Chronic stress results in perpetually high cortisol levels, which can trigger high blood pressure, increased risk of diabetes, weight gain, and decreased immunity. But research has shown that mindfulness exercises — like Qi Gong — significantly decrease the effect of stress on the body, including lowering cortisol levels to prevent these other health concerns, says integrative cardiologist Millie Lee, MD.
Qi Gong (pronounced “chi gong”) was developed thousands of years ago as part of traditional Chinese medicine. This practice involves various exercises that optimize energy within your body and mind. A 2019 study in the journal PLOS One found that mindfulness practices were linked with reductions in blood pressure levels.
Here are three Qi Gong exercises to try that are good for your overall health:
Knocking on the Door of Life
Standing with your legs shoulder-width apart, rotate from your hips and your waist, letting your arms swing from front to back. As you rotate, let your hands tap your lower abdomen and your lower spine directly behind your navel. Continue for three to five minutes.
Stand with your arms to the side at 45-degree angles, palms facing down. Lean your head to one side, taking several deep breaths while you feel the stretch, then roll your head gently from front to back; switch sides. Shake out arms to releasee any tension.
Move your hands gently from left to right, keeping one hand at shoulder level and the other at waist level, then switch directions and hand positions. Do this back-and-forth movement slowly, then faster, then slowly, for a total of three to five minutes.
A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.