Harvard University Medical School has just published a report on “The Health Benefits of Tai Chi” that calls Tai Chi “medication in motion.” Since Tai Chi is a subset of Qigong, all of this information applies to Qigong as well. It cites research for “No Pain, Big Gains” including improvements in muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and aerobic conditioning. Under the category “Tai Chi for Medical Conditions” it recommends Tai Chi as complementary therapy for arthritis, low bone density, breast cancer, heart disease, heart failure, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease, sleep problems, and stroke.
This article is written in plain English, not medical jargon.
And I can testify that these claims are true. I've been taking classes and practicing for about 5 years. We do the Yang form; my teacher trained under Grandmaster William C.C. Chen in New York, USA, and others. I was lucky enough to attend a weekend workshop with him in 2007 in Phoenix.
I love this class. I would say that my biggest gains from this would be in flexibility and balance, but I also see gains in lower body strength and Much less fear of falling. I have chronic spinal issues, and though it has not been 'officially' diagnosed, I suspect that arthritis is creeping into my hip joints. A few times through the form in the morning helps tremendously in getting past that morning stiffness. Also, my regular breathing is deeper and slower, and I am able to relax much more completely. Just the body awareness alone is worth the exercise. And I even walk a little differently now: more confidently and relaxed.
There are many ways to learn. The article referenced here even mentions books and video, but I would strongly recommend a real live teacher. If that is not available to you, then I suggest something like Lee Holden's DVD on QiGong for Seniors. We have this loaded into our home DVD player and also my laptop for when we travel.
I'm going to put a couple of YouTube links in this post, but there are nuances that you just won't catch all by yourself. And most of the videos I've found are showing people in positions that might be inappropriate for some individuals, or just slightly too low or stretched; and of course, they cannot take into consideration any of your physical issues in the way that a live teacher can. And in one of my favorite videos the teacher, Tiffany Chen, is performing a mirror-image version of the words she is speaking. You might want to watch this one with the sound off!
This video is of Grandmaster William Chen leading a repetition of the first few moves. (mirror image again)
There are literally tons of tai chi videos available on YouTube; some are good, some not, and in most cases, I just don't have the experience to comment. I have had only two teachers so far, and practiced only one style: Grandmaster W.C.C. Chen's version of the Yang form. Have fun if you go exploring.