In the future, Cook Islanders will be dancing their way to better health if Troy Tararo-Ruhe has a say in it.
The Dunedin PhD student has developed an exercise programme that includes traditional Cook Island dance and resistance exercises which simulate the four phases of coconut cream preparation, Troy tells Jesse Mulligan.
In 2018, Troy ran a pilot programme in Dunedin, and the next year he ran it in Rarotonga.
Although he goes back to the Cook Islands every year, Troy says he was anxious about how he would be received bringing the dance.
"Once I got over myself and realised I was there to provide service for these people, it was both-ways, a positive reciprocal relationship."
Dance training can help people feel more comfortable in social settings, improve their quality of life and even their longevity, Troy says.
Early results from observational studies of the programme have been promising, with those who've completed the programme demonstrating decreased blood pressure and a decreased waist and hip circumference.
Strengthening exercises based on Cook Islanders' daily activities – such as the push and pull of the chest and back involved in husking a coconut – provide helpful context for the movements, Troy says.
"We can break down the barriers of what is seen as acceptable physical activity."