Purpose: Survivors of nasopharyngeal cancer (NPC) often sustain cardiovascular complications after conventional cancer treatments. Tai Chi (TC) Qigong training may be a viable way to improve peripheral circulatory status and aerobic capacity in this population. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of a 6-month TC Qigong training program on blood flow velocities and resistance, palmar skin temperature, and functional aerobic capacity in survivors of NPC.
Methods: Twenty-five and 27 survivors of NPC volunteered to join the intervention group (mean age, 55.4 ± 7.5 years) and control group (mean age, 58.7 ± 9.5 years), respectively. The intervention group underwent a TC Qigong training program-the modified 18 Forms TC Internal Qigong-for 6 months, while the control group received no training. Peripheral arterial blood flow velocities and resistance, palmar skin temperature, and functional aerobic capacity were measured by a Doppler ultrasound machine, an infrared thermometer, and six-minute walk test, respectively. All outcomes were assessed at baseline, mid-intervention (3-month), post-intervention (6-month), and follow-up (12-month) periods.
Results: The TC Qigong group had higher diastolic blood flow velocity (p = 0.010), lower arterial blood flow resistance (p = 0.009), and higher palmar skin temperature (p = 0.004) than the control group after TC Qigong training. However, only the diastolic blood flow velocity was higher in the TC Qigong group than in the control group during the no-training follow-up period (p = 0.032). Additionally, an improvement in functional aerobic capacity was found in the intervention group after TC Qigong training (p < 0.008) but not in the control group over time (p > 0.008).
Conclusions: TC Qigong training may improve peripheral circulatory status and functional aerobic capacity among people treated for NPC. However, this is only a pilot study and future definitive trials are needed to confirm the results.
Implications for cancer survivors: TC Qigong may have enormous potential as a rehabilitation intervention for survivors of NPC to improve arterial hemodynamics and functional aerobic capacity.