The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Active Family Legacy

Posted in

Friday, Nov 20, 2020

A Conversation with Stephanie Von Tempske Oakes

Stephanie Oakes, (Marketing Public Relations, Columbus RV division of Forest River) and Cooper supporter, recently stopped by The Cooper Institute to share her fitness journey and the impact of the research and education has had on her life and her family.

Stephanie Von Tempske Oakes shares a moment with her sons after a family workout.

What was your first experience with Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper in developing an interest in fitness?

Like so many college kids, I returned to Dallas after my freshmen year at Texas Christian University (TCU) looking for a summer job. My interest was physical fitness, so I became certified as an aerobics instructor at Cooper. I taught aerobics at Cooper Aerobics Center and a few places in Dallas. I also spent a lot time at the clinic learning about preventive medicine - in those early days of research. All interested were welcomed and encouraged to participate in seminars or classes on nutrition, anatomy, heart and lung strength, bone strength, even how exercise and fitness affects mood and brain health. The following summer, Dr. Cooper offered me an intern position. My professional career was formulating - I decided then that stories about athletes, fitness and health within my communications major would be fun and rewarding. Dr. Cooper was at the beginning of changing the perception of fitness throughout our country. These opportunities to hear and absorb individual stories helped me begin a 25-year career in Health and Fitness Broadcasting. 

I stared in the Dallas Fort Worth market, then onto Atlanta for several years and then to New York to work at NBC’s Today Show along with numerous related stations like the launch of the Discovery Health channel, two health related shows, the launch of The Food Network to name a few. I was blessed with two sons Luke in 2002 and Nick in 2003. I then wrote health and fitness books, hosted radio shows, podcasts and later settled into being the best parent I could be.

How do you and your family value the importance of exercise?

When my family and I moved back to Texas from the northeast, I immediately began working out with David Wiggins and Paul Nally at Coopers Aerobics Center. My sons Luke and Nick Graham enjoyed tennis, basketball, weights, and other activities available at Cooper. 

My goal for our children’s health has been to teach them that an active way of life is essential - beyond sports it’s a lifelong lifestyle. As a family we continue to stay active. Since COVID began we’ve put in a home gym. When Cooper reopened and outdoor classes began, we all shifted to enjoy daily cardio and strength workouts.

Did you grow up in an active family?

Yes, I did and that is such an important component to health. My mother Julie Oakes has always been active. She started teaching dance classes with Jackie Sorenson (a friend of Dr. Cooper’s from the Air Force) back in the 70’s. The message about health was also instilled in me by my father, Dr. Phil Oakes, who as a physician promoted health and healing throughout his many years in practice and certainly as a father to his 6 children. 

The Cooper Institute is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Having been so involved with Cooper, what do you see in the next 50 years?

If you had asked this a few years ago, I would have given a discouraging answer. The statistics of sedentary and overweight youth can be alarming. A generation of children becoming so involved in video games, on-line school work and social media, it seemed we’d taken a few steps backwards in keeping our children active. However, many school districts, parents and society in general are now astute and informed about handling all our devices. 

The Cooper Institute has always been a strong advocate for children’s health – through the development of FitnessGram (physical assessment testing) and through advocacy – consistent lobbying for quality physical education and health of the ‘whole child’. 

Any last thoughts?

Yes, especially to new parents - keep it all fun. Those first few years of competitive sports can be overwhelming. 

My sons, as young men, now spend time with friends and girlfriends in the gym, on the golf course and tennis courts. Competition is friendly. They’ll hit the slopes this winter. I’m hopeful, by spring, they’ll be hiking trails with me while seeing new sites from an RV.

“I am encouraged by new research and use of new technologies. I believe this will continue to enable our children to live better quality and perhaps longer lives — thus giving them the opportunity to experience their entire lives with mobility and good health.”

  Read: Cooper Quarterly Newsletter - Fall Edition 2020