Next month, we honor 90 years of life of our founder and the “Father of Aerobics,” Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, along with the 50th anniversary of The Cooper Institute at our 2021 Legacy Celebration. This special event allows us to reflect on the accomplishments of the past and looks ahead to future initiatives as we continue to improve the quality and quantity of live through The Cooper Institute’s valuable research. Learn more about Cooper’s story and ways you can contribute to the future of fitness.

From a shoe box to a world-renowned study

Dr. Cooper has devoted his life to improving the health and well-being of the Dallas community and the world. He founded The Cooper Institute in June 1970, six months prior to opening Cooper Clinic. In the early days of his practice, he collected consented patient data in a shoe box with the goal of preventing disease before it starts. This was just the beginning of the public-private partnership between Cooper Clinic and The Cooper Institute—“His brilliant model has allowed us to collaboratively prove that exercise is essential to good health,” says Laura DeFina, MD, President and CEO of The Cooper Institute.

That “shoe box” has evolved into what is now the largest study in the world of measured fitness referred to as the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study (CCLS). Containing more than 2.2 million person-years of observation from more than 116,000 patients, this world-renowned collection of data is unique in nature due to its focus on healthy habits to inform and direct preventive medical care.

Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper conducting treadmill stress test on Roger Staubach in 1980s.

DeFina notes that “the difference between our CCLS and other studies is that we focus on people who are well whereas most studies are focused on people who are ill.” By studying healthy individuals and their lifestyles, The Cooper Institute has established the links between being fit and the prevention of chronic disease. Dr. Cooper firmly believes no drug can replicate the benefits of an active lifestyle and routinely shares research from leading health organizations proving more than 76% of chronic disease and 45% of cancers to be preventable.

The preventive power of fitness

The Cooper Institute’s research has shown that fitness has a profound impact on your wellness and length of your life.  Throughout our 50 years, The Cooper Institute has proven higher fitness levels to be associated with:

  • 58% decreased risk of dying from all-causes
  • Lower cardiovascular disease
  • Significantly lower risk of dementia later in life
  • Decreased risk of certain cancers

The continued emphasis on fitness as a means of reducing mortality risk has also been instrumental in Dr. Cooper establishing FitnessGram®—the most widely used health-related youth fitness assessment tool in the world. In 2007, Dr. Coper brought physical education back into Texas schools and initiated fitness assessments to improve our children’s health through the passing of Texas Senate Bill 350. Data drives decisions and shows healthy children become fit adults. “It’s easier to raise a healthy child, than to heal a sick adult,” says Dr. Cooper. By equipping children with the tools necessary to make healthy choices they will benefit from well into their adulthood, we are ultimately able to decrease the cost of health care.

Dr. Cooper believes “It is more beneficial and cost effective to prevent disease than it is to find a cure.” Obesity is a major contributor to increasing the cost of health care in the United States. Preventable, obesity-related chronic diseases cause 7 in 10 deaths and account for 75% of the $3.6 trillion spent annually on medical care. With obesity rates at an all-time high, especially in adolescents, The Cooper Institute’s ongoing research is crucial now more than ever.

Contribute to the legacy

Help us continue to fulfill Dr. Cooper’s vision of life-changing research and education by ensuring the legacy of The Cooper Institute. All donations go directly toward research and programming. Your support aids in improving the quality and quantity of life in astounding ways—one healthy choice at a time.

To learn more, about our Legacy Celebration, visit