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Benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong Mind-Body Exercises for Cancer Survivors





The MATCH Study: Mindfulness And Tai chi for Cancer Health. This innovative clinical trial conducted by the University of Calgary/Tom Baker Cancer Centre and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre is now recruiting cancer survivors! As a participant you get to choose which treatment approach you want, or let us assign you to a group if you are equally interested in both. We will measure program effects on psychological, physical and biological outcomes including quality of life, mood, stress, balance, blood pressure, heart rate, immune function and more! Visit for more details.



by Peter M. Wayne, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Study co-investigator

(Dr. Linda Carlson, Study Principal Investigator)



A primary motivation for the MATCH Study is to better evaluate complementary and integrative therapies for improving the lives of the world’s growing number of cancer survivors.  As with other complex medical conditions, the burden of cancer is increasingly appreciated as a ‘biopsychosocial’ challenge, impacting physical, psychological, and social aspects of a person’s health and well-being.  This perspective supports a unique role for holistic mind-body therapeutic approaches that target and address multiple physical and psychosocial symptoms, and that may offer patients and survivors a flexible toolset for addressing their experience of the disease.


Tai Chi (pronounced ‘tai chee’) and Qigong (pronounced ‘chee kung’) are two increasingly popular mind-body exercises that show great promise in addressing a broad range of factors that are central to supportive cancer care. Tai Chi and Qigong share a common history that integrates elements of traditional Chinese medicine, martial arts conditioning, and Asian lifestyle philosophy. Both incorporate elements of slow gentle movement, breath training, and a number of cognitive skills including­­ heightened body awareness, relaxed but focused mental attention, and imagery.  Lay observers have referred to Tai Chi and Qigong as ‘yoga in motion’ or ‘mindfulness on wheels’.


A growing number of studies support that Tai Chi and Qigong positively impact the health and wellbeing of cancer survivors.  Studies of breast and prostate cancer survivors have consistently shown improvements in fatigue, emotional distress, depression, sleep behavior and overall quality of life. A broader range of studies shows that Tai Chi and Qigong can greatly improve balance and strength, and also preserve cognitive function, but these studies have not focused on people with cancer.  Finally, physiological research is also beginning to show how Tai Chi and Qigong might positively influence the health of cancer survivors, with evidence that these practices positively impact underlying imbalances in the body’s immune system that lead to chronic inflammation. By studying a broad range of clinical and physiological outcomes across a diverse population of cancer survivors, the MATCH study will significantly contribute to the knowledge of the health benefits of Tai Chi and Qigong.


A unique feature of the MATCH study is the use of a simplified Tai Chi/Qigong training regimen.   Based on a framework outlined in the Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi co-authored by study co-investigator Dr. Peter Wayne, the program teaches gentle and easy to learn exercises that can be adapted to any level of physical function or conditioning—many can even be practiced while seated.  The focus of the program is to maximize the delivery of Tai Chi/Qigong’s core therapeutic ‘ingredients’ through simple repetitive movement phrases practiced meditatively.  This contrasts with other approaches which often begin with the learning of lengthy and complex choreographed sequences, often confusing and ‘turning off’ students to Tai Chi/Qigong.  This approach, in combination with passionate and experienced instructors assure that the MATCH study is delivering and evaluating a safe, fun and sound program.


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Overall there is a decrease in tension, which is good for the heart.  I seem to be more happy-go-lucky, because…this is an exercise but it is like a moving meditation, so it has a calming effect that lasts throughout the day…and I don’t seem to have as much worry…

~Study Participant


PeterWayneDr. Peter Wayne is Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School (HMS). He is the Director of Research for the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine jointly based HMS and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The primary focus of Dr. Wayne’s research is evaluating how mind-body and related integrative therapies clinically impact chronic health conditions, and understanding the physiological and psychological mechanisms underlying observed therapeutic effects. He has served as a principal or co-investigator on more than 20 NIH-funded studies.  Dr. Wayne has more than 40 years of training experience in Tai Chi and Qigong, and is an internationally recognized teacher of these practices.  He is author of the “Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi” which received an Award of Excellence in Medical Communication by the American Medical Writers Association.





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