, Volume 3, Issue 1, pp 51–59 | Cite as

The Effects of Qigong on Reducing Stress and Anxiety and Enhancing Body–Mind Well-being

  • Yvonne W. Y. Chow
  • Allen Dorcas
  • Andrew M. H. Siu


Stress-related comorbid illnesses such as depression, anxiety disorders, hypertension, and heart disease are responsible for considerable disability worldwide. Using a combination of psychological and physiological approaches, the intent of this study was to investigate whether practicing qigong helps to reduce stress and anxiety, thus enhancing body–mind well-being. A randomized controlled clinical trial was conducted. Thirty-four healthy middle-aged adults participated in an 8-week qigong program. Their outcomes were compared with 31 matched subjects in the wait list control group. The outcome measures included measures of mood states (Depression Anxiety Stress Scales–21 (DASS-21)), quality of life (ChQOL), and physiological measures of stress (salivary cortisol level and blood pressure). GLM was used to analyze the data of the two groups collected in the 1st, 4th, 8th, and 12th weeks. In week 8, the treatment group had significant reduction in cortisol level and blood pressure when compared with the control group. In week 12, the qigong group had significant positive changes in the DASS-21 scales, the ChQOL scales, cortisol level, and blood pressure when compared with the control group. In general, the qigong group enjoyed better quality of life, had more positive affect, lower cortisol levels and blood pressure than the control group. The present findings support that qigong has a positive effect on reducing stress and anxiety and enhancing body–mind well-being. In this study, we restructured a traditional qigong exercise into a systematic workout structure and demonstrated its positive impact on mood regulation as illustrated by both psychological and physiological measures.


