Qigong is a modality of traditional Chinese mind-body medicine that has been used to prevent and cure ailments, to improve health in China for thousands of years. Wuqinxi, also called five-animal exercises, is considered as one of the most widely practiced forms of traditional Chinese Qigong. Wuqinxi was created by Chinese well-known physician Huatuo in Donghan Dynasty (year 25-220). Huatuo carefully observed the activity characteristics of 5 animals, bear, tiger, ape, deer, and bird, and composed the set of actions integrated with the combination of human body functions and the biological clock. Compared with conventional exercise modalities (e.g., resistance training, muscular endurance training, and strength training), Wuqinxi is characterized by interplay between symmetrical physical postures and movements, breathing control, a meditative state of mind, and mental focus in a harmonious manner.
Two Chinese institutions that specialize in Traditional Chinese Medicine summarized the evidence to unravel effects of Wuqinxi on health outcomes. They performed a systematic review of Wuqinxi studies published in English or Chinese since 1979. Relevant English and Chinese language electronic data bases were used for literature search. The selection of studies, data extraction, and validation were performed independently by two reviewers.
A total of 28 eligible studies were included in this review, among which three are 3 in English and 25 in Chinese. Participants in this review are categorized as either healthy or clinical populations. The results from this systematic review support the notion that Wuqinxi may be effective as an adjunctive rehabilitation method for improving psychological and physiological wellbeing among different age of healthy populations in addition to alleviating and treating diseases among various clinical populations.
The results indicated that Wuqinxi has been thought to be beneficial to improve health and treat chronic diseases. However, the methodological problems in the majority of included studies make it difficult to draw firm conclusive statements. More methodologically rigorous designed large-scale random clinical trials with a long-term follow-up assessment should be further conducted to examine the effects of Wuqinxi on health-related parameters and disease-specific measures in different health conditions. This systematic review lends insight for future studies on Wuqinxi and its potential application in preventive and rehabilitation medicine.
These findings are published in the October 2018 issue of Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine.