Introduction to Qigong Research

Ken Sancier portrait

"The founding of the Qigong Institute was a natural outgrowth of my interest in Qigong. The goal of the Qigong Institute is to promote the scientific understanding of the basis of Qigong"

Dr. Ken Sancier (1920 - 2013).

Qigong Institute Mission

The Qigong Institute is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting the scientific understanding of the basis of Qigong through research and education. Since 1984 it has been a clearinghouse for related news and scientific facts to aid researchers, writers, Qigong practitioners and teachers, members of the Western medical community, and the members of the general public who are interested in learning more about Qigong and Tai Chi.

It's goals are

  • Promoting Qigong via education, research, & clinical studies
  • Improving healthcare by integrating Qigong and Western medicine
  • Making information on Qigong available to medical practitioners, scientists, the public, and policy makers

Qigong is Meditative Movement

The four fundamental components of Qigong are movement/posture combined with breath and meditation, and self-massage. Qigong (and it's most popular moving form, Tai Chi or Taiji) is an ancient practice included in a new category of exercise pubmed logocalled "Meditative Movement" that is defined by (a) some form of movement or body positioning, (b) a focus on breathing, and (c) a cleared or calm state of mind with a goal of (d) deep states of relaxation. Meditative movement as a category of exercise: implications for research. Larkey et. al. J Phys Act Health. 2009 Mar;6(2):230-8.

Meditation in combination with breathing and slow, gentle movements (although there are many forms of Qigong that do not involve movement) affects humans physically and psychologically through relaxation techniques which reduce stress through modulation of the autonomic nervous system, gene expression, and the immune system. The practice has a proven effect upon quality of life, self-esteem, relationships, the ability to recognize and handle stress, pain relief, blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and more.

qigong practice by ocean Qigong is moving meditation. "Moving" means either physical movement or movement of energy internally, even if no musculo-skeletal movement is occurring. The integration of interoception (mindfulness and related cognitive and emotional processes) and proprioception is a key component of Qigong. Practice results in moments of peace within activity. All of this comes on a foundation of breathing.

Meditation is increasingly being used in clinical situations for a range of conditions, and there is a growing scientific evidence base of its benefits. Qigong meditation which includes mindfulness training cultivates body awareness and promotes self-management of illness.

Medical Meditation Science and Research 

sunset through templeThe Qigong and Energy Medicine Database™

The database originated in the late 1980's as a means to catalog the vast amount of information Founder Dr. Kenneth Sancier obtained from international conferences. The database originally contained about 1500 abstracts in English on Qigong. As of mid-2020, the Database contained over 15000 abstracts on research including Qigong, Tai Chi (taiji), meditation, the Relaxation Response, mindfulness, Energy Medicine, and more. The main source of abstracts is PubMed.

Besides Qigong and Tai Chi per se, the database contains related research on bioenergetics, epigenetics, psyhoneuroimmunology, meditation, mindfulness, gene expression, and other areas of research that are helping to explain the scientific basis of the profound health benefits of Qigong.

New Research

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What's New

A Bibliography of Recent Medical Research on Qigong. Numerous medical studies have been done on the effect of qigong on various health conditions. This bibliography lists recent medical studies that have been published on qigong between January 1, 2019 and August 31, 2020, categorized by medical ailment. Read article.

The Incorporation of Meditation into Western Medical Practice

The Clinical Use of Meditation

 Herbert Benson and Jon Kabat-Zinn are the two people have been most instrumental in the introduction and acceptance of meditation into basic western medical practice. Dr. Herbert Benson was the first to research and publicize the benefits of meditation in his ground-breaking book The Relaxation Response published in 1975. Benson's message was simple and straightforward. He argued that meditation could counter physiological and psychological adjustments to change which cause stress and accompanying illness. Benson recommended a meditation practice consisting of four basic elements -- a quiet environment, a mental object to dwell on, emptying all thoughts and distractions from one's mind, and a comfortable position -- which he called the "relaxation response."

From Buddhist meditation practices, Jon Kabat-Zinn developed a secualr form of meditation he called "mindfulness-based" and very successfully marketed it to get it accepted and integrated into mainstream western medical practice.

American College of Sports Medicine Endorses Qigong and Tai Chi

american college of sports medicineMultifaceted physical activities such as tai ji (tai chi), qigong, and yoga involve varying combinations of neuromotor exercise, resistance exercise, and flexibility exercise. Neuromotor exercise training is beneficial as part of a comprehensive exercise program for older persons, especially to improve balance, agility, muscle strength, and reduce the risk of falls." MORE.

Physiology of Qigong and Yoga

townsend letter magazine cover with roger jahnke portrait

Qigong and yoga are ancient methodologies developed and refined over thousands of years, designed to sustain the inherent healing systems of the body by maximizing restorative energies, termed chi or qi in China and prana in India. Research indicates that these therapeutic practices promote a range of beneficial physiological effects involving mechanisms currently well understood in Western biomedicine. Full article.

NQA logo

Emerging Research Supporting Health Benefits of Qigong Exercise and Tai Chi practiced as Qigong: 2010 through 2014. A Bibliography.

Report from the National Qigong Association ( Research & Education Committee Contribution

Authors; PJ Klein, PT, EdD and Eric Imbody, MA, LPC Date: 09/04/2015


As recently as fifteen years ago, a lack of high­ quality research validating the benefits of qigong exercise and tai chi performed as qigong was a primary barrier to achieving a goal of recognition of the value of these practices within health promotion and traditional Western health care. Awareness of the potential benefits of qigong exercise was stimulated in 2004 review of the literature citing seventeen research studies. The authors concluded that preliminary research on the implementation feasibility of Taiji (tai chi) programs existed for a variety of clinical populations.

Over the next five years (2004­ - 2009), through a growing awareness of the need for controlled research methodology and an expanding availability of research funding, the body of evidence strengthened. Practice validation was further advanced in 2010 when a review of 77 clinical research articles investigating qigong exercise and tai chi concluded that consistent, significant results for a number of health benefits were confirmed through independent, quality research. These researchers also established the equivalency of therapeutic tai chi as qigong exercise.  

Read Paper.  Download .pdf.

National Qigong Association Research Updates page.

harvard medical school

Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi

Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chiharvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi. Conventional medical science on the Chinese art of Tai Chi now shows what Tai Chi masters have known for centuries: regular practice leads to more vigor and flexibility, better balance and mobility, and a sense of well-being. Cutting-edge research from Harvard Medical School also supports the long-standing claims that Tai Chi also has a beneficial impact on the health of the heart, bones, nerves and muscles, immune system, and the mind. This research provides fascinating insight into the underlying physiological mechanisms that explain how Tai Chi actually works. Besides presenting the science behind Tai Chi, this book is a great introduction to Tai Chi.

Harvard Medical School's Harvard Health Publications calls Tai Chi "medication in motion." The health benefits of tai chi explains how Tai Chi when combined with standard treatment is helpful for a range of conditions including arthritis, low bone density, breast cancer, heart disease, heart failure, hypertension, Parkinson's disease, sleep problems, and stroke. 

Harvard Medical School Endorses Qigong and Tai Chi