by Justin Fowler-Lindner, a former EMT turned health writer
Could a 5,000-year old ancient self-healing art really help treat modern-day diabetes? According to recent research, qigong is your new secret weapon for better health. Breathe deeply, move gently, and channel your vital life energy to lower blood sugar and promote healing.
It might sound too good to be true, but the proof is in the pudding… Keep reading to learn what scientists around the world have discovered about qigong and diabetes…
What Is Qigong?
Qigong is a practice from ancient China that combines body movement, meditation and breathwork to promote physical and mental health. There are several types of qigong, and depending on the type, it can be more like mindfulness meditation or more like a light yoga session.
When it comes to treating diabetes and other health conditions, researchers focus mainly on the exercise aspect of qigong. “Qi” means “life energy” and “gong” means “to work with” this vital energy. According to traditional practitioners, the body contains a network of energy channels that can become congested and cause disease. Qigong clears the pathways of energy so that they can flow freely and heal the body from within.
Are you ready to unblock your Qi, lower your blood sugar and treat your diabetes?
Health Benefits of Qigong for Diabetes
A growing body of research shows that qigong can be an effective therapy for maintaining physical, mental, and cognitive health. Medical qigong treatments can have a positive effect on preventing and reversing complications of type 2 diabetes.
Qigong may also help with:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic fatigue
- Chronic pain
When it comes to diabetes, qigong can improve quality of life by helping the skeletal muscles absorb glucose.
In other words, it helps lower blood sugar!
Potential health benefits of medical qigong include:
- Lowers fasting blood glucose levels
- Improves insulin resistance
- Reduces stress and strengthens the parasympathetic nervous system
- Strengthens the pancreas, liver and kidneys
- Lowers total cholesterol and triglycerides
- Promotes weight loss and reduces body mass index (BMI)
- Regulates hormones and maintains neuroendocrine balance
Next, let’s take a closer look at what the research has to say:
New Qigong Program Lowers Blood Sugar and Improves Insulin Resistance
Researchers at Bastyr University in Washington state created a qigong program to help type 2 diabetics improve blood sugar and reduce their reliance on drugs. According to the study’s lead author, Guan-Chen Sun, PhD, his version of qigong taps into the body’s vital healing energy.
His team studied 32 participants who were taking medications for their type 2 diabetes, although none were taking insulin.
The participants were divided into three groups:
- One group practiced qigong at home twice a week for 30 minutes, plus one 60-minute session led by an instructor.
- The second group followed a program of gentle exercise that included movements similar to qigong but without the vital energy component.
- Group three continued their regular medical care but did not follow a structured exercise routine.
What did they find?
After 12 weeks, the qigong patients lowered their fasting blood glucose levels, improved their insulin resistance, and reported less stress. Group two lowered their blood glucose levels slightly and reported no change in their stress levels. Last but not least, group three was the worst off… their glucose levels and insulin resistance increased, and they reported no changes in stress levels.
The results suggest that qigong may be an effective complementary therapy for people with type 2 diabetes.
But one little study isn’t enough to turn heads in the medical community. Luckily, there’s plenty more where that came from!
The Studies Keep Stacking Up
Studies from Japan, China, and Australia have found similar results.
- One study from Japan treated 26 patients with type 2 diabetes for four months straight. The participants not only improved their insulin resistance, but they also experienced less anxiety and improved their overall mood.
- In China, a separate study found that “Combined with conventional medical treatment, qigong exercise might have significant effects on type 2 diabetes in Chinese patients.”
- Researchers at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia discovered that qigong can be an effective way to prevent diabetes. Participants lowered blood pressure, reduced blood glucose and lost weight. They also reported increased energy, greater flexibility, and better sleep.
The results are in… it looks like this ancient Chinese practice really can play a role in treating type 2 diabetes!
Ready to Give Qigong a Try?
So what the heck does qigong actually look like?
Here’s a few basic qigong exercises to try:
Mabu (Horse Stance)
Mabu is one of the core movements of qigong and is used in several Asian martial arts and other movement practices like Tai Chi.
How to perform Mabu:
- Take a wide stance and drop into a squat so that your knees are at a 90-degree angle
- Make sure your feet are turned outwards at a 45-degree angle as well
- Keep your back straight and upright
- Pull your shoulders back so that your chest is full and open
- Your head should be neutral and facing forwards (not looking at the ground)
- Place your arms straight out in front of you with your arms bent slightly
- Your palms should face away from you with your fingers pointed upwards
- As you breathe in, draw your hands back towards you (as if you’re doing a push-up while standing)
- On the exhale, straighten your arms back out in front of you
Hold this squat position for 10 to 30 seconds as you move your arms in and out with your breath.
You should start to feel a mild burn in your quads and glutes.
Gonbu (Bow Stance)
Gonbu is another common qigong stance. It’s a little more dynamic than Mabu but is another great exercise for beginners. While Mabu is more like a squat, Gonbu is more similar to a lunge.
How to perform Gongbu:
- Step forward with one foot and keep your front foot facing outwards
- Lower your front leg into a shallow lunge position with your knee slightly bent
- Keep you back leg straight and lock the knee
- Your back foot should be pointing outwards at a 45-degree angle
- Place one hand forwards and keep the other by the your side with the elbow bent
Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds before switching sides. You should feel a stretch in your groin and a slight burn in your legs.
Qigong Ball Rolling
Qigong ball rolling is more of a moving meditation than a fitness exercise. It’s much less intense than Gongbu or Mabu and focuses your intention on the energy between your hands.
How to perform qigong ball rolling:
- Find a comfortable position to sit or stand
- Pull your shoulders back, keep your spine straight and your back upright
- Hold your hands up in front of your chest and pretend that you’re holding a ball roughly the size of a grapefruit
- There should be a space of at least several inches between your hands
- Start by moving both your palms around each other in a rotating sphere
- As you rotate your hands, imagine that you’re holding a ball of energy in your hands
- Remember to breathe fully throughout the movement
Qigong is a total mind-body experience and it’s the perfect balance of exercise, breathwork and meditation. It’s no wonder that it shares so many health benefits with mindfulness training, yoga and other light forms of exercise!
In just a few days a week, 30 minutes a day, qigong can be the perfect addition to your diabetes care routine.