Tai chi has been receiving some good press lately. Now a new study links chi kung healing—the “parent” of tai chi—with decreases in hypertension.

According to research published in the International Journal of Neuroscience (2004; 114 [7], 777–86), men and women with hypertension who participated in the regular practice of chi kung exercises reduced their blood pressure and total-cholesterol levels. Chi kung is an ancient Chinese movement practice that blends slow, flowing, physical movements with deep breathing and a meditative mental approach. Tai chi originates from the chi kung healing tradition.

Researchers recruited 36 hypertensive patients and divided them into two groups: a chi kung group and a group of controls. The first group practiced chi kung for 8 weeks. Researchers recorded levels of blood pressure as well as total cholesterol and other lipids among all study subjects. Patients in the chi kung group significantly reduced both their blood pressure and their total-cholesterol levels.

Since chi kung exercises involve gentle movement patterns, it does not have the adverse side effects caused by some medications. More research is needed to explore the health benefits of regular practice.