Tai Chi and Qigong Practice Boosts Flu Vaccine

Studies have shown that a discipline of consistent meditation improves immune system response. Now, new research suggests that tai chi and qigong practice may offer similar immunity-enhancing characteristics: older adults who did tai chi and qigong regularly for 5 months had a superior positive reaction to a flu vaccine compared with individuals who received the same vaccine but did not practice these traditional Chinese martial and healing arts.

In a preliminary study at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, scientists under the leadership of adjunct professor and tai chi master Yang Yang followed 41 subjects, divided into two groups: one group took part in three 1-hour tai chi and qigong classes per week, while the other served as a control group. Both groups received the flu vaccine. The researchers determined the impact of tai chi practice on the vaccine's effectiveness by measuring the level of antibodies in the blood of subjects 3, 6 and 20 weeks after they received the injection.

All members of the tai chi and qigong group had a superior response to the vaccination, both in magnitude and duration, compared with members of the control group.

Limitations of the study included its small size and the fact that it was not a true randomized clinical trial. Although the researchers noted that their findings were not conclusive, lead investigator Yang Yang told the university news service that he believed the outcome indicated "proof of concept." The study appeared in the August issue of the American Journal of Chinese Medicine.

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