New Qigong Program Helps Lower Blood Sugar and Insulin Resistance

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just wave your arms to get better control over your blood sugar? There’s a technique that isn’t quite so easy, but it comes close. A research scientist at Bastyr University in Washington has adapted the ancient Chinese practice of movement called qigong (pronounced chee-gong) to help people with type 2 diabetes achieve better blood sugar control…feel better…and even reduce their reliance on drugs.

We called the study author, Guan-Chen Sun, PhD, assistant research scientist at Bastyr, qigong teacher and executive director and founder of the Institute of Qigong & Integrative Medicine in Bothell, Washington, to get the details. There are many types of qigong, Dr. Sun said—what makes his version unique is the way it explicitly incorporates an energy component.

Dr. Sun named his new system Yi Ren Qigong (Yi means “change” and Ren means “human”) and says it works by teaching diabetic patients to calm the chi, or “life energy” of the liver (to slow production of glucose) and to enhance the chi of the pancreas (exhausted by overproducing insulin). The goal of this practice is to “improve the harmony between these organs and increase energy overall,” he said, noting that his patients have achieved significant results—reduced blood glucose levels, lower stress and less insulin resistance. Some were even able to cut back the dosages of their medications.

How Do They Know It Worked?

Dr. Sun’s research team studied 32 patients, all on medication for their diabetes. They were divided into three groups: One group practiced qigong on their own at home twice a week for 30 minutes and also attended a one-hour weekly session led by an instructor…the second group engaged in a prescribed program of gentle exercise that included movements similar to the qigong practice but without the energy component for an equivalent period of time…and the third group continued their regular medication and medical care but did not engage in structured exercise. The results: After 12 weeks, the qigong patients had lowered their fasting blood glucose and their levels of self-reported stress and improved their insulin resistance. The gentle exercise group also brought down blood glucose levels, though somewhat less…and lowered stress. It was worse yet for the third group—blood glucose levels climbed and so did insulin resistance, while there was no reported change in their stress levels. The study was published in the January 2010 issue of Diabetes Care.

Yi Ren Qigong is available at Bastyr as part of the Medical Qigong Self-Care Certificate Program…and at the Institute of Qigong & Integrative Medicine (IQIM) in Bothell, Washington. IQIM also periodically holds classes for natural prevention of type 2 diabetes that include both Yi Ren Qigong exercises and Traditional Chinese Medicine therapies. Outside of Bastyr and IQIM, there are a growing number of certified teachers in Washington state, New Hampshire and California…and IQIM offers a teacher training program for people interested in learning Yi Ren Qigong to teach it in their communities. To find out more, including whether there is a certified instructor in your area, contact IQIM at