Objective: Based on individual cases of treatment, we were interested in whether the effects of a special kind of qigong, the “White Ball” exercises, can be objectified by physically measurable parameters and psychological scores.
Methods: We performed a preliminary prospective controlled interventional study with the waiting list design. In the qigong group eight children were included. They received specific qigong lessons of the “White Ball” qigong over seven weeks, twice a week, for 30 min with a waiting list design and instructions to perform the same exercises at home daily. In the control group eight children were included in a waiting list design with no qigong instruction. Subjective perception of anxiety was measured by the Portuguese version of the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale adapted for children.In addition, salivary cortisol, heart rate variability, blood pressure, surface electromyography of the trapezius muscle and reaction time were measured at the beginning and the end of the study prior to the regular public auditions.
Results: In comparison to the changes in the control group, the qigong group scored significantly lower in heart rate. Otherwise the groups did not differ significantly; however, the effect size was large for salivary cortisol, surface electromyography of the trapezius muscle and blood pressure. There were relevant reductions of subjective perception of anxiety, salivary cortisol levels and heart rate.
Conclusion: The heart rate of performing schoolchildren can be potentially reduced by “White Ball” exercises. Based on a sample of 8/8, positive tendencies were also observed for anxiety and blood pressure. The next steps of objectifying possible qigong effects are to increase the sample size, to study young people in other situations arousing anxiety, to develop an appropriate control intervention, to solve the problem of blinding and double blinding, to find additional parameters that may be influenced by the “White Ball” qigong, and to compare the qigong effects with other methods reducing anxiety such as more traditional biofeedback or systematic desensitization.