Throughout its whole history, qigong has been employed and developed as a method for curing illness and strengthening the body. Qigong’s main therapeutic benefits lie in its ability to optimize the activity of the cerebral cortex, the central nervous system, and the cardiovascular system.
Also valuable is the ability of qigong to correct abnormal reactions of the human organism through its massaging effect on the organs of the abdominal cavity, and its effect as a means of self-control over the physical functions of the body.
The benefits of qigong can be measured scientifically through a device known as the electroencephalogram (EEG), a test that measures electrical activity in the brain using small, metal discs (electrodes) attached to the scalp. 
As far as electroencephalogram response is concerned, there is a clear difference in such readings between practitioners and non-practitioners of qigong. An electroencephalogram for a normal person in an ordinary waking state shows a great quantity of low amplitude, high frequency waves of about 50 microvolts, with different regional brain waves showing poor synchronization. The brain waves of a qigong practitioner, however, show large frequency “a” waves of around 8 hertz with amplitudes as high as 180 microvolts, as well as a tendency towards greater synchronization of regional brain waves.
These characteristics are even more apparent in the frontal lobe and parietal lobe of the cerebrum. Moreover, the frontal lobe is the highest centre of the central nervous system (CNS) controlling mental activity. Therefore, the longer one practices qigong the better the synchronization of the “a” wave band, while the expansion of the low frequency wave band can greatly increase the functions of the cerebrum.
RESPIRATION: While a person is practising qigong, the rate of respiration decreases while the duration of each breath increases. Such an increase in period of inhalation and exhalation will enlarge the scope of the diaphragm’s activity, causing a greater flow in the volume of air, increasing lung capacity. When one is practising deep breathing, the breath often seems to stop, but actually becomes a series of micromovements of the breathing muscles.
Animal experiments have shown that the increased excitation of the CNS when exhaling can spread to the parasympathetic nerve centre, while the increased excitation when inhaling can spread to the sympathetic nerve centre. This would suggest that through deliberate regulation of the respiration and deeper breathing one can promote the tendency to stabilize any functional imbalance of the autonomic nerve system.
METABOLISM: When practising sitting or lying qigong, it has been shown that the body’s consumption of oxygen decreases by about thirty percent, the level of the metabolic rate also drops by about twenty percent, which is accompanied by a drop in the respiration rate as already mentioned. This condition of lowered metabolism is an aid to reducing the patient’s physical consumption of energy, allowing the gradual accumulation of energy, fostering the body’s strength, and providing the basis for the body to combat and defeat illness.
SELF CONTROL AND BIOFEEDBACK: When qigong and bio-feedback are combined, the aim of developing health through self-control becomes easier to achieve. Biofeedback is the monitoring of certain physiological functions (blood pressure, muscle tension, etc.) using electromyographic equipment, demometers etc., and then allowing the patient to sense, visually or audibly, the fluctuations in signals. This enables patients to appreciate what is happening in the body and their own will to try to control the fluctuations of his or her physiological functions, helping them to revert to normality and hence aiding in their treatment.
The range of the abdominal and diaphragmatic muscular activity may increase by up to three or four times, and the resulting periodic fluctuation of pressure in the abdomen will massage the stomach, intestines, liver, spleen and other internal organs. This will promote peristalsis in the stomach and intestines, reduce blood stasis in the abdominal cavity, and improve regulation of internal secretions, further helping to improve digestion and assimilation. As a result, appetite is likely to improve, enabling patients to eat more, a great help in the process of treatment of many ailments.
Tom Fung is a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner and Acupuncturist in Markham, Ont. He received a diploma of modern Chinese medicine and Acupuncture in 1975. He established the Tom Fung Holistic Acupuncture Clinic in Toronto in 1979. He graduated as doctor of internal Chinese medicine, and received an Acupuncture certificate in Xiamen China University in 1985.
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