Improve the Immune System with Tai Chi and Qigong Practice
By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.
“Tai chi might have a strong effect on the immune system because it manages to bring exercise, relaxation, and meditation together in “one behavioral intervention.” – Havard Health
Mindfulness training has been shown to be effective in improving physical and psychological health and particularly with the physical and psychological reactions to stress. Techniques such as Mindfulness Training, Yoga practice and Tai Chi or Qigong practice have been demonstrated to be effective. An important benefit of mindfulness practices that may be responsible for the improved health may be that it strengthen the immune system, the body’s primary defense against disease. Through a series of steps called the immune response, this system attacks organisms and substances that invade body systems and cause disease.
Tai Chi and Qigong have been practiced for thousands of years with benefits for health and longevity. Tai Chi and Qigong trainings are designed to enhance function and regulate the activities of the body through regulated breathing, mindful concentration, and gentle movements. Tai Chi and Qigong are not strenuous, involving slow gentle movements, and are safe, having no appreciable side effects, they are appropriate for all ages including the elderly and for individuals with illnesses that limit their activities or range of motion.
Tai Chi and Qigong practice have been found to be effective for an array of physical and psychological issues. It appears to strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation, increase the number of cancer killing cells in the bloodstream and improve cardiovascular function. So, with the research accumulating, it makes sense to step back and review the research on the effects of Tai Chi and Qigong practice on the immune system.
In today’s Research News article “The Effects of Tai Chi and Qigong on Immune Responses: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7400467/) Oh and colleagues review, summarize, and perform a meta-analysis of the effects of Tai Chi and Qigong practice on immune system function. They identified 19 published research randomized controlled trials that included a total of 1686 participants, including both healthy participants and participants with illnesses.
They report that the published randomized controlled trials found that Tai Chi and Qigong practice produced a small but significant increase in innate immune cells, including dendritic cells, eosinophils, monocytes, and neutrophils. They also produced a small but significant increase in adaptive immune cells including the Th1/Th2 ratio and the Tc1/Tc2 ratio, B lymphocytes, and VZV-cell-mediated immunity. Tai Chi and Qigong practice also produced a small but significant decrease in inflammatory C-reactive protein, interleukin 6, 12, and 18, Interferon-γ, and Nuclear Factor-κB.
The meta-analysis revealed that the safe and gentle practice of Tai Chi and Qigong results in beneficial enhancements of the immune system. The practices increase the numbers of innate and adaptive immune system cells and a decrease in proinflammatory molecules. They both strengthen immunity and reduce inflammation. These effects would tend to make the practitioners of Tai Chi and Qigong more resistant to disease and thereby healthier.
The practice of Tai Chi and Qigong can be easily learned inexpensively by large numbers of people of a wide variety of ages and health conditions. This would make these practices highly scalable and ideal for improving public health. This includes an improved ability to fend off a viral pandemic such as Covid-19. It’s amazing that such a simple practice could have such a beneficial impact on health.
So, improve the immune system with Tai Chi and Qigong practice.
“Your health is only as good as your immune system is strong. Numerous studies demonstrate Tai Chi’s positive effect on the immune system. However, Tai Chi does require practice and discipline and strengthening your immune system will not happen overnight.” – Balanced Life
CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies
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Oh, B., Bae, K., Lamoury, G., Eade, T., Boyle, F., Corless, B., Clarke, S., Yeung, A., Rosenthal, D., Schapira, L., & Back, M. (2020). The Effects of Tai Chi and Qigong on Immune Responses: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Medicines (Basel, Switzerland), 7(7), 39. https://doi.org/10.3390/medicines7070039
Background: Effective preventative health interventions are essential to maintain well-being among healthcare professionals and the public, especially during times of health crises. Several studies have suggested that Tai Chi and Qigong (TQ) have positive impacts on the immune system and its response to inflammation. The aim of this review is to evaluate the current evidence of the effects of TQ on these parameters. Methods: Electronic searches were conducted on databases (Medline, PubMed, Embase and ScienceDirect). Searches were performed using the following keywords: “Tai Chi or Qigong” and “immune system, immune function, immunity, Immun*, inflammation and cytokines”. Studies published as full-text randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in English were included. Estimates of change in the levels of immune cells and inflammatory biomarkers were pooled using a random-effects meta-analysis where randomised comparisons were available for TQ versus active controls and TQ versus non-active controls. Results: Nineteen RCTs were selected for review with a total of 1686 participants and a range of 32 to 252 participants within the studies. Overall, a random-effects meta-analysis found that, compared with control conditions, TQ has a significant small effect of increasing the levels of immune cells (SMD, 0.28; 95% CI, 0.13 to 0.43, p = 0.00), I2 = 45%, but not a significant effect on reducing the levels of inflammation (SMD, −0.15; 95% CI, −0.39 to 0.09, p = 0.21), I2 = 85%, as measured by the systemic inflammation biomarker C-reactive protein (CRP) and cell mediated biomarker cytokines. This difference in results is due to the bidirectional regulation of cytokines. An overall risk of bias assessment found three RCTs with a low risk of bias, six RCTs with some concerns of bias, and ten RCTs with a high risk of bias. Conclusions: Current evidence indicates that practising TQ has a physiologic impact on immune system functioning and inflammatory responses. Rigorous studies are needed to guide clinical guidelines and harness the power of TQ to promote health and wellbeing.