PhD student develops Cook Island dance and resistance exercise programme

By Jessica Tyson

Troy Tararo-ruhe of Ngāti Tūwharetoa and Ngāpuhi has developed Niu Movement, a programme incorporating Cook Islands dance and resistance exercise.

The programme will inform the 26-year-old's PhD medical research project on how effective circuit-based exercise could be for Pacific Island communities.

“My hope for the programme is for people in different communities to take bits of it that they really, really enjoyed and implement it with people in their communities,” Tararo-ruhe says.

As part of Niu Movement, the University of Otago student ran weekly sessions in his local community, and then implemented the programme back home in the Cook Islands.

“We had people as young as toddlers at two and our eldest participant was 80 plus, so everyone in that same condensed space was helping each other out - that’s what communities are all about.”

Niu Movement / Source - Troy Tararo-ruhe

Tararo-ruhe studied sports and exercise science before working on his PhD, which is focused on culturally sensitive and culturally appropriate methods of movement.

“If you’re doing something you enjoy doing with people you love in environments that mean something to you, I think you’re going to always have a good result.”

Tararo-ruhe has also started working with the Ministry of Health in the Cook Islands, where his mother lives.

“What I’ve been doing is working with the health promotion unit and trying to bridge the gap between policy and community and the National Sustainable Development Plan," Tararo-ruhe says.

“Some of the values in that are healthier families and food sustainability as well as connecting back to cultural values. So what I’ve been doing is trying to figure out how we can implement physical activity into all of that.”

Niu Movement / Source - Troy Tararo-ruhe

The programme has already proved a hit with communities in Aotearoa and the Cook Islands.

“It doesn’t necessarily have to look like the programme that we are doing now. If you’re coastal and you’re into water sports it’s the movement that we can do to make you better at diving, fishing, all those different things and just make it a bit more acceptable and accessible to you in your area.”

Tararo-ruhe says he plans to present his findings from Niu Movement at upcoming conferences.

Niu Movement / Source - Troy Tararo-ruhe