The exercise every over-60 should be doing
New Zealander Tracy Adshead is a yoga teacher specialising in yoga for seniors. She is passionate about bringing healing and healthy ageing to the community.
If you are from New Zealand or have spent any time there you may be familiar with Maori poi dance. Kate Riegle van West, a PhD student from the USA, has been studying international poi and its cognitive effects on the over 60s at the University of Auckland.
Kate explained that her background in circus and dance had included using poi in performances, over time she began to notice that using poi always left her feeling good. Her curiosity was sparked – what was it about poi that created positive feelings?
To find out Kate decided to pack her bags and head off to New Zealand where poi is widely used, today her study has become a world’s first to systematically evaluate the potential health benefits of poi for older adults.
Tell us, what exactly do you mean by poi?
"Poi is a weight on the end of a cord which you spin in circular patterns around your body. It is generally a form of dance and play. There are two distinct poi styles: Maori poi and International poi.”
Why do you think poi will have an effect on ageing?
“Our ageing population is set to increase by 2.5 times by 2050. This is a reversal of the demographics in 1950 and a phenomenon which will not be reversed in the foreseeable future. I believe poi has the potential to improve physical and cognitive functions in older adults.”
“I would love to see poi in hospitals, retirement villages and nursing homes worldwide. Anyone can practice poi, from able bodied to those in wheelchairs. This research shows that poi maybe a promising tool for maintaining or improving quality of life in old age and will hopefully pave the way for future research.”
The randomised study tested 79 older adults age 60 and over, practicing poi twice a week over a one-month period. At the end of the month, participants were reassessed for balance, grip strength, memory and attention – everyone had made improvements, everyone reported better coordination and said they enjoyed the challenge of learning a new skill.
As Kate explains, “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.”
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Image credit: James Hirata/SpinPoi.