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Open Access Study protocol

Effect of a qigong intervention program on telomerase activity and psychological stress in abused Chinese women: a randomized, wait-list controlled trial

Agnes Tiwari1*, Cecilia Lai Wan Chan2, Rainbow Tin Hung Ho2, George Sai Wah Tsao3, Wen Deng1, Athena Wai Lin Hong1, Daniel Yee Tak Fong1, Helina Yin King Yuk Fung4, Emily Pei Shin Pang1, Denise Shuk Ting Cheung1 and Joyce Lai Chong Ma5

Author Affiliations

1 School of Nursing, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, 4/F, William M.W. Mong Block, 21 Sassoon Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong

2 Department of Social Work and Social Administration, The University of Hong Kong, Room 534, Jockey Club Tower, The Centennial Campus, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong

3 Department of Anatomy, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Medicine Building, 21 Sassoon Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong

4 HKSKH Lady MacLehose Centre, No.22, Wo Yi Hop Road, Kwai Chung, New Territories, Hong Kong

5 Department of Social Work, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Level 4&5, T.C. Cheng Building, United College, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2014, 14:300  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-300

Published: 15 August 2014

Abstract

Background

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.

Methods/Design

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.

Discussion

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.

Trial registration

Current Controlled Trials NCT02060123. Registered February 6, 2014.

Keywords:
Qigong; Violence; Telomerase; Perceived stress; Abused women; Intimate partner violence (IPV); Intervention; Depression; Chinese; Randomized controlled trial (RCT)