Anxiety Mindful Qigong Stress Well-being 


  1. Berger, B. G., & Owen, D. R. (1988). Stress reduction and mood enhancement in four exercise modes: swimming, body conditioning, Hatha yoga, and fencing. Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, 59(2), 148–159.Google Scholar
  2. Brown, T. A., Chorpita, B. F., Korotitsch, W., & Barlow, D. H. (1997). Psychometric properties of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales (DASS) in clinical samples. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 35, 79–89.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cheung, K. S. (2009). The elementary principles of qigong [in Chinese]. Hong Kong: HKU School of Professional and Continuing Education.Google Scholar
  4. Cheung, B. M. Y., Lo, J. L. F., Fong, D. Y. T., Chan, M. Y., Wong, S. H. T., Wong, V. C. W., et al. (2005). Randomized controlled trial of qigong in the treatment of mild essential hypertension. Journal of Human Hypertension, 19, 697–704.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cohen, K. S. (1997). The way of qigong: the art and science of Chinese energy healing. New York: Ballantine Books.Google Scholar
  6. Croog, S. H., Levine, S., Testa, M. A., Brown, B., Bulpitt, C. J., Jenkins, C. D., et al. (1986). The effects of antihypertensive therapy on the quality of life. New England Journal of Medicine, 314, 1657–1664.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Du, Z. Y., Zhang, J. Z., Li, X. G., & Dai, X. M. (1992). Cardiovascular effects of different qigong [in Chinese]. Chinese Journal of Sports Medicine, 11(1), 32–35.Google Scholar
  8. Engel, G. L. (1980). The clinical application of the biopsychosocial model. American Journal of Psychiatry, 137, 525.Google Scholar
  9. Fang, L., & Schinke, S. P. (2007). Complementary alternative medicine use among Chinese Americans: findings from a community mental health service population. Psychiatric Services, 58(3), 402–404.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Forge, R. L. (2005). Aligning mind and body: exploring the disciplines of mindful exercise. ACMS’S Health & Fitness Journal, 9(5), 7–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Griffith, J. M., Hasley, J. P., Liu, H., Severn, D. G., Conner, L. H., & Adler, L. E. (2008). Qigong stress reduction in hospital staff. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(8), 939–945.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Haslam, C., Brown, S., Atkinson, S., & Haslam, R. (2003). Patients’ experiences of medication for anxiety and depression: effects on working life. Family Practice, 21, 204–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. He, H. Z., Li, D. L., Xi, W. B., & Zhang, C. L. (1999). A “stress meter” assessment of the degree of relaxation in qigong versus non-qigong meditation. Frontier Perspectives, 8(1), 37–42.Google Scholar
  14. Hong Kong Research Association (2009). The influence of economic tsunami to Hong Kong citizens. (In Chinese). Hong Kong Research Association. Retrieved from: Accessed 26 March 2009.
  15. Hong, S. H., Tao, Z., Han, L. T., Yue, Q. A., Xu, S. Z., Zhang, G. X., et al. (1990). A synthetic study of qigong on the internal effects of human [in Chinese]. Acta Academiae Medicinae Weifang, 12(2), 1–4.Google Scholar
  16. Hu, B. J., & Liu, H. F. (2008). The effect of Baduanjin on the physical and psychological health of university students [in Chinese]. Journal Of Mudanjiang Medical College, 29(1), 89–91.Google Scholar
  17. Hui, P. N., Wan, M., Chan, W. K., & Yung, P. M. B. (2006). An evaluation of two behavioral rehabilitation programs, qigong versus progressive relaxation, in improving the quality of life in cardiac patients. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 12(4), 373–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada. (2008). China: Chan Mi Gong; whether it is related to Tai Chi; whether it is illegal to practice in China, 28 February 2008. CHN102776.E. Retrieved from: Accessed 11 Nov 2010.
  19. Johansson, M., & Hassmén, P. (2008). Acute psychological responses to Qigong exercise of varying durations. American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 36(3), 449–458.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jones, B. M. (2001). Changes in cytokine production in healthy subjects practicing Guolin qigong: a pilot study. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 1(1), 8.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lan, C., Chou, S. W., Chen, S. Y., Lai, J. S., & Wong, M. K. (2004). The aerobic capacity and ventilatory efficiency during exercise in qigong and tai chi chuan practitioners. American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 32(1), 141–150.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lee, M. S., Ryu, H., & Chung, H. T. (2000). Stress management by psychosomatic training: effects of ChunDoSunBup Qi-training on symptoms of stress: a cross-sectional study. Stress Medicine, 16, 161–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Lee, M. S., Huh, H. J., Hong, S. S., Jang, H. S., Ryu, H., Lee, H. S., et al. (2001). Psychoneuroimmunological effects of Qi-therapy: preliminary study on the changes of level of anxiety, mood, cortisol and melatonin and cellular function of neutrophil and natural killer cells. Stress and Health, 17, 17–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lee, M. S., Huh, H. J., Jeong, S. M., Lee, H. S., Ryu, H., Park, J. H., et al. (2003a). Effects of Qigong on immune cells. American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 31(2), 327–335.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lee, M. S., Lee, M. S., Kim, H. J., & Moon, S. R. (2003b). Qigong reduced blood pressure and catecholamine levels of patients with essential hypertension. International Journal of Neuroscience, 113, 1691–1701.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lee, M. S., Kang, C. W., Lim, H. J., & Lee, M. S. (2004a). Effects of qi-training on anxiety and plasma concentrations of cortisol, ACTH, and aldosterone: a randomized placebo-controlled pilot study. Stress and Health, 20, 243–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lee, M. S., Lim, H.-J., & Lee, M. S. (2004b). Impact of qigong exercise on self-efficacy and other cognitive perceptual variables in patients with essential hypertension. Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 10, 675–680.Google Scholar
