This article originally appeared on D Magazine.
The Founder and Chairman of Cooper Aerobics reveals the toughest challenge he has overcome, who he'd like to play him in a biopic, and more.
When Dr. Kenneth Cooper was a young man, his father told him he was not OK with him going to medical school just to treat diseases or give shots. “He wanted me to change lives,” Cooper says. The 90-year-old has certainly lived up to his father’s hopes. Cooper coined the term “aerobics” in his landmark 1968 book on cardiovascular health and has been a transformative force in the fields of preventive medicine and wellness.
In 1970, Cooper founded Cooper Clinic in North Dallas. The organization provides comprehensive preventive exams, and has analyzed 100,000 people around the globe. It provides an in-depth picture of patients’ health as well as prognosis to how to improve. Breast health, cardiology, dermatology, 24/7 directive medicine, gastroenterology, imaging and nutrition services.
Education: Harvard University (MPH), The University ofOklahoma (MD, BS)
Birthplace: Oklahoma City
Toughest Challenges: “It was tough to initially gain acceptance into the medical community here in Dallas when I first began performing stress tests and practicing preventive medicine. Another challenge was giving up my 13-year military career to start a new career in medicine at the age of 40. Also, saving the Cooper Aerobics Center from bankruptcy in the late 1980s and early 1990s was an extreme challenge.”
Best Advice: “Set your goals, put blinders on, and don’t just be successful—be significant. If you’re not satisfied with what you’re doing, reevaluate yourself and make changes.”
Proud Moment: “We did a 45-year follow-up of more than 100,000 patients in 2021 and discovered they were living 10 years longer than the national average by following our guidelines.”
Destinations of Choice: “I enjoy Brazil and China and have been to both many times, mostly on business. I like to vacation in Europe, particularly Switzerland, Austria, and Rome, Italy.”
Lesson Learned: “Your health is your responsibility—not the government, not the insurance company, not your physician. What you do to maintain good health will help determine not only in how long you live but how well you live.”
Local Fare: “I enjoy the sea bass at III Forks Steakhouse.”
Fun Fact: “I was first chair clarinet in my high school band.”
Scary Moment: “In 2016, my son Tyler and I went to the island of South Georgia in Antarctica. We experienced 30-foot waves for three days in a rather small boat and couldn’t get out of our cabins. I was afraid the boat was going to break apart.”
Who’d Play Me in a Biopic: “I’d choose Tom Hanks. He’s a great actor, and he can play a multitude of roles. For example, the movie Apollo 13. I worked closely with that mission, and I knew Jim Lovell quite well. I also appreciated his run across America in Forrest Gump. Hanks has shown he has an athletic interest and military interest, which combines my interests, too. He once wrote and asked for a copy of my book. I sent him an autographed copy, but I never did hear back.”
This Q&A is extended content from Dallas 500, a special edition produced by D CEO that profiles the region’s most influential business leaders. Visit www.dallas500.com for details.