Thursday, July 5, 2012

Chronically Fatigued? Taking a Meditative Time-Out With Qigong Twice Weekly Will Improve Mental + Physical Symptoms by ~50% & Increase Telomere-Length by 75%!

Image 1 (myrtlebeachalternatives): This picture captures the essence of Qigong artistically.
Adelfo took the word "holiday" to the heart and totally forgot about his blogpost, today. I guess this means I will have to pull something of interest out of my hat (or head?) and what would be better suited than a post about taking timeouts, well sort off... In a recently published paper in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, R.T. Ho and his (or her?) colleagues from the University of Hong Kong report on the truly amazing progress a group of chronic fatigue patients made in the course of a 4-months Qigong intervention program (Ho. 2012).

Qigong means "life energy cultivation" and that's exactly what it does - it helps you cultivate the life energy that's so easily lost in our hectic and allegedly productive lives.

The participants in the intervention study took part in supervised Qigong exercise training (Wu Xing Ping Heng Gong, 五行平衡功) twice a week for five consecutive weeks. After this introduction period the 51 women and 13 men were advised to follow up on what they had learned in the supervised sessions and continue to practice their meditation techniques at home. Physical functioning and mental functioning were assessed by the Chinese version of the Medical Outcomes Study 12-Item Short-Form Health Survey (Ware. 1996; Lam. 2005) and telomerase activity was tested by a commercially available kit TeloTAGGG telomerase PCR ELISA (Roche) in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells before and after the 4-month intervention.
Video 1 (click to play): Qigong introduction video - whenever you meet this guy in your park, don't jog along laughing, join him!
What's Qigong?  Literally Qigong means nothing less than the "life energy cultivation". The idea behind this special form of meditation is to develop a special kind of awareness for yourself and your body and to breath, move and exercise in a way that is conducive to healing and meditation. Simplistically speaking it is a mixture of Chinese medicine, martial arts and philosophy that was developed to cultivate and balance you qi (chi), which is the afore mentioned "life energy" and to awaken your true nature. You may have seen and probably laughed about practitioners who have been moving (and most of all breathing) rhythmically on one of the greens in your local park while you were jogging along frantically listening to the latest hiphop or techno beats. I guess after reading the whole post you will look differently at those "freaks", whenever your paths cross next time...
If you take a look at the data in figure 1 (see below) you will have to agree that no matter how ridiculous a stupid Westerner like you or me may feel an "exercise" like this may be, the effects of this unconventional "workout + meditation" routine are beyond any doubt amazing!
Figure 1: Changes in physical and mental features of chronic fatigue (left) and telomerase length (right) in response to 5 weeks of supervised and 4 months (total) of a twice weekly Qigong program (based on Ho. 2012)
Just imagine what a fuss the pharma industry would make, if they had come up with some sort of serotonergic-dopaminergic double-whammy that would not simply spike you up or numb you, but return your physical and psychological functioning to normal, while at the same time saving your cells from aging prematurely by lengthening your telomerase (the enzyme that is responsible for the repair of cellular DNA)?

We would not have to turn to the Chinese to know better ... "Mens sana in corpore sano!"

Now you could certainly say that this is Chinese witchcraft and nothing a Western medical practitioner or scientists would let alone should rely on, but let's be honest:  Where has the $84-billion dollar psychiatric drug industry taken us, so far? Yeah, they have increased their own market and shareholder value, the patients overall well being let alone their life-expectancy still suck and that despite the fact that the Greek philosopher Thales from Miletus already knew that a "healthy soul" (mens sana) and a "healthy body" (corpore sano) are complementary sides of one and the same coin.

Image 2: Meditation is for hippies and losers who don't make it in our hard economy, right?
According to the medical paradigm of the 20ths and 21st century, which is keeping the aforementioned multi-billion dollar industry in (big) business, however, the intricate connection between psychology and physiology the forefathers of Western civilization were still well aware of, is a simple mechanistic one: One psychological well-being is a simple function of your neurotransmitter balance and if the latter is off, all you need to do is to take the right drug and you will bounce back into your highly productive self whose sole purpose it is to drive the economy to new heights. Rest, recuperation, relaxation, ... let alone meditation, that's for freaks and loser for those weaklings who cannot cope with the demands of the life of the 21st century, the economic selection pressure is going to to take care of those losers, right?

As sarcastic as it may sound, there is - as so often - more than just a grain of truth in the "economic selection pressure" hypothesis - yeah, I mean, look around: Those who fully subscribe to the idea are already falling victim to it. When the Ritalin-rush will finally wear off and their telomerase will have reached a length that allows for no more than another couple of weeks on this earth some of them will probably look differently at the "ridiculous clowns" in Central Park...

  1. Citizens Commission Human Rights International. Psychiatric Labels: The Facts Behind the Billion Dollar Marketing Campaign. < > retrieved July, 5 2012
  2. Ho RT, Chan JS, Wang CW, Lau BW, So KF, Yuen LP, Sham JS, Chan CL. A Randomized Controlled Trial of Qigong Exercise on Fatigue Symptoms, Functioning, and Telomerase Activity in Persons with Chronic Fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Ann Behav Med. 2012 Jun 27.
  3. Lam CLK, Tse EYY, Gandek B. Is the standard SF-12 Health Survey valid and equivalent for a Chinese population? Qual Life Res. 2005;14:539-547.
  4. Ware J Jr, Kosinski M, Keller SD. A 12-Item Short-Form Health Survey: Construction of scales and preliminary tests of reliability and validity.Med Care. 1996;34:220-233.