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Qi Gong, Tai Chi and Their Benefits for Mesothelioma Patients

Qi Gong and Tai Chi are two closely related types of Chinese meditative exercise. They both cultivate the Qi (also spelled Chi), which is the flow of energy through the body’s pathways. Both practices also use movement, breathing, and meditation to improve well-being. The major difference between these two is in body posture and how the energy is manipulated.

A mesothelioma patient may experience several mental and physical health benefits from Qi Gong or Tai Chi, especially when practiced with an expert guide. These ancient practices have been proven to increase relaxation, reduce stress and anxiety, improve balance and strength, reduce pain and inflammation, and generally improve quality of life of cancer patients.

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What is Qi Gong?

Qi Gong is an ancient type of exercise that integrates the body and the mind. Qi means energy and Gong means skill or accomplishment, something that can be practiced. This practice cultivates energy to improve and maintain health. Practitioners use an ancient health and wellness system considered complementary or alternative medicine by modern medical professionals. Qi Gong uses postures, movements, breathing exercises, and mental focus.

What is Tai Chi?

Tai chi is a martial art  developed in 17th century China. Like Qi Gong, Tai Chi is meditative movement that integrates mind and body. Practice uses slow, controlled movement to flow from one specific posture to the next. Because this is a martial art, postures can also be used for self-defense. However, most modern Tai Chi practitioners use it as meditative exercise. Tai Chi improves strength, balance, flexibility, and mental focus.

Comparing Tai Chi and Qi Gong

While these two spiritual and physical Chinese practices are very similar, there are some key differences. According to the National Qi Gong Association, Tai Chi is a type of Qi Gong. Qi Gong can be practiced spiritually, medically, or martially. The Association describes Tai Chi as a more soft and internal type of Qi Gong (as compared to Kung Fu, another type of Qi Gong) and is considered a martial art. That means the movements are combative even though they are executed slowly and smoothly. Tai Chi is also relatively modern, developing in the late 1600s.

Both Tai Chi and Qi Gong emphasize mental focus, breathing, and postures, which may be stationary or moving. Both are a method of moving meditation, Because Tai Chi is a martial art, the movements and postures are typically more complex than those in Qi Gong.  Tai Chi also has a more specific progression from one posture to the next. In comparison, Qi Gong is less strictly defined, and the movements and postures can be done in any order. Qi Gong is more adaptive and focuses on wellness rather than martial arts.

Health Benefits

Health benefits of both Qi Gong and Tai Chi are well documented. Qi Gong was developed as a system for health and wellness, but modern researchers have proven several ways it benefits health. Tai Chi also benefits both mental and physical health.

Although movements are slow, both practices provide a beneficial type of exercise. For example, Tai Chi is proven to be an excellent exercise for anyone at any age or fitness level. It is especially beneficial for older patients or with physical limitations due to illness. Tai Chi helps patients regain muscle strength, balance, flexibility, and provides aerobic conditioning. Tai Chi and Qi Gong are both known to reduce pain, including fibromyalgia pain and arthritis.

Benefits for Cancer and Mesothelioma Patients

Tai Chi and Qi Gong have proven benefits for anyone. In addition, research has proven their benefits specific to cancer patients. One study included cancer patients that were led in medical Qi Gong and a control group that received only traditional medical care. The Qi Gong group saw reduced inflammation and reduced side effects from treatment.

For older patients, Tai Chi is proven effective for improving stability and balance and reducing the number of falls. Many patients with mesothelioma are older and may have lost stability. Tai Chi can not only helps reduce falls, but can help patients feel safer.

For mesothelioma patients, stress, anxiety and other negative feelings can greatly diminish quality of life. Studies have shown that practicing Qi Gong or Tai Chi significantly reduces stress and improves cognitive function. Other studies show Tai Chi practice can relieve pain and boost the immune system. Some studies also found that Tai Chi reduced fatigue in patients with breast cancer.

Risks or Potential Complications

Tai Chi and Qi Gong are considered generally safe for most people. There are few risks involved for those in good health, especially when they practice with the guidance of a trained instructor. For cancer patients, risk is minimal and are outweighed by the potential benefits. Anyone with certain musculoskeletal problems may be unable to practice Tai Chi safely. This may include joint problems, fractures, or back pain, although ability depends on the individual. For cancer patients with physical limitations, Qi Gong may be a better place to start. This practice is focused on wellness and easily adapted to meet individual needs and limitations. If you are living with mesothelioma, get your medical team’s advice before trying these ancient exercises.

Tai Chi and Qi Gong are both meditative exercise that have much in common. They both integrate the mind and body for the purpose of balancing physical and mental wellness. For mesothelioma patients, both practices can be great for relieving side effects, regaining physical fitness, and improving quality of life.

Page Edited by Dave Foster

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Dave has been a mesothelioma Patient Advocate for over 10 years. He consistently attends all major national and international mesothelioma meetings. In doing so, he is able to stay on top of the latest treatments, clinical trials, and research results. He also personally meets with mesothelioma patients and their families and connects them with the best medical specialists and legal representatives available. Connect with Patient Advocate Dave Foster

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