007) Effect of combined Taiji and Qigong training on balance mechanisms: a randomized controlled trial of older adults. Med Sci Monit 13, CR339-348.

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Qigong can Help Reduce Stress among Hospital Staff

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

People working at hospitals are often under stress. Researchers at University of Colorado studied the effects of Qigong training on stress regulation among hospital staff (Griffith et al., 2008). A total of 37 subjects were involved in the study. The test group participated in a 6-week Qigong training program.

The study found that the Qigong group had remarkable stress reduction compared to the control group (Griffith et al., 2008). The Qigong group also had better improvement on the Social Interaction subscale.

In addition, the Qigong group had a remarkable reduction of pain intensity, while the control group did not (Griffith et al., 2008). Furthermore, statistical analysis correlated higher baseline stress levels and better improvement among the Qigong group.

These findings indicate that even short-term Qigong training can help managing stress among hospital staff. More studies are necessary to confirm the effects of Qigong and to find out its mechanisms.

Reference:

Griffith, J. M., Hasley, J. P., et al. (2008) Qigong stress reduction in hospital staff. J Altern Complement Med 14, 939-945.

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The Benefits of Qigong for Middle-Aged Women

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Muscle/Tendon Change Classic (MTCC) Qigong is an exercise featured with slow movements involving many body parts but not very complicated to practice. It has been found beneficial for the middle-aged and older population. Researchers studied the results of the MTCC Qigong training on physical conditions among middle-aged women (Tsai et al., 2008).

In the study, the experimental group had 37 participants with the average age about 49 years (Tsai et al., 2008). They received an 8-week MTCC qigong training. The researchers measured and compared the physiological variables including muscular performance, body composition, and bone strength before and after the Qigong practice.

The researchers observed remarkable differences between the Qigong and control groups in the variables including muscular endurance, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index (BMI) (Tsai et al., 2008). The study showed that the MTCC qigong training could benefit muscle endurance and body composition, but not bone strength among middle-aged women.

The study suggests that the Qigong practice may help improve the health conditions among the group of population (Tsai et al., 2008). It would be also interesting to examine the possible effects of such Qigong practices on mental health.

Reference:

Tsai, Y. K., Chen, H. H., et al. (2008) Qigong improving physical status in middle-aged women. West J Nurs Res 30, 915-927.

 

 

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Tai Chi and Qigong for Metabolic Syndrome

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Researchers in Australia evaluated the effects of Tai Chi and Qigong exercise on metabolic syndrome and glycemic levels among patients with higher blood glucose (Xin et al., 2008). Eleven people aged 42-65 years with higher blood glucose participated the examination.

During the study, participants had the Tai Chi and Qigong training for about one hour, three times each week for twelve weeks (Xin et al., 2008). The researchers found high participation and acceptability rates for the program. They observed remarkable improvements in four of the seven parameters of metabolic syndrome.

These parameters included body mass index, waist circumference, and both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (Xin et al., 2008). Improvements were also observed in the parameters measuring insulin resistance, stress and depression levels.

The study indicates that Tai Chi Qigong practice is practical and acceptable (Xin et al., 2008). The practice may help control metabolic syndrome and blood glucose levels, with the promotion of mental health. Further studies at larger scales are necessary to confirm such results and to understand the mechanisms of Qigong practice.

Reference:

Xin, L., Miller, Y. D., et al. (2008) A preliminary study of the effects of Tai Chi and Qigong medical exercise on indicators of metabolic syndrome and glycaemic control in adults with elevated blood glucose. Br J Sports Med.

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Tai Chi Qigong Practice and the Immune Responses in Older Adults

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Tai Chi Qigong practice has been found to be beneficial to health and may promote the immune functions. Researchers at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) examined the effects of moderate traditional Tai Chi and Qigong practice on the immune responses to influenza vaccines among older adults (Yang et al., 2008). Those adults had practiced Qigong for five months.

Totally fifty older adults were involved in the study (Yang et al., 2008). The researchers measured anti-influenza hemagglutination (HA) inhibition titers. They observed:

• A remarkable elevation in the magnitude and duration of the antibody responses to influenza vaccines among Qigong practitioners, compared with controls;
• A remarkable difference between the different groups at the time points of 3 and 20 weeks after the vaccination;
• At 20 weeks, the Qigong group (not the controls) had obviously elevated titers in comparison with those before having the vaccines;
• More Qigong practitioners had protective antibody responses to influenza A.

