Legendary “Father of Aerobics” Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper Turned 90

Blog Post

The Cooper Institute
The Cooper Team
Healthy Aging
May 12, 2021

Fitness pioneer and “father of aerobics” Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, celebrated his 90th birthday on Thursday, March 4. In honor of Dr. Cooper, who has inspired millions to exercise for good health, we challenged America and the world to commit to living healthier.

“Dr. Cooper has dedicated his career to investigating the links between cardiorespiratory fitness and improving the quality and quantity of people’s lives,” said Laura DeFina, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Cooper Institute. “It is with great admiration and enthusiasm, we celebrate our founder and colleague Dr. Cooper’s 90th birthday.”

At age 90 and having logged more than 80,000 miles exercising daily, primarily running and now walking and cycling, Dr. Cooper sets the example for maintaining a healthy lifestyle by exercising at Cooper Aerobics Center regularly, along with his wife, Millie, daughter, Berkley, son, Tyler and their families.

World’s Largest Repository of Data

Dr. Cooper has long advocated moving the field of medicine away from disease management to disease prevention.

In 1970, Dr. Cooper founded The Cooper Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting life-long health and wellness through worldwide research, education and advocacy.

The Cooper Institute provides the science behind the philosophy that exercise is medicine. The Cooper Institute is dedicated to demonstrating the positive effects health and fitness have on one’s quality of life.

Physical Fitness for Youth

Dr. Cooper is passionate about fighting childhood obesity both locally and globally. In Texas, Dr. Cooper was and continues to champion physical education in schools through the passage of Senate Bill 530 requiring enhanced PE activity levels and annual physical fitness testing using FitnessGram®. Since then, The Cooper Institute has partnered with NFL Foundation PLAY 60 initiative to bring FitnessGram to more than two million students in more than 8,000 schools nationwide.

International Reach

March 2020 marked the 52nd anniversary of Dr. Cooper’s bestseller, Aerobics. With the launch of his book in 1968, he created a new noun, aerobics, by adding an “s” to the existing word aerobic. In 1986, Dr. Cooper’s official definition of aerobics was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

Dr. Cooper’s mark has also positively impacted the American diet. His collaboration with PepsiCo and eliminating trans fats from its Frito-Lay snack line started an international wave other companies have followed.

For three years, the back of Baked Lay’s packages included this quote from Dr. Cooper, “Fitness is a journey, not a destination. It must be continued for the rest of your life.”

Military Service

During Dr. Cooper’s 13 years of service in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, Dr. Cooper served as a flight surgeon and director of the Aerospace Medical Laboratory in San Antonio. He dreamed of becoming an astronaut and worked with the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) to help create the conditioning program preparing America’s astronauts for space and in-flight anti-deconditioning program used to keep astronauts active on board spacecraft. He also developed the 12-minute and 1.5-mile fitness tests and the Aerobics Point System, used today by military organizations, amateur and professional athletic teams, law enforcement agencies and public schools and universities worldwide.

In 1970, Dr. Cooper resigned from the military to explore the relationship between cardiovascular fitness and health and longevity. He founded The Cooper Institute and Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas where he serves as Chairman of six health and wellness companies—all working together to help people live longer more productive lives.


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