The Cooper Institute

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


Luncheon pays tribute to fitness pioneer Kenneth Cooper

12:00 AM CDT on Sunday, April 18, 2010 

Dr. Kenneth Cooper, whose name is synonymous worldwide with wellness and physical fitness programs, will be honored at a luncheon April 29 celebrating the 40th anniversary of his nonprofit Cooper Institute.

Tom Brokaw will be the keynote speaker at the "Celebrating Generations of Wellness" luncheon at the Hilton Anatole.

With the publication of his first book, Aerobics, in 1968, Cooper invented a word and a fitness movement that revolutionized the world. As he pioneered the practice of preventive medicine, Cooper became the voice of healthy living.

Still going strong at 79, he has authored 19 books, lectured in more than 50 countries and maintained his medical practice. Cooper still exercises daily at Cooper Aerobics Center.

"Long before wellness became part of the health care debate, Ken Cooper was promoting fitness and personal responsibility, a message that has an enduring urgency for all ages," said Brokaw, now a special correspondent for NBC News.

The Cooper Institute is dedicated to preventive medicine research and education.

Shoebox start

It started as a shoebox with index cards of meticulously recorded health data 40 years ago and has grown to the world's largest repository of health-related data. The Cooper Center Longitudinal Study includes more than 250,000 records from almost 100,000 individuals.

Using this mass of data, the Cooper Institute debunked previously held myths that exercise was potentially deadly, that gyms were only for boxers and bodybuilders, and that it wasn't ladylike for women to sweat.

The Cooper Institute's research has defined many of the health-related standards that are considered the norm today, including the groundbreaking 1989 study that revealed that moderate physical activity can reduce the risk of death.

Some of the studies proved that:

• It only requires 30 minutes of brisk walking five days a week to become moderately fit.

• Moderate physical activity can decrease risks of death from all causes by 58 percent and increase lifespan by six years.

• The biggest health gains come when a person goes from a sedentary lifestyle to a moderately active lifestyle.

• It is better to be fat and fit than skinny and sedentary.

• Doses of physical activity are as good as prescription drugs for mild to moderate depression.

• Physically fit students do better academically.

Follow-up studies

"From studies on fitness-related health to reversing childhood obesity to training health educators, the Cooper Institute is poised to lead the next 40 years of health and wellness," said Ray Hunt, luncheon co-chair and board member.

The Cooper Institute is examining patients who had a Cooper Clinic physical exam during their 40s between the years 1971 and 1983. Half were highly fit, according to a treadmill stress test, and half fell into a low-fit category.

Today these patients, with an average age of 78, are returning to the institute for follow-up. Early findings suggest that patients who were fit at midlife have a higher likelihood of aging well. People in the group that was unfit in their 40s have more heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and a quality of life that is much less desirable.

The institute is now collecting the Medicare records to study the financial impact of good vs. poor physical condition from midlife through old age.

The Cooper Institute has also taken a multifaceted approach to tackling the childhood obesity epidemic. Its FitnessGram sends health report cards home to all Texas schoolchildren and kids in more than 85,000 schools across the nation.

Guidelines for teachers suggest creative ways to get children moving, even in districts with limited resources.

Recently, the institute joined the NFL Charities' Play 60 initiative, which will evaluate the fitness level of students in an additional 1,200 schools nationwide that will be adopted by NFL teams.

With more than 25 years of education and training, the Cooper Institute's "train the trainer" programs have touched more than 10 million people, and its education and certification courses are provided to health, fitness, business, science, school, public safety and military leaders each year.

"This luncheon has the power to serve as a catalyst for every person that attends," said Carol Seay, development advisory board member and luncheon co-chair.

"The research and programs that the Cooper Institute spearhead are impacting North Texas and far beyond for not only my generation, but for future generations as well."

Tickets to the luncheon start at $175. Visit or call Mary Westfall at 214-969-0090.