The study indicates that traditional Qigong practice may promote the immune response to influenza vaccines among older adults (Yang et al., 2008). Further research is necessary to confirm and explore the mechanisms of such protective effects.

Reference:

Yang, Y., Verkuilen, J., et al. (2008) Effects of a traditional Taiji/Qigong curriculum on older adults’ immune response to influenza vaccine. Med Sport Sci 52, 64-76.

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Health Benefits of Qigong for Chronic Diseases

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Researchers studied the clinical benefits and the possible psychophysiological mechanisms of Qigong through meta-analysis of the available randomized controlled trials (RCTs) (Ng and Tsang, 2009). They found that Qigong practices have shown effects of:

• Impacts on the numbers of white blood cells and lymphocytes;
• Affecting stroke volume, forced vital capacity, and forced expiratory volume;
• Reductions of the total cholesterol, systolic and diastolic blood pressure;
• Reductions of the depressive mood scores;
• Promoting psychological well-being, including sleep duration (Manzaneque et al., 2009);
• Improvements in mood and self-esteem for individuals with traumatic brain injury (Blake and Batson, 2009).

The studies found that Qigong practices may help achieve stress reduction through the regulation of nervous, endocrine, and immune systems (Ng and Tsang, 2009). In addition, these studies have shown that Qigong is safe, inexpensive and cost-effective, with many clinical benefits. These advantages suggest that Qigong may be applied as an integrative exercise therapy, especially for senior people with chronic diseases.

References:

Blake, H. and Batson, M. (2009) Exercise intervention in brain injury: a pilot randomized study of Tai Chi Qigong. Clin Rehabil.
Manzaneque, J. M., Vera, F. M., et al. (2009) Serum cytokines, mood and sleep after a qigong program: is qigong an effective psychobiological tool? J Health Psychol 14, 60-67.
Ng, B. H. and Tsang, H. W. (2009) Psychophysiological outcomes of health qigong for chronic conditions: a systematic review. Psychophysiology 46, 257-269.

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Qigong Practice May Change the EEG Patterns

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Researchers in China studied the EEG pattern of a Qigong practitioner with 50 years of experiences in Qigong practice (Qin et al., 2009). They found that after 50 years of practice, the resting EEG of the practitioner had frontally dominant alpha-1, compared with the occipitally dominant alpha-2 observed in the year of 1962.

The researchers observed that during the Qigong practice, alph-1 increased very fast and were much more significant than it was 50 years ago (Qin et al., 2009). These findings indicate that long-term practice of Qigong may influence the EEG pattern of the brain, as well as the neurophysiology activities.

Such changes may have biomedical effects and clinical impacts that have been observed in long-term Qigong practitioners. Further studies are necessary to elucidate the mechanisms of these changes and their possible beneficial effects on health.

Reference:

Qin, Z., Jin, Y., et al. (2009) A forty-five year follow-up EEG study of Qigong practice. Int J Neurosci 119, 538-552.

 

 

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Long-Term Meditation and the Brain

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Transcendental meditation may promote the blood flow to the brain. The effects of meditation are quite different from those after simple rests or sleep. The practice of meditation may awaken the deep sensations and improve the reactions to stimulus and threats. Meditation usually promotes continued attention.

Long-term meditation practice may have different structures of the brain, as compared with non-practitioners. Researchers in Denmark examined the structural effects in the lower brainstem of meditation practitioners. These practitioners had practiced long-term meditation (Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009).

The researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to detect the brain structures (Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009). They reported that the gray matter in the lower brain stem areas of the long-term meditation practitioners had higher density than those of the non-practitioners.

Such findings suggest that long-term meditation may result in changes in the brainstem areas that are related to cardiorespiratory regulations and functions (Vestergaard-Poulsen et al., 2009). Such changes may influence the cardiorespiratory parasympathetic functions and properties. These mechanisms may affect cognitive, emotional, and immunological functions.

Reference:

Vestergaard-Poulsen, P., van Beek, M., et al. (2009) Long-term meditation is associated with increased gray matter density in the brain stem. Neuroreport 20, 170-174.

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Meditation and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Meditation practices may have impacts on physiological pathways related to stress and various diseases. Meditation practices have been found to have benefits including

• Calming the mind;
• Promoting focused attention; and
• Developing the ability of mindfulness.