  28. Lehrer, P. M., Woolfolk, R. L., & Sime, W. E. (Eds.). (2007). Principles and practice of stress management (3rd ed.). New York: The Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  29. Leung, K. F., Liu, F. B., Zhao, L., Fang, J. Q., Chan, K., & Lin, L. Z. (2005). Development and validation of the Chinese quality of life instrument. Health and Quality of Life Outcomes, 3, 26. doi: 10.1186/ Scholar
  30. Ning, Y. (Ed.). (1990). Zhong Guo Dan Dai Qigong Jing Lun (The essence of modern qigong in China). Beijing: People’s Sports Education Press [in Chinese].Google Scholar
  31. Lovibond, S. H., & Lovibond, P. F. (1995). The structure of negative emotional states: comparison of the depression anxiety stress scales (DASS) with the Beck depression and anxiety inventories. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 33(3), 335–343.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Olfson, M., Shea, S., Feder, A., Fuentes, M., Nomura, Y., Gameroff, M., et al. (2000). Prevalence of anxiety, depression, and substance use disorders in an urban general medicine practice. Archives of Family Medicine, 9, 876–883.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Ormel, J., VonKorff, M., Ustun, T. B., Pini, S., Korten, A., & Oldehinkel, T. (1994). Common mental disorders and disability across cultures. Results from the WHO Collaborative Study on Psychological Problems in General Health Care. Journal of the American Medical Association, 272, 1741–1748.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Pandya, D. (1988). Psychological stress, emotional behaviour and coronary heart disease. Comprehensive Therapy, 24, 265–271.Google Scholar
  35. Pavek, R.R. (1988). Effects of qigong on psychosomatic and other emotionally rooted disorders. Proceedings of First World Conference of Academic Exchange on Medical Qigong, Beijing, China, p.150Google Scholar
  36. Qu, X., & Xu, Q. Z. (1992). The impact of qigong on learning and memory [in Chinese]. Jilin Medical Information, 6, 40–41.Google Scholar
  37. Riad-Fahmy, D., Read, G. F., Walker, R. F., & Griffiths, K. (1982). Steroids in saliva for assessing endocrine function. Endocrine Research, 3, 367–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Health & Safety Executive (2009). Stress-related and psychological disorders. Retrieved from: Accessed 15 April 2009.
  39. Salimetric (2003). High sensitivity salivary cortisol enzymeimmunoassay kit. 1–4. Retrieved from: Accessed 28 March 2006.
  40. Scully, D., Kremer, J., Meade, M. M., Graham, R., & Dudgeon, K. (1998). Physical exercise and psychological well being: a critical review. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 32, 111–120.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Segail, R. (2007). A Japanese killer: stress in Japan has become a national killer. Psychology Today Magazine, Sept/Oct. Retrieved from: Accessed 15 Dec 2009.
  42. Shan, H., Yan, H., Sheng, H., & Hu, S. (1989). A preliminary evaluation on Chinese qigong treatment of anxiety. Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Qigong, Xian, China, p.165Google Scholar
  43. Stahl, S. M., & Hauger, R. L. (1994). Stress: an overview of the literature with emphasis on job-related strain and intervention. Advances in Therapy, 11, 110–119.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Tan, L., & Tian, Y. P. (2008). A thought on yoga—a retrospective view on Chinese qigong [in Chinese] (pp. 4–12). Beidaihe: XianDai Yangsheng.Google Scholar
  45. Thomas, S., Reading, J., & Shephard, R. J. (1992). Revision of the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q). Canadian Journal of Sports Science, 17, 338–345.Google Scholar
  46. Tsang, H. W. H., Fung, K. M. T., Chan, A. S. M., Lee, G., & Chan, F. (2006). Effect of a qigong exercise programme on elderly with depression. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 21, 890–897.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. U.S. Department oh Health and Human Services (2001). Health Report 2000. U.S.A. Retrieved from: Accessed 10 Sept 2010.
  48. U. S. Census Bureau (2005). U.S. Census Bureau population estimates by demographic characteristics. Table 2: Annual estimates of the population by selected age groups and sex for the United States: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2004 (NC-EST2004-02). Population Division, U.S. Census Bureau Release. Retrieved from: Accessed 9 Oct 2008.
  49. Wang, R. F., Hong, S. H., Tao, Z., Zhang, C. H., Su, G. L., Chen, J. W., et al. (1990). A preliminary study on rheoencephalogram after exercising qigong in a short time [in Chinese]. Acta Academiae Medicinae Weifang, 12(2), 11–13.Google Scholar
  50. World Health Organization [WHO]. (2001). Basic documents (43rd ed.). Geneva: World Health Organization.Google Scholar
  51. Yong, I. S., & Lee, M. S. (2005). Qi therapy (external qigong) for chronic fatigue syndrome: case studies. American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 33(1), 139–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zeng, S. L. (2004). A study of the regulative body in qigong. Guoli Gaoxiong Haiyang Keda Xuebao, 19, 123–142.Google Scholar
  53. Zhang, G. F., Fu, C. F., & Zhao, R. F. (1990). The dual-directional regulation of qigong on cardiovascular function [in Chinese]. Heilongjiang Medicine and Pharmacy, 13(4), 324–325.Google Scholar
  54. Zhao, L., Liu, F. B., Leung, K. F., Chan, K., & Fang, J. (2006). Reliability and validity of the Chinese quality of life instrument. Chinese Journal of Clinical Rehabilitation, 10(8), 1–3.Google Scholar
  55. Zhao, L., Leung, K. F., & Chan, K. (2007). The Chinese quality of life instrument: reliability and validity of the Hong Kong Chinese version (ChQOL-HK). The Hong Kong Practitioner, 29, 220–232. Retrieved from: Accessed 5 May 2008.
  56. Zikmund, V. (2003). Health, well-being, and the quality of life: some psychosomatic reflections. Neuroendocrinology Letters, 24(6), 401–403.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yvonne W. Y. Chow
    • 1
  • Allen Dorcas
    • 1
  • Andrew M. H. Siu
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Applied Social SciencesThe Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityHung HomHong Kong
  2. 2.Department of Rehabilitation SciencesThe Hong Kong Polytechnic UniversityHung HomHong Kong

Personalised recommendations