Effects of Qigong Exercise on Physical and Cognitive Performance in Young Sedentary Females: A Quasi-Experimental Design, Placebo-Controlled Study.
Altern Ther Health Med. 2021 Feb 20. Epub 2021 Feb 20. PMID: 33609344
Background: Qigong exercise represents one type of traditional Chinese exercise that might positively affect physical and psychological functioning, slow down disease development and improve quality of life. However, study findings are somewhat conflicting and mechanisms contributing to expected beneficial effects are rather poorly known.
Objective: This study aims to evaluate the effects of qigong exercise training for 8 weeks on selected physical, cognitive, and biochemical outcomes in young sedentary females.
Method/Design: Quasi-experimental design, placebo-controlled study.
Setting: The study was performed at the Department of Physical Therapy, Faculty of Allied Health Science, Burapha University, Bangsean, Chonburi province, Thailand.
Participants: Participants were 41 females with sedentary lifestyles.
Interventions: 41 sedentary females were allocated to qigong exercise (QG, n = 20) or to the control group (CG, n = 21).
Primary Outcome Measures: VO2 max predicted from step testing, aspects of cognitive functions (e.g., digit span forward, DSF, and digit span backward, DSB, task), hematological and biochemical parameters, and body composition were assessed in both groups before and after the 8-week training period.
Results: Physical performance (estimated VO2 max) significantly increased after qigong training compared to the CG (P<.001). Working memory (DSB) increased after intervention only within the QG (P = .009) but changes did not reach significance between the groups. Changes in neutrophils (potential mediators of inflammation) tended to be improved in the QG in comparison to the CG (P = .075). Body composition remained unchanged.
Conclusion: These findings indicate that 8 weeks of qigong training increased aerobic capacity and tended to improve working memory in otherwise sedentary young females. Neutrophils tended to decrease within the QG. Thus, it was speculated that enhanced oxygen supply to the brain and the decrease of neutrophils adhering to cortical capillaries might have contributed to improved cognitive function.