The Effects of Tai Chi and Qigong on Immune Responses
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July 26, 2020 - Effective preventative health interventions are essential to maintain well-being among healthcare professionals and the public, especially during times of health crises. Several studies have suggested that Tai Chi and Qigong (TQ) have positive impacts on the immune system and its response to inflammation. Harvard Medical School, Stanford University School of Medicine and a few medical organizations from Australia and South Korea worked together to evaluate the current evidence of the effects of TQ on these parameters.
Electronic searches were conducted on databases (Medline, PubMed, Embase and ScienceDirect). Searches were performed using the following keywords: "Tai Chi or Qigong" and "immune system, immune function, immunity, Immun*, inflammation and cytokines". Studies published as full-text randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in English were included. Estimates of change in the levels of immune cells and inflammatory biomarkers were pooled using a random-effects meta-analysis where randomized comparisons were available for TQ versus active controls and TQ versus non-active controls.
Nineteen trials were selected for review with a total of 1686 participants and a range of 32 to 252 participants within the studies. Overall, a random-effects meta-analysis found that, compared with control conditions, TQ has a significant small effect of increasing the levels of immune cells, but not a significant effect on reducing the levels of inflammation. This difference in results is due to the bidirectional regulation of cytokines. An overall risk of bias assessment found three trials with a low risk of bias, six trials with some concerns of bias, and ten trials with a high risk of bias.
Current evidence indicates that practicing TQ has a physiologic impact on immune system functioning and inflammatory responses. Rigorous studies are needed to guide clinical guidelines and harness the power of TQ to promote health and wellbeing.