- Question from RachalG: I have heard that Qi Gong [pronounced "chee kung"] can have very positive effects on the immune system. Can you explain this?
Qi Gong is an ancient breathing exercise for internal strengthening. It has just recently in the past decade come to the West in a massive way. There are studies showing that it can enhance one's immune system. Having said that, it is very tricky to assess the true effects of a lot of things on the immune system.
For example, even humor, as in a joke, can enhance the immune system. If you use NK [natural killer] cells as an input parameter and study the effects of a joke, you can demonstrate the results after we hear a joke. This aspect of the immune system seems to improve. Sometimes it's hard to measure this kind of strength and it may not be as definitive as some researchers claim.
There are a lot of claims around things like Qi Gong, so one has to be careful when evaluating. There are many forms of Qi Gong. It's almost like dancing. Does dancing help improve one's posture? There are many forms of dancing. It depends on which form you're practicing. Qi is the Chinese word for energy and somebody, a so-called master, [a very experienced teacher] can give the energy to you. You can cultivate your own energy by practicing yourself. Sometimes a master gives or imparts it to you. That is an external Qi Gong.
There are studies that show a master or practitioner can deliver Qi to a laboratory animal. That's one kind of study. It would be helpful to have a study to check the immune system after someone had practiced regularly for 4 to 6 weeks, and see if the immune function had improved. I don't think the claims for Qi Gong are fully substantiated, and there are a lot of variations because of differences in methodology.
In general, it is a healthy practice, and that's the best one can claim since there are so many different styles, schools, methods, and so forth.
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