25 Jul 2016

Poi for your health

From Nine To Noon, 9:29 am on 25 July 2016

An American student at the University of Auckland is researching how practising poi may benefit older people's health.

PHD student Kate Riegle-Van West is mid-way through trialling the cognitive and physical affects poi use has on healthy adults over 60 years old.

Ms Riegle-Van West, who comes from a background in circus and dance, told Nine to Noon poi is used all over the world and can vary greatly from Māori poi practice.

"International poi is quite similar to Māori long poi but it doesn't have the same cultural implications - Māori poi is unique".  

She said the art form could eventually be used for rehabilitation and well-being because it challenges mobility, balance, grip, strength, heart rate and cognitive flexibility.

Part of her study compares the the benefit of poi with those of Tai Chi.

 Ms Ms Riegle-Van West said in her personal experience she attributed feeling good to using poi, but she needed to have the evidence to back it up.

"I thought, OK, this feels good, I'm teaching lots of people to do it and wouldn't it be great if I could bring it to places like hospitals and nursing homes."

"But there was a real roadblock there because stories and feelings are great but it's not always what places like hospitals and nursing homes want to hear."

"They want some data and so I thought that's what I'll do, I'll go get that data."

Ms Riegle-Van West says she has seen some positive trends in participant's co-ordination despite being only halfway through the study.

She hopes to broaden out her research to larger randomised controlled trial for adults affected by stroke and mild cognitive impairment.