Effects of 3-month Qigong exercise on heart rate variability and respiration in anxious college students

Author: Jingyu Sun1, Jiatong Zhuo1, Hang Chu1, Jing Wang1, Tao Chen1, Bin Li1, Tianfeng Lu1, Hao Zheng1, Yaning Xu1, Jingmei Dong1, Antonio Cicchella2
1 Sports and Health Research Center, Department of Physical Education, Tongji University, Shanghai, People's Republic of China.
2 International College of Football, Tongji University, Shanghai, People's Republic of China.
Conference/Journal: Scand J Med Sci Sports
Date published: 2023 Oct 10
Other: Special Notes: doi: 10.1111/sms.14521. , Word Count: 221

This longitudinal study aimed to investigate the effects of Qigong on the anxiety state, heart rate variability (HRV), and breathing of anxious college students.

A total of 37 individuals (18-25 years old) were randomly allocated to the control (n = 19) and intervention (n = 18) groups. Qigong interventions were conducted five times weekly for 12 weeks, with each session lasting 60 min. Hamilton Anxiety Scale, Fatigue Scale 14, Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, and 36-item Short Form Survey, HRV, and respiration data were collected before and after the 3-month intervention.

Individuals who participated in the three-month Qigong exercise intervention showed a significant reduction in anxiety, particularly mental anxiety (p < 0.05). Subjects in the intervention group presented a decrease in skin temperature (p < 0.05) and an increase in blood volume pulsation (p < 0.05). Meanwhile, HRV exhibited a significant increase in the standard deviation of interbeat interval before and after comparisons (p < 0.05) and between the two groups (p = 0.039) and a reduction in the normalized low-frequency power after the intervention. Moreover, the intervention group experienced increased abdominal breathing depth and abdominal breathing per minute (p < 0.05).

These findings indicate that Qigong is an effective mind-body exercise strategy for relieving anxiety. HRV and breathing were improved accordingly among college students after the completion of the 3-month Qigong program.

Keywords: HRV; Qigong; anxiety; college students; respiration.

PMID: 37815004 DOI: 10.1111/sms.14521