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Poi study points to health benefits for over 60s

Poi study points to health benefits for over 60s

A clinical trial conducted between the Centre for Brain Research and the Dance Studies Programme at the University of Auckland has established the benefits of poi on physical and cognitive function in healthy older adults.

The study led by doctoral student Kate Riegle van West, found after just one month of poi lessons, participants improved their balance, grip strength, memory and attention.

This study is the first to systematically evaluate the potential health benefits of poi, and an important stepping stone for future research on one of New Zealand's own taonga.

The randomised controlled trial was undertaken with 79 healthy adults aged 60 or older. They were assigned to either the Poi group or a Tai Chi group, and took part in two lessons a week for one month.

Their physical and cognitive function were measured before and after the one month intervention. Baseline measures were also made one month prior to the intervention period, and follow-up measures were made one month after.

Participants in both the Poi and Tai Chi group showed statistically significant improvements in balance, grip strength, memory and attention. Poi participants also reported improved coordination, flexibility, having fun, and enjoying the challenge of learning a new skill.

Riegle van West says: “This research shows that poi may be a promising tool for maintaining or improving quality of life in old age, and will hopefully pave the way for future research on poi and health.”

Riegle van West, who moved to New Zealand from the US two years ago to conduct this research, has a background as a circus performer, musician, and digital artist. She has been practicing poi for over a decade, and was frustrated by the lack of scientific evidence substantiating what many people who do poi already know… that playing poi feels good.

She is currently looking for opportunities to conduct further research on poi and health.

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