News and Events

The Wonders of Exercise: Oncology Patient Initiates Weekly Online Qigong Group to Benefit Other Cancer Patients

Publication Date: 3/24/2022 1:30 AM

Qigong is a series of exercises based on an ancient Chinese text that attributes medicinal properties to motility. Those who practice this unique craft believe that it brings balance and serenity at all levels.

Professor Moshe Frenkel with Ojas Waldman on the screen giving a Zoom qigong class. Photography: Rambam HCC.Professor Moshe Frenkel with Ojas Waldman on the screen giving a Zoom qigong class. Photography: Rambam HCC.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of many patients, a single cancer patient being treated in Joseph Fishman Oncology Center at Rambam Health Care Campus has bettered the lives of many patients like him. This has led to their meeting once a week online for a special activity – Qigong exercises they can practice at home!

The name “qigong”, comes from the word Qi, meaning life energy, which is acquired through gong, training and practice in order to help improve agility. According to those who believe in ancient Chinese health theory, qi flows through the body using channels called meridians, which transport the qi to the internal organs. If the flow of qi is blocked, the amount of energy that reaches the organ will decrease and the organ will gradually stop functioning properly, negatively impacting the balance of the entire system. In such a case, according to the qigong guides, the individual will feel fatigue, weakness, and pain. It is believed that qigong training opens these meridians and restores the balanced, positive flow of energy.

A patient in Rambam’s Oncology Center who practiced qigong saw that it made him feel better and wanted to try and involve the patients around him so that they could reap these benefits as well. Working with Professor Moshe Frenkel, Director of Complementary Medicine in Joseph Fishman Oncology Center, they recruited Ojas Waldman, an experienced guide who specializes in the art of qigong and tai chi. On a weekly basis, dozens of patients join together online to practice qigong for an hour, from the comfort of their own homes.

Svetlana Nemtsov, the nurse coordinator for OncoYoung, the Center’s clinic for young oncology patients ages 18-45, says, “The idea of practicing qigong online was developed following conversations with our patients, who are very connected to the digital age. Qigong practice emphasizes a complete awareness of movement and breathing while performing exercises slowly, gently, and almost effortlessly – something that is totally suitable for an older population. As such, practicing qigong remotely presents a connection that is both natural and intergenerational, and is reflected in the wide range of patients who choose to connect to this online service every week.”

Professor Frenkel shares, "The training is suitable for every person and fitness level. Its advantage is that no prior knowledge is needed and you can join the activity at any stage. The feedback we have received from our patients is positive. Many of them report improvements in their ability to focus and concentrate. At the same time, when we seek to examine measures such as posture and coordination, we also see an immeasurable improvement. The combination of gentle activity and acquired serenity allows stress to be released from the body and helps patients cope with their illness more easily.”