From coining the term aerobics to the 12-minute fitness test and eliminating trans fat in PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay products, Cooper Aerobics Founder and Chairman Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, has been a pioneer in the health and wellness industry for more than 50 years. On March 4, Dr. Cooper celebrated his 92nd birthday. He is still leading the way in preventive medicine through lectures, writing and education. So, what does his day-to-day look like and how does he continue the fitness revolution he began more than 50 years ago? Dr. Cooper takes you through what he’s working on to continue his vision.
Starting the day in prayer
I begin every day with my morning prayer and devotional. I’ve been reading the book Insight: A Daily Devotional by The John Haggai Institute which leads you through a part of the scripture and then a testimonial from people all around the world. I follow this with my prayer list, praying for the Lord to work in other people’s lives like he’s worked in mine.
Starting every day the same, with discipline, is to what I attribute my success. The Bible says, “Whoever disregards discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored.” Proverbs 13:18
The most important thing you can do is stick to a routine and practice discipline. Your health is your responsibility. By establishing a routine that incorporates healthy lifestyle choices, you’re increasing your chances of living a longer life to its fullest.
Never stop learning and preaching the power of prevention
While I’ve taken a step back from seeing patients, as I did for over 60 years, my daily routine hasn’t changed much. After starting my day with prayer and breakfast, most weekdays I still drive into the office where I spend a majority of my time reading, learning and writing. I feel as though my calling at this stage in my life is not to work one-on-one with patients but expand the vision of prevention to the masses, outside of Cooper Aerobics.
By continuing to expand my knowledge of modern medicine—and health and fitness as a whole—I am able to pass that knowledge along to the physicians here at Cooper Clinic. I like to stay up to date on the newest science and research and I encourage my physicians to do the same. To help educate the general public, I write articles for various publications, including Decision Magazine. Throughout my 60-plus-year career I’ve been able to share the knowledge I’ve acquired with the world, and I want to continue to do that for the rest of my life.
When I’m not reading or writing articles, I lecture and present to various groups across the DFW Metroplex and the world. I’ve presented on a variety of topics ranging from squaring off the curve—living a long, active life before passing away suddenly, a few days or weeks after onset of symptoms—to active aging. I also attend conferences and earn continued medical education credits (CMEs). In fact, last fall I attended the American College of Lifestyle Medicine 2022 Conference where I was a keynote speaker, accepted a Lifetime Achievement Award and also earned 21 hours of CME credits.
At this stage in my life and career, I’m working on the unique opportunity to share my life’s mission about the power of prevention through a documentary series as well as my autobiography. With both of these projects currently in production, my goal is to inspire the general public and physicians alike to make healthy lifestyle choices. Specifically, I want to help continue the education of physicians about the essential role preventive medicine plays in patient care and the health of our world. The growing health care crisis—with millions of dollars being spent annually to treat obesity and chronic disease—can be reversed with exercise, a well-balanced diet and stress management. Physicians have the opportunity to lead the change in their communities, focusing more on disease prevention to help their patients live longer, healthier, more productive lives.
Ending the day with exercise
I end my day practicing what I preach—exercising! Running used to be my main form of exercise. In fact, I’ve logged almost 40,000 miles over the course of my running career including the Boston Marathon twice, in 1962 and 1963. In 2004, I had to stop running due to breaking my leg snow skiing which required two surgeries. I’ve had to find other ways to stay active so now, I cycle on the recumbent bike for about 30 minutes at the end of the day followed by 10 minutes of circuit weight training. After my workout, I go home for dinner with my wife and then I walk our two dogs for 15 to 30 minutes. This keeps my body active and healthy at the age of 92.
Aging can cause depression or thoughts of worry and sadness for the future. I’m sometimes asked what I do to stay positive and I always say staying active and having a strong, vibrant faith are the best things you can do. Knowing my journey is not over and the Lord is not through with me yet keeps me motivated. It is because of divine intervention I’m standing here today, continuing my life’s work. Being spiritually fit and physically fit are the key to the true joy of living. Join us as we celebrate Dr. Cooper’s birthday throughout the month of March by donating to The Cooper Institute 501(c)(3). Your support carries on and helps fulfill Dr. Cooper’s vision of life-changing research and education, including adult and youth programming. Donate in Dr. Cooper’s honor today. Visit cooperinstitute.org to learn more.