Practising poi has benefits on physical and cognitive function in healthy older adults, an Auckland University study has concluded.
It found that, after just one month of lessons, participants improved their balance, grip strength, memory and attention.
The clinical trial is described as the first systematic evaluation of the potential health benefits of poi.
Doctoral student Kate Riegle van West - who has a background as a circus performer, musician and digital artist, and has practised poi for more than a decade - moved from the United States two years ago to conduct the research.
It involved a randomised controlled trial with 79 healthy adults over 60, who had two lessons a week for a month either in poi or in tai chi (the control group).
Both groups showed statistically significant improvements in balance, grip strength, memory and attention.
Poi participants also reported improved coordination and flexibility, as well as enjoyment in the challenge of a new skill.
"Poi improved right alongside tai chi, meaning poi is as good as an activity which is considered a gold standard of exercise for older adults," the study said.
"This is particularly exciting for thinking about poi as a tool for maintaining or improving quality of life in old age."