Qigong in daily life : motivation and intention to mindful exercise

Abstract: In many countries physical inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle are identified as major public health problems. A general health goal is therefore to promote an active lifestyle throughout the entire life span. The reasons given for not adopting a physically active lifestyle and/or taking part in vigorous exercise include old age, negative social and physical environments, physical disability and other health related issues. Qigong exercise, a low-intensity Chinese self-care method, has therefore been suggested as an alternative activity to vigorous exercise. There is, however, little knowledge about leisure-time qigong exercisers and their reasons for adherence. The general aim of this thesis was therefore to explore leisure-time medical qigong and those practicing it, and to examine how individuals’ motivation and intention to exercise are related to their actual exercise in daily life. Behavioural changes towards an active lifestyle will be discussed from both medical qigong and exercise psychology perspectives. Suggestions are then summarized into a qigong-based Wellness Coaching Model. Participants were recruited from a qigong association and introductory qigong courses. Data were collected by questionnaires and were analysed using both descriptive and inferential statistical methods. The reasons given for leisure-time medical qigong exercise were to aid recovery from illness and to preserve health. Participants in the low-intensity qigong exercise group studied were somewhat older, and their main reason for participating was to achieve a general feeling of wellness. As a group they had mainly low-stress levels and were highly energized. Concentration on qi-flow during exercise correlates positively with improved health feelings, and exercise is performed with deep mindful concentration three to six times per week for an average of thirty minutes. Perceived stress correlates negatively with health, energy and exercise behaviour suggesting that stress has to be managed in order for wellness to emerge. Intrinsically motivated exercisers are more concentrated, and perceive their stress as lower than that of their more externally motivated counterparts. Strong behaviour intentions are significantly correlated with actual exercise frequency. When exercise is performed in a qigong state, with a heightened level of concentration, adherence is higher than otherwise is the case. Results suggest that health-professionals aiming to secure qigong exercise adherence should stimulate feelings of wellness as an intrinsic motive for exercise, strengthen the individuals’ intention to exercise, and promote a calm energy state (low-stress and high energy) before commencement of exercise.