Metarobic Effects of Tai Chi, Meditation and Qigong: Implications for Hypoxia and Chronic Conditions.
The mechanism of benefits for exercises such as tai chi and qigong is poorly understood, with benefits often attributed in the literature to “qi,” defined as “vital energy.” Metarobic (alt. metaerobic) theory supports, as a primary mechanism of action, enhanced oxygen based metabolism, blood oxygen saturation, diffusion, and effects on oxidative stress, with positive effects on a range of chronic conditions which are complicated by hypoxia (oxygen deficiency in the tissues). Measurements of blood oxygen saturation (SpO2) during tai chi demonstrate a significant increase in SpO2, compared to a drop in SpO2 during running (p < 0.001). A significant brief drop of 6 to 10 points in SpO2 following tai chi (p < 0.001), compared to a return to normal values following running, suggests a higher rate of oxygen usage in the body during tai chi, which may have effects on chronic conditions resulting from or compounded by hypoxia. Physical indications were also found supporting increased oxygen diffusion. Findings support that exercises such as tai chi focusing on relaxation and the breath (including forms of Qigong, yoga and meditation), have direct and unique effects on enhanced oxygen based metabolism, blood oxygen saturation, diffusion, and oxidative stress. It is suggested that a metarobic effect may underlie reported benefits of tai chi for a wide range of chronic conditions complicated by hypoxia, including cancer, heart, lung and kidney disease, stroke, diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, asthma, and chronic pain. Hypoxia can also affect immunity. Tai chi has been documented to benefit all of these conditions to various degrees. Metarobic theory provides a mechanism of action distinct from aerobic or anaerobic forms of exercise, for breath-focused relaxation exercises (including forms of qigong and yoga), which may also explain physiological benefits related to seated forms of meditation which focus on the breath. Applications of Metarobic theory may enhance benefits for various conditions.