MLC: Extend Your Functional Years

September 10, 2019 Leave a comment

Out of the diagnosis of an incurable, debilitating disease a program has blossomed that brings participants joy, provides them support and gets their bodies and minds moving. Move.Laugh.Connect. (MLC), originally designed for adults with movement disorders, is proving beneficial to anyone who wants to improve their brain health.

“MLC began with my husband, Charles, being diagnosed with Parkinson’s,” MLC co-founder Susan Sterling, PhD, explains. “We started looking at things that would improve health and happiness and three disciplines immediately emerged in the scientific literature—exercise, laughter and positive outlook on life and social connectedness.”

Through the unique approach of combining physical, emotional and social dimensions, MLC aims to extend the functional years of its participants and provide the tools necessary to fight mental deterioration.


What’s good for the heart is good for the brain. Movement is one of the primary components of MLC. The classes teach participants how to improve fundamental movement skills while simultaneously challenging and improving their brain health through activities and games. The exercise portion incorporates:

  • Functional movements such as sit to stand
  • Gait training
  • Muscular endurance
  • Flexibility
  • Balance and coordination

“Exercise is a spark that ignites the brain,” Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, Founder and Chairman of Cooper Aerobics, states. “It increases the blood flow the brain and supplies more oxygen to the brain, producing neurons in areas of the brain that control memory and creativity.”

Partner work and small group games also enhance concentration, reaction time, coordination and cognitive skills. Each class ends with a dancing segment, which is proven to enhance one’s mental health through memory recall, rhythm and most importantly, fun!


Just as important as the exercise, laughter and humor is built into MLC. Jokes, funny stories and fun and expressive attire are all welcomed and encouraged.

Research has shown many positive links between laughter and health.

  • Improves mood
  • Lowers stress
  • Relieves pain
  • Improves blood flow
  • Improves memory


Being connected is very important to health, well-being and personal happiness. People who are not socially connected are more vulnerable to anxiety, depression, antisocial behavior and suicidal behavior. Yet those who feel more connected have higher self-esteem and greater empathy for others and are more trusting and cooperative.

“We know engaging yourself in a social environment—meeting people, making new friends—is great for the brain,” comments Carla Sottovia, PhD, MLC Director and Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer.


MLC focuses on developing social bonds and a support system. The classes include walk and talk activities for participants to get to know each other on a more personal level. Social events and a new member buddy system are also avenues to help participants develop friendships within the class.

Most MLC participants may not necessarily have movement disorders but are simply limited enough to where other classes may be too difficult. All participants enjoy the brain fitness activities and social aspect. “While similar programs at other health and fitness clubs focus on recovery from strokes and brain injuries, MLC is geared toward prevention.” says Sottovia.

Moving Up and Out

“We are in the final stages of editing the materials and classes that were videotaped for the instructors’ training program, available online this fall,” Sottovia discloses. To become certified to teach MLC, one must hold either a group exercise or personal training certification before completing the 8+ hour training course with live lectures, class specific reading material and is concluded with a final exam in order to lead an MLC class at their fitness facility.

Participants experience a variety of exercises to preserve functionality, embrace humor and actively engage with fellow classmates in a safe, relaxing environment. Founded by Dr. Charles and Susan Sterling, MLC classes are available in Louisiana, Florida and Texas including at Cooper Fitness Center (CFC) and the YMCA in Dallas. Without a doubt, this program is all about extending your functional years.

Categories: Cooper Updates

Cooper Wellness Strategies: Empowering Life Change

Have you ever just felt like you are stuck in your own body and you just give up hope? You give up trying and you feel defeated? That was me. I basically came to accept that I was going to be extremely large my entire life and die from a heart attack. It sounds horrible, but that’s how I honestly felt. I lived each day fearing it would be my last. I can remember being 20 years old at work and I thought I was having a heart attack. I was rushed to the hospital, had an EKG and stress test done, but everything came back okay. I recall thinking, “I’m too young for this.” I knew that I was playing with fire and that my time would come.

With my wife being an ER nurse, she knew I couldn’t continue to live this way. We had a sit-down conversation and she begged me to make a change because I wouldn’t be around to see my grandchildren. Although I could see the fear in her eyes and the tears rolling down her face, I still didn’t change my ways. I didn’t know how to start. I felt that I didn’t have a support group; I didn’t have the information on how to change my lifestyle, and I didn’t know the correct way to eat or workout. I just kept living the only way I knew how – which I now understand was killing me.

