health via exercise 5 29

Eastern cultures have embraced practices such as qigong, yoga, mindfulness, and tai-chi for millennia, deeply rooted in mind-body interconnectedness. In recent decades, western societies have begun to appreciate these practices' multifaceted benefits. Serving as a holistic approach to wellness, these exercises bring a gentle yet potent impact on various health aspects, significantly aiding fatigue, pain management, and overall well-being.

 When younger, I practiced the Japanese martial art Aikido for about a year. Aikido is a self-defense art that uses your "opponent's" momentum and strength to subdue him. I studied Aikido not at all for self-defense, but for other interests. I took away from that practice an appreciation for Japanese culture, Buddhism, and meditation.

The biggest takeaway was breathing techniques. I have used them often ever since to stifle fear, anxiety, and anger. I recently underwent an MRI session of 20 minutes, which actually lasted nearly 40 minutes. I can say I seriously disliked the experience. By closing my eyes, focusing on an imaginary light, and breathing in through my nose for 6 seconds and out through my mouth for 6 seconds, I overcame the fear and anxiety of having to lay perfectly still and constrained in a very noisy and confining space.

Qigong and its Impact on Fatigue

One area where qigong, in particular, has shown substantial potential is in managing cancer-related fatigue. A study demonstrated that cancer patients who engaged in regular qigong sessions reported improved energy levels, reduced fatigue, and enhanced well-being. The deliberate, rhythmic movements and focused, deep breathing techniques used in qigong seem to have an invigorating effect, providing a much-needed energy boost to those grappling with the exhaustive side effects of cancer and its treatment.

But the benefits of qigong extend beyond mere fatigue management. The study participants also reported improved mood, better emotional regulation, and reduced stress. These outcomes suggest that qigong influences the physical body and touches the emotional and psychological domains, enhancing overall wellness.

innerself subscribe graphic

Other Mind-body Practices and Their Benefits

Like qigong, other mind-body practices such as yoga, mindfulness, and tai-chi also encompass many benefits that significantly affect physical, emotional, and cognitive health. These practices are designed around the core principles of conscious movement, deep, regulated breathing, and concentrated attention. By focusing on these aspects, participants create a heightened awareness of their body and emotional states, contributing to a balanced and harmonious inner environment. This internal alignment can trigger a relaxation response that decreases stress levels and improves mood, making these practices a promising therapeutic option, particularly valuable for individuals grappling with cancer-related fatigue or comparable health complications.

The mind-body connection these exercises foster helps individuals tune in to their bodies, becoming more aware of their energy levels, capabilities, and needs. This mindful approach not only cultivates physical strength and resilience but also encourages emotional and cognitive well-being, offering a comprehensive, low-impact, and non-invasive strategy for health improvement.

An additional benefit that significantly amplifies the appeal of these practices is their universal accessibility. These exercises do not discriminate based on age, fitness level, or health status and can be modified to suit each individual's needs and capacities. For individuals recovering from severe illnesses like cancer, strenuous physical exercise may be challenging and potentially detrimental. The mind-body practices shine in these situations, offering a gentle yet effective alternative.

Mind-body practices such as yoga, mindfulness, and tai-chi, like qigong, offer the physical benefits typically associated with exercise—improved flexibility, enhanced balance, and increased strength. However, they achieve these benefits without requiring equivalent physical effort or exertion. This combination of gentle movement, focused breathing, and mental presence makes these practices a viable, attractive, and highly beneficial approach to health and recovery, further highlighting their immense potential in health and wellness.

Application to Other Health Issues

While the benefits of mind-body practices, including qigong, yoga, mindfulness, and tai-chi, have been extensively explored regarding fatigue, especially cancer-associated, these exercises hold promising potential in managing a broader spectrum of health issues. These practices, centered around cultivating harmony between the mind and body, may offer unique insights and therapeutic benefits in dealing with ailments beyond fatigue and cancer.

One such condition that these practices could potentially assist with is fibromyalgia, a chronic disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, fatigue, and tenderness in localized areas. Preliminary findings indicate that the gentle, flowing movements of qigong and tai-chi and the mindful posture alignment in yoga could help alleviate the chronic pain associated with this condition. Moreover, the mindfulness aspect, integral to these practices, may help individuals manage the emotional and cognitive difficulties often experienced by those living with fibromyalgia, such as anxiety, depression, and brain fog.

Similarly, chronic fatigue syndrome, another complex, long-term illness marked by extreme fatigue that any underlying medical condition cannot explain, may also benefit from these mind-body practices. The gentle physical activity offered by these practices could provide a non-exhaustive method for patients to engage in movement. At the same time, the emphasis on mindfulness might assist in managing associated symptoms like sleep problems, difficulties with thinking and concentration, and chronic pain.

While these initial findings are promising, they represent just the tip of the iceberg regarding the potential benefits of these mind-body practices. More comprehensive research is needed to delve deeper into these areas and fully uncover how practices like qigong, yoga, mindfulness, and tai-chi can assist in managing a more comprehensive array of health issues. However, these initial indications indicate an encouraging trend, suggesting these ancient practices could be crucial in modern holistic health care.

Read The Original Study

About the Author

jenningsRobert Jennings is co-publisher of with his wife Marie T Russell. He attended the University of Florida, Southern Technical Institute, and the University of Central Florida with studies in real estate, urban development, finance, architectural engineering, and elementary education. He was a member of the US Marine Corps and The US Army having commanded a field artillery battery in Germany. He worked in real estate finance, construction and development for 25 years before starting in 1996.

InnerSelf is dedicated to sharing information that allows people to make educated and insightful choices in their personal life, for the good of the commons, and for the well-being of the planet. InnerSelf Magazine is in its 30+year of publication in either print (1984-1995) or online as Please support our work.

 Creative Commons 4.0

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License. Attribute the author Robert Jennings, Link back to the article This article originally appeared on

Mindfulness Books:

The Miracle of Mindfulness

by Thich Nhat Hanh

This classic book by Thich Nhat Hanh introduces the practice of mindfulness meditation and offers practical guidance on incorporating mindfulness into daily life.

Click for more info or to order

Wherever You Go, There You Are

by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Jon Kabat-Zinn, the creator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, explores the principles of mindfulness and how it can transform one's experience of life.

Click for more info or to order

Radical Acceptance

by Tara Brach

Tara Brach explores the concept of radical self-acceptance and how mindfulness can help individuals heal emotional wounds and cultivate self-compassion.

Click for more info or to order