Qigong May Protect Competitive Swimmers against Upper Respiratory Illness
May 28, 2011
Upper respiratory tract infections (URIs) are a common complaint in competitive
swimmers and can adversely affect performance. No intervention has yet been
shown to reduce URI incidence in intensively trained athletes.
In a study done by Virginia Integrative Medicine, the University of Virginia
varsity swim team received three weeks of training in Qigong for the purpose of
reducing stress and improving health. The primary objective was to assess the
relationship between Qigong practice and symptoms of URI during a time when
swimmers would be at high URI risk. Secondary objectives were to assess degree
of compliance with a Qigong practice regimen, to evaluate differences between
Qigong practitioners and non-practitioners, and to determine the response-rate
and reliability of a newly developed internet-based, self-report survey.
The design was observational, cross-sectional, and prospective. Weekly data on
cold and flu symptoms, concurrent health problems and medication use, and Qigong
practice were gathered for seven weeks. Retrospective information on health and
qigong training response was also collected. Participants were 27 of the 55
members of the University of Virginia Swim Team in the Virginia Athletic
Main outcomes were measures of aggregated cold/flu symptoms and Qigong practice.
Survey completion was 100%, with no missing data, and reliability of the
instrument was acceptable. Cold and flu symptoms showed a significant non-linear
association with frequency of Qigong practice, with a strong, inverse
relationship between practice frequency and symptom scores in swimmers who
practiced Qigong at least once per week. Qigong practitioners did not differ
from non-practitioners in demographic or lifestyle characteristics, medical
history, supplement or medication use, or belief in Qigong.
These preliminary findings suggest
that Qigong practice may be protective against URIs among elite swimmers who
practice at least once per week. This study is published in the latest issue of
American Journal of Chinese Medicine.