My whole life in relation to my weight has been nothing short of a roller coaster. From my sophomore year in high school until June 2019, I was always known as the “big guy,” “tiny” or numerous other names that you can probably think of. Eating and hanging out at buffets were places my friends and I would go for fun. I can remember weighing around 170 pounds my freshman year in high school. From there it got out of control and I developed a bad relationship with food. My sophomore year I started varsity football and grew to 300 pounds. By this time, I had already had one knee surgery and went on to have another my senior year.

Post-graduation, I stopped playing football, but I never changed my eating habits. I went from 315-ish up to 355 pounds in a year. It all didn’t happen at once but every time I looked at the scale, it was always increasing by 3-5 pounds. This basically continued after many failed attempts to keep the weight off. At this point in my life I had tried weight loss pills, fad diets and various routines, but none of them were sustainable. Each resulted in gaining all the weight I had lost back and then some. I guess I needed a wakeup call, which ultimately came in 2018.

The second-best day of my life was when my son was born, which was in January 2018. Holding him in my arms for the first time changed my world. From that moment, I knew I had to make a lifestyle change to ensure that I would be around for him as long as possible. I literally became desperate to become healthy. Around the beginning of June 2018, I weighed 403 pounds, which was the largest I have ever been. June 18, 2018, was the day I decided to take control of my life for good. I began reading articles, watching documentaries, listening to podcasts and reducing my caloric intake. I didn’t know what to do, but I figured if I just ate less, then I would lose some weight. Little did I know that just two weeks in the future (July 2018), my life would change more than I ever expected.

I work for an amazing company, LWCC, that decided to renovate our gym at work and bring in a fantastic company to run it for us, Cooper Wellness Strategies. At first, I was extremely shy. I didn’t want to join any of the group classes that were offered because I was embarrassed of what I had become physically. I went to the gym for about a week or two by myself and really struggled, but it was my starting point and I cherished every minute of it. I then joined our 1 p.m. class and I attended it Monday through Friday until December 2018. I lost roughly 40 pounds during that time. I started feeling better, I made friends with co-workers that I didn’t know before and I started to see results which only motivated me more.

During this time I overcame a huge obstacle that I didn’t want to accept. One thing people don’t really discuss is what we go through mentally. Not only was I scared for my life, but I was no longer able to be around friends and people who were physically active because I couldn’t keep up with them anymore. I was depressed. I basically became a recluse. Since then, I have continued to work the hardest I have ever worked at anything in my life and I have found the love again to be surrounded by people.

I have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours in the gym working out with my two trainers Landon Chastant and Jeff Barbera, whom both work for Cooper Wellness Strategies. They have taught me how to look at food in a different way. I have learned to view food as a fuel source, and not just as something to eat. I have learned to read nutrition labels, understand what ingredients I am putting in my body and the significance of serving sizes. In a years’ time, June 2018 – June 2019, I have lost 101 pounds. My entire life has changed. I have fallen in love with being healthy and living a healthy lifestyle. I am no longer taking blood pressure medicine, I am no longer pre-diabetic and I feel amazing. I’m stronger than I have ever been in my life, even more so than when I was playing football. I’ve lost 13-14 inches off of my waist, 3-4 inches off my neck and just about two shirt sizes (4x to 2x). I am now able to play full court basketball again and I’ve even starting power lifting.

Being active, eating healthy and living a healthy life style, has given me another chance at life. I can play with my son, chase him around the yard and actually wear him out instead of myself. I can now hold a conversation without being short of breath. I have been informed that I am an inspiration to numerous people. I’ve had countless people, both friends and strangers, ask me for nutrition advice (something I’m not used to). I no longer live with the daily fear of having a heart attack. I understand this is something that I have to continue, as going back to my old ways is not an option.

Without LWCC taking time to truly care about all of their employees and without Cooper Wellness Strategies coming in to work with us on a daily basis, I can without a doubt say I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for both companies. They have saved my life and I am truly grateful. I look forward to continuing to work on and travel down my weight loss journey. I still have 50 or so pounds to lose, but I’m no longer focusing on the scale. I look forward to continuing to make new friends and developing the friendships/relationships that have been made. One thing I would like to focus on is helping others. I would like to be the motivating factor, support group or personal coach to help others, just the same way I was helped. It not only feels great to help others, but it also motivates me to continue to strive to my goal.

