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The Effects of Qigong on chronic fatigue

Review on September 25, 2007

Recent evidence that Qigong may help to alleviate symptoms associated with disorders such as fatigue and fibromyalgia is bringing hope to sufferers.

Craske et al conducted a study published in the Oxford Journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine on eighteen women who suffer from fatigue symptoms in order to measure the effects of regular Qigong practice on their illness.

Qigong involves slow, carefully controlled physical movements, breathing exercises and meditation. In traditional Chinese medicine qi refers to the body's energy, and chronic fatigue is thus symptomatic of reduced or unbalanced qi, which can be improved through Qigong.

The study tested the strength of this claim by asking eighteen women suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome and ranging in age from 25 to 55 to practice a Qigong routine for 15 minutes a day. During the trial, the participants kept a sleep diary and filled out medical questionnaires in order to test the effects of the exercise.

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The questionnaires revealed encouraging results for the women, showing improvement particularly in the areas of sleep, energy and psychological well-being. Qigong specifically improved chronic fatigue symptoms such as sleep disturbances, limited mobility and pain after three months of practice. The researchers concluded that Qigong most likely had this effect because the exercise and deep breathing may improve and increase oxygen-flow in the bloodstream, thus possibly enhancing energy and alleviating pain. Qigong may also stimulate the release of pain-relieving substances such as endorphins in the bloodstream and helps to improve muscle strength. According to the researchers, all of these effects can help in relieving sleep disturbances and alleviating fatigue.

This is potentially exciting news, particularly for menopausal women suffering from severe fatigue. Women going through the menopause transition are more likely than others to suffer from of severe or fatigue due to hormonal imbalances and recurring sleep disturbances (night sweats, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea). The 2007 Sleep in America poll, carried out by the National Sleep Foundation, reveals that over half of American women between 55 and 64 years of age suffer from insufficient or disturbed sleep more than once a week.

Note: Although further study on more varied test groups remains to be done, this initial study is quite promising for women suffering from severe or chronic fatigue.

  • Lamberg, Lynne. "Menopause Not Always to Blame for Sleep Problems in Midlife Women." JAMA. 2007; 297:1865-1866. Vol. 297 No. 17, May 2, 2007.
  • "Menopause Not Always to Blame for Sleep Problems in Midlife Women." Accessed 17 September 2007.
  • Naropa J. Mike Craske, Warren Turner, Joseph Zammit-Maempe and Myeong Soo Lee. "Qigong Ameliorates Symptoms of Chronic Fatigue: A Pilot Uncontrolled Study." Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine Advance Access published online on August 1, 2007.