Body-Mind-Spirit Therapy/Qigong

Body-Mind-Spirit Therapy/Qigong

PEP Topic 
Cognitive Impairment

Body-mind-spirit therapy incorporates ideas and approaches from western medicine, Chinese medicine and philosophies of Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. Qigong is a traditional Chinese discipline involving the practice of aligning breath, movement, and awareness to cultivate and balance qi (chi), or life energy. Medical qigong is a form of the discipline designed to improve health. It incorporates practice of gentle exercise coordinated with relaxation through meditation and breathing. Efficacy of these approaches was evaluated for fatigue, mood status, sleep-wake disturbances, lymphedema, and cognitive impairment.

Effectiveness Not Established

Research Evidence Summaries

Oh, B., Butow, P. N., Mullan, B. A., Clarke, S. J., Beale, P. J., Pavlakis, N., . . . Vardy, J. (2012). Effect of medical Qigong on cognitive function, quality of life, and a biomarker of inflammation in cancer patients: A randomized controlled trial. Supportive Care in Cancer, 20, 1235–1242.


Study Purpose:

To examine the effects of medical qigong on self-reported cognitive function in patients with cancer

Intervention Characteristics/Basic Study Process:

Participants were randomized to 10 weeks of medical qigong or usual care. Self-reports of cognitive functioning were evaluated at baseline and at the conclusion of the 10-week intervention. The medical qigong program was a weekly 90-minute group class that included a 15-minute discussion of health, 30 minutes of gentle stretching and body movement in a standing position, 15 minutes of movement in a sitting position, and 30 minutes of meditation and breathing. Two sessions were offered each week; participants could attend one or both of the sessions but had to attend for a minimum of 7 of the 10 weeks. Participants also kept a diary.

Sample Characteristics:

  • The total number of participants randomized was 81. Fifty-four completed the study, resulting in a 33% drop out rate.
  • Participants' mean age was 62 years (SD = 12 years), with a range of 34–86 years.
  • The sample was 50% male and 50% female.
  • N = 25, colorectal 12%, lung, prostate, gastric, other   
  • Forty-two participants received adjuvant treatment, and 36 were receiving metastatic treatment.
  • Forty-eight participants completed chemotherapy, and 28 were receiving chemotherapy at the time of the study.
  • On average, participants had completed 16.4 years of education (SD = 2.1).


  • Mutli-site
  • Outpatient setting
  • University hospitals in Sydney, Australia

Phase of Care and Clinical Applications:

  • Patients were currently undergoing treatment or had completed treatment.
  • The clinical applications are for late effects and survivorship.

Study Design:

The study was a stratified, randomized controlled trial of a subset of patients from a larger study.

Measurement Instruments/Methods:

  • European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer–Quality of Life (EORTC QLQ)–c30, CF version 3 (two items on the cognitive subscale)
  • Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy–Cognitive Function (FACT-Cog)


Participants in the intervention group showed significant improvement in perceived cognitive functioning on both the EORTC QLQ-C30  (p = 0.014) and FACT-Cog  (p = 0.029) compared to the control group (usual care) over time at 10 weeks' follow-up.


Results suggest that medical qigong may improve patients' perception of their cognitive functioning. However, further studies are needed with a larger sample size, objective measures, and longer follow-up to determine whether results are sustainable.


  • The sample size was less than 100.
  • The 33% drop-out rate was significant.
  • Cognitive functioning was self-reported and was not the primary endpoint.
  • Attentional control was not used.
  • The study was not blinded and therefore had an associated risk of bias.

Nursing Implications:

The study suggests that qigong may be beneficial in improving cognitive function in patients with cancer. However, the drop-out rate was significant at 33%. Drop outs occurred for multiple reasons, but it shows that qigong may not be a realistic intervention for some patients with cnacer. Further studies on the specific impacts qigong has on cognitive ability need to be conducted.