Starting Strong, Finishing Strong: Sticking with Simple, Easy-to-Implement Steps, You Will Greatly Increase Your Chances of Maintaining Superior Physical and Mental Function throughout Life: An Interview with Drs. Kenneth & Tyler Cooper

By Perry, Patrick | The Saturday Evening Post, March-April 2008 | Go to article overview

Starting Strong, Finishing Strong: Sticking with Simple, Easy-to-Implement Steps, You Will Greatly Increase Your Chances of Maintaining Superior Physical and Mental Function throughout Life: An Interview with Drs. Kenneth & Tyler Cooper


Perry, Patrick, The Saturday Evening Post


Dr. Ken Cooper is a man on a mission. The internationally recognized "father of aerobics" has logged in some 38,000 running miles, authored numerous "runaway" bestsellers, conducted rigorous research studies, and, perhaps most important, inspired millions to exercise.

And at 76, Cooper just keeps on going. One of the fastest-talking and hardest-working leaders in the field of prevention, the good doctor harbors no plans on slowing down. In fact, he's opening a new chapter, collaborating with his son, Dr. Tyler Cooper, on Cooper Life, a health and wellness residential community, and promoting his latest book, Start Strong, Finish Strong, that the dynamic father-son doctor duo recently authored.

During 13 years of service in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, Dr. Ken Cooper served as a flight surgeon and director of the Aerospace Medical Laboratory in San Antonio. With aspirations of becoming an astronaut, the young physician helped NASA create a conditioning program to prepare astronauts for space and in-flight exercise systems used on board spacecraft. Cooper also developed the 12-minute and 1.5-mile fitness tests and the Aerobics Point System--tests in use today by military organizations, athletic teams, law enforcement agencies, and schools all over the world.

"It is easier to maintain good health through proper exercise, diet, and emotional balance than it is to regain it once it is lost," stresses the cardiovascular expert, who in 1968 introduced the word "aerobics" into the wellness lexicon. "The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence demonstrates conclusively that abandoning a sedentary lifestyle and following a moderate exercise routine will greatly reduce your risk of dying from all causes--and enhances your chance of living a longer, more active life."

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The bedrock principle stems from personal experience.

While water-skiing at age 29, Cooper thought he was experiencing a heart attack. Fortunately, he was wrong. Unfortunately, he was out of shape. While in medical school, the former Oklahoma high-school track star hit the books instead of the running path and ballooned from a lean 164 pounds to 204. The event inspired him to strap on running shoes and hit the road. One year later, Dr. Cooper crossed the finish line of his first long-distance race--the Boston Marathon. Before publication of his bestseller Aerobics in 1968, only 100,000 people were jogging in America. That number is now more than 30 million strong.

Who could have guessed that the young Air Force physician would set the pace for a worldwide fitness revolution?

Four decades later, Cooper remains an outspoken advocate for shifting medicine away from primarily disease treatment to disease prevention through aerobic exercise and overall lifestyle modifications.

The Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas--made up of ten health companies and the nonprofit Cooper Institute--serves as home base for Cooper's tireless passion for fitness, where he sees patients daily and oversees extensive research into heart disease and risk factors affecting heart disease and fitness. With the help of son Tyler, Cooper recently expanded his vision by adding a second Cooper Aerobics Center at Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, where Cooper Life is breaking new ground.

Additionally, Dr. Cooper was instrumental in passing legislation in Texas to combat childhood obesity by restoring physical education in schools through the passage of a new law that requires enhanced PE activity levels and annual physical fitness testing.

Although he retired his jogging shoes, Dr. Ken Cooper is a testament to the benefits of lifelong fitness, remaining an avid skier and race-walker. The Post spoke with Drs. Ken and Tyler about future and ongoing ventures at the Cooper Aerobics centers.

Post: What is the essential message of Start Strong, Finish Strong?

KC: I have always said that my goal in life is to "square off the curve"--live a long, healthy life and then die suddenly like my mother and father did. …

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