FOR members of the Kranji 19 qigong group, the 4,000- year-old meditative exercise has led to improvements in health, faster healing, inner peace and longevity.
The group, formed by residents of SS19 Subang Jaya, comprises mainly Chinese women in their 60s.
They meet every Saturday to master the ancient exercise, which involves coordinating slow movements with breathing to cultivate the flow of energy or qi.
Clara Goh, a 61-year-old breast cancer survivor, credits qi-gong with helping her to heal faster.
"It has made such a big difference in my life.
"I am so much healthier and more energetic now.
"I used to suffer from digestive problems and constipation which disappeared when I started practising qigong."
According to Mary Heng, 62, the "block breathing" technique of qigong stimulated the vital organs by increasing the flow of oxygen, which in turn strengthened the immune system.
"The exercise works best on the digestive system, heart, lungs, spleen, livers and kidneys.
"The concentration needed for the breathing exercise helps one to relax and clear the mind."
Heng said there were about 2,000 qigong practitioners nationwide, who also practised closely-related exercises such as tai chi.
Asked about the differences between tai chi and qigong, Anne Chong, 59, said tai chi was more beneficial for older people as it emphasised more on memory and balance.
"Tai chi involves a sequence of movements which has to be memorised.
"It helps to keep one's brain active.
"It also helps with a person's balance which is important when one is getting older and more prone to falls and accidents."
Responding to the results of the national census which found that Chinese women in Malaysia lived the longest with an average life expectancy of 79.8 years, the women said meditative exercises, such as qigong and tai chi alone, were not enough.
Regular exercise, they said, should be supported by a healthy diet and lifestyle; a good dose of positive thinking and a strong network of friends.
"One of the indirect benefits of qigong is being able to make new friends with whom you will meet regularly and talk about your problems," Heng said.
"Perhaps one of the reasons why Chinese women outlive Chinese men is because the men tend to bottle up their emotions rather than discuss them openly," Goh said.
The women also stressed on the importance of discipline and maintaining a healthy diet.
Chong said drinking Chinese tea, a staple among the older Chinese, was crucial to longevity.
"Tea is high on anti-oxidants, which could lead to many health benefits," she said, citing her grandmother who lived to the ripe old age of 90.