For example, researchers at Emory University studied the effects of compassion meditation on innate immune, neuroendocrine and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress (Pace et al., 2009). In the study, sixty-one healthy adults participated in the 6 weeks of training of compassion meditation or a health discussion control group.

The study found that within the meditation group, meditation practice was associated with the lower levels of stressed-induced proinflammatory cytokine IL-6 (Pace et al., 2009). In addition, lower distress scores were also recorded.

The time factor may also make a difference. Those who practiced meditation longer than the median time showed lower levels of the stressed-induced proinflammatory cytokine IL-6 with lower distress scores, compared to the individuals who practiced shorter than the median time (Pace et al., 2009).

These findings suggest that compassion meditation practice may be beneficial for stress-induced immune and behavioral responses. Further studies in psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) are needed to elucidate the mechanisms of such changes.

Reference:

Pace, T. W., Negi, L. T., et al. (2009) Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology 34, 87-98.

 

 

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Meditation, Anxiety, and Stress Management

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Relaxation techniques including meditation are becoming popular approaches for anxiety problems. A meta-analysis of data from 10 years of trials compared various relaxation techniques including autogenic training, applied relaxation, and meditation (Manzoni et al., 2008).

The analysis found that meditation could have higher efficacy than other interventions among the volunteers and for longer treatments (Manzoni et al., 2008). According to the study, the relaxation trainings have been shown with consistent and significant efficacy in reducing anxiety.

For example, meditation-based stress management programs have been found effective in relieving the symptoms among patients with anxiety disorder. In an 8-week clinical trial done in South Korea, patients with anxiety disorder were assigned to either a meditation-based stress management program or an anxiety disorder education program (Lee et al., 2007). The outcomes were measured at 0, 2, 4, and 8 weeks of the program.

The study showed that compared to the education group, the meditation-based stress management group had remarkable improvement in the scores measuring anxiety and hostility (Lee et al., 2007). These studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of meditation-based strategies on anxiety.

References:

Lee, S. H., Ahn, S. C., et al. (2007) Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress management program as an adjunct to pharmacotherapy in patients with anxiety disorder. J Psychosom Res 62, 189-195.

Manzoni, G. M., Pagnini, F., et al. (2008) Relaxation training for anxiety: a ten-years systematic review with meta-analysis. BMC Psychiatry 8, 41.

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Meditation and Professional Stress

Stress, Chronic Diseases, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Stress, Depression, Inflammation, and Psychoneuroimmunology

Yoga and meditation have many benefits. These practices can alleviate stress and anxiety, reduce mood disturbance, ease musculoskeletal problems, and improve both cognitive and physical performances. The mind-body approaches often have significant effects on promoting professional activities.

For example, professional musicians often experience intense stress, performance anxiety, and performance-related musculoskeletal disorders (PRMDs). Researchers at Harvard Medical School evaluated the benefits of yoga and meditation among 45 professional musicians within a 2-month program (Khalsa et al., 2009). Fifteen of the musicians were in a yoga lifestyle intervention group, 15 in a yoga and meditation group, and 15 in a no-practice control group. The yoga groups attended three Yoga or meditation classes each week.

At the end of the program, the yoga groups had reduced music performance anxiety and reduced general anxiety, depression, and anger, when compared with the control group (Khalsa et al., 2009). The study indicates that the yoga and meditation training may help relieve performance anxiety and mood disturbance among professional musicians.

As another example, nursing students often have intensive professional stress. Researchers in Korea examined the effects of a mindfulness meditation program on stress, anxiety, and depression among 41 nursing students (Kang et al., 2009). The students were divided into two groups, with the experimental group having 90-min sessions of training for 8 weeks, while the control group received no training.

Sixteen students in each group finished the program (Kang et al., 2009). The results of the study showed significant differences between the two groups in the scores measuring stress and anxiety, but not depression. The study suggested that mindfulness meditation training was beneficial for reducing stress and anxiety among the nursing students. More studies would be helpful to find out the mechanisms of these mind-body methods.

References:

Kang, Y. S., Choi, S. Y., et al. (2009) The effectiveness of a stress coping program based on mindfulness meditation on the stress, anxiety, and depression experienced by nursing students in Korea. Nurse Educ Today 29, 538-543.

Khalsa, S. B., Shorter, S. M., et al. (2009) Yoga ameliorates performance anxiety and mood disturbance in young professional musicians. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback 34, 279-289.

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