Abused women, who suffer from chronic psychological stress, have been shown to have shorter telomeres than never abused women. Telomere shortening is associated with increased risk of cell death, and it is believed that adopting health-promoting behaviors can help to increase the activity of telomerase, an enzyme that counters telomere shortening. Qigong is an ancient Chinese mind-body integration, health-oriented practice designed to enhance the function of qi, an energy that sustains well-being. Therefore, an assessor-blind, randomized, wait-list controlled trial was developed to evaluate the effect of a qigong intervention on telomerase activity (primary objective) and proinflammatory cytokines, perceived stress, perceived coping, and depressive symptoms (secondary objectives) in abused Chinese women.
A total of 240 Chinese women, aged ≥ 18 years, who have been abused by an intimate partner within the past three years will be recruited from a community setting in Hong Kong and randomized to receive either a qigong intervention or wait-list control condition as follows: the qigong intervention will comprise (i) a 2-hour group qigong training session twice a week for 6 weeks, (ii) a 1-hour follow-up group qigong exercise session once a week for 4 months, and (iii) a 30-minute self-practice qigong exercise session once a day for 5.5 months. The wait-list control group will receive qigong training after the intervention group completes the program. Upon completion of the qigong intervention program, it is expected that abused Chinese women in the intervention group will have higher levels of telomerase activity and perceived coping and lower levels of proinflammatory cytokines, perceived stress, and depressive symptoms than will abused Chinese women in the wait-list control group.
This study will provide information about the effect of qigong exercise on telomerase activity and chronic psychological stress in abused Chinese women. The findings will inform the design of interventions to relieve the effects of IPV-related psychological stress on health. Also, the concept that health-promoting behaviors could slow down cellular aging might even motivate abused women to change their lifestyles.
Current Controlled Trials NCT02060123. Registered February 6, 2014.