The ultimate elevator pitch

Research — By on October 12, 2016 4:32 pm

Dance Studies doctoral student, Kate Riegle van West, is conducting the first research study to measure the effects of International Poi on physical and cognitive function in healthy older adults. (International Poi is an overarching term which refers to poi practised outside of Māoridom.)

Kate is also this year’s winner of the doctoral category of the University’s Three-Minute-Thesis (3MT) competition, which set her the task of explaining what she was working on in just three minutes – with the help of a single static PowerPoint slide.

Explaining your research to others can be tough. In front of a judging panel and a live audience, it’s an even bigger challenge. However, Kate easily overcame the restrictions to beat five other finalists with her clear, concise account.

An ex-circus performer, Kate noticed that the physical action of twirling a poi seemed to be beneficial, so she decided to conduct a randomised controlled trial with healthy adults over 60 to measure the effects of poi on physical and cognitive function.

As she pointed out we are all getting older, with the population over 60 expected to double in 30 years. And we are not necessarily enjoying a good quality of life in our later years. So how can poi help? Participants in Kate’s study were randomly allocated to either the poi group or a comparison group and after only a month of training those in the poi group showed trends in improvement in their upper limb range of motion, grip strength and manual dexterity.

“Keeping these parts of the body fit can be the difference between independence and a nursing home,” she told her audience. ”This is because loss of flexibility in the upper limb can make it hard to get dressed or reach for objects; loss of dexterity and strength in your hand makes it hard to carry bags or hold on to a railing, which in turn can leave you more prone to a serious fall.”

Kate outlined how poi has a cognitive dimension, with the participants reporting improved focus, concentration and a clearer mind after poi practice. She also revealed that not only does poi training engage both the body and mind, it’s also inexpensive and fun.

Kate is now heading off for Australia to take part in the Asia-Pacific 3MT Competition, as well as the Universitas 21 3MT Virtual Competition.

She is still looking for participants to take part in the next round of her poi research study. If you would like to find out more or participate visit

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