Collaborative Research into Lung-Strengthening Qigong

A translucent masculine figure stands with folded arms; a tree winds through his torso.

During eight weeks in Spring 2021, at the height of the Covid pandemic, the Confucius Institute carried out an international research programme into the well-being effects of the Lung-Strengthening Qigong exercise with partners from Northumbria University Well-being Informatics and Jiangxi University of Chinese Medicine.

The results, now published in the peer-reviewed journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, show that 84% of participants in the study experienced an improvement in wellbeing. The positive effects of the Lung-Strengthening Qigong Exercise included improvements in physical, mental, and relational wellbeing.

Data analysis showed enhanced physical wellbeing, i.e., significant improvement in general health, energy, balance, and better undisturbed sleep. In addition, it indicated reduction in joint pain, headaches, fatigue and digestive problems.

The analysis indicates significant reductions in stress, increased positivity, an enhanced ability to cope and improvement in emotional life. Consistently, the same benefits were reported in mental wellbeing: feeling calmer, positive, grounded, and peaceful.

An initial 175 volunteers from the UK, France, and Portugal signed up to the study. They agreed to practice the Lung-Strengthening Qigong exercise two to three times per week. The exercise is designed to help strengthen lung function and improve mental and physical resilience. The volunteers’ general health was monitored through regular completion of an online health questionnaire, and descriptions of their experiences were gathered from an online practice diary.

The project evolved out of an earlier Qigong wellbeing practice pilot by the UWTSD Confucius Institute in the Autumn of 2020, and subsequent promising findings in research published in the September 2020 issue of the Systemist Journal. 

The aim of the 2021 study was to find out whether participants — the majority of whom were of British or European background with little or no prior experience of Qigong theory or practice — would experience any improvements in specific aspects of their mental and physical health as a result of the exercise.

Unique features of the research included the design of a personal online Qigong practice account with recorded practice videos and access to a practice diary and health questionnaires. The theoretical approach adopted an integrative model of wellbeing, incorporating awareness of body, mind and environment.

The study discovered that especially for female participants aged between 35 and 74 there was a statistically significant improvement in their well-being over the eight weeks of the study, particularly in relation to quality of sleep and reduction of stress levels. The Qigong Practice diary entries were analysed using a qualitative data analysis programme and indicated results which also supported the quantitative information gathered from the questionnaires. The diary entries provided fascinating insights into the participants’ experiences of Qi state and of the effects of the practice.

The overall findings of this study are consistent with our definition of wellbeing ‘as the human experience of optimum harmonious functioning of body, mind, awareness, and relational processes’.

The results of the study are published in the peer-reviewed journal, Complementary Therapies in Medicine, Vol 71, December 2022. You can read the full article on ScienceDirect

Diagram showing the Qigong Research Project design

Diagram taken from the Qigong study preprint

A flow chart breaking down the Qigong study into its different steps from conception to analysis.