We all need help in some way. It may not be now, it might be later, but we all have our strengths and weaknesses. I know that if I can make the change and lose this weight, that anyone can do it. I am continuing to make slight changes to my diet to see what works best for me personally. My long-term goal is to reach 250 pounds. I know it will take some time but I am motivated now more than ever to continue to work. One thing that has been told to me on numerous occasions is to “REMEMBER WHY YOU STARTED.” My son being born is my reason, and it continues to drive me to become a better version of myself each day. I am very blessed and thankful that LWCC and Cooper Wellness Strategies made this possible and gave me a second chance at life. I will be forever grateful.

Buck Johnson, LWCC
Cooper Wellness Strategies client


Categories: Cooper Updates

Two Convergent Paths More Than 65+ Years Apart

#OUDNA is the championship mindset every athlete, coach, professor, student and alumni at the University of Oklahoma embodies. OUDNA connects every Oklahoma Sooner, both current and past, with a mindset and thirst for success. Kenneth H. Cooper, MD, MPH, and I share this OUDNA making my Cooper Aerobics experience this summer more than an internship, but rather a rare opportunity to learn from him and his success.

Dr. Cooper and Afton


Shared Alma Mater 

The week I began my summer marketing internship at Cooper Aerobics was the same week Dr. Cooper received an honorary degree from the University of Oklahoma. When I looked at the photos of Dr. Cooper receiving this award I couldn’t help but feel proud that we shared an alma mater. I wanted to know more about how he ended up running track at OU, his time on campus and how his experience shaped his path.

I was surprised to learn Dr. Cooper and I had more than an alma mater in common. I mean he is the “father of aerobics”‒how dare I compare? The more I listened to his journey leading him to OU, the more I realized the commonalities in our stories.

Every Oklahoma Sooner fan has heard the verse: “I’m a Sooner born and Sooner bred and when I die, I’ll be Sooner dead.” A verse heard countless times‒and I mean countless. While Dr. Cooper had admired OU and its athletic teams, growing up he was inclined to attend Oklahoma State University like both of his sisters. Both of my parents as well as my older brother attended Texas A&M and I cheered on the Aggies for years. While we both didn’t expect to end up at OU, our time in Norman has allowed us to pursue our respective passions.

Sooner Story 

Dr. Cooper’s “Sooner story” began in high school when, on the recommendation of his principal, Leo Mayfield, he began to run track. Dr. Cooper improved his running with advice from Herold Keith, a sports publicist at OU, which led him to go undefeated his senior year of high school, and receive a track scholarship to OU.

His time at OU allowed his love for running to flourish ultimately leading him to change the world with his preventive health and fitness research. He ran track for three years as he was accepted to OU’s medical school after only three years and graduated from PreMed in 1952. Fast forward to his time after medical school, graduating in 1956, Dr. Cooper thought he was experiencing a heart problem at age 29 while water skiing which changed his life.

Fitness Revolution

Dr. Cooper got back into shape, began running again and, after a lot of career path changes, eventually pursued degrees in exercise physiology and preventive medicine. He even ran the Boston Marathon in 1962 placing 101st, as Dr. Cooper says “which sounds great but only 150 people ran it back then.”

From this moment on Dr. Cooper embarked on changing the world as he introduced the term and meaning of aerobics, and wrote the bestselling book with the same name in 1968 sparking the fitness revolution which subsequently improved the lives of millions of people worldwide. Fast forward, yet again, and Dr. Cooper has accepted an innumerable amount of awards and recognition and has made the idea that exercise is necessary to not only get healthy, but stay healthy, popular.

Significance Over Success 

When I asked Dr. Cooper what advice he would give to a current OU student about to graduate like myself he shared a Bob Buford quote with me: “work toward the goal of not only being successful but significant.” While I don’t necessarily want to grow up‒not that anyone does‒this advice gave me confidence in the next step of my journey, graduation in May. I may not know what the future holds, but speaking with Dr. Cooper has made me realize I can pursue my passion of writing in the public relations/marketing field with stronger confidence than before. I hope to one day embody Dr. Cooper’s entrepreneurial spirit, the determination and belief in his own work is a lesson everyone should hear and I am fortunate to have heard it firsthand.

At the age of 88, Dr. Cooper has lived and worked in Dallas for almost 50 years now and still sees patients at Cooper Clinic and lectures around the world. While he doesn’t often make it to Norman for football games, he turns into an Okie one day every year: when OU plays Texas at the Cotton Bowl. This football season may be my last as a student at the University of Oklahoma but I, along with my approximately 80,000 closest friends, will cheer on the Sooners in Norman for him‒the father of aerobics.

Blog provided by Afton Guedea, Cooper Aerobics Marketing intern and Student at the University of Oklahoma.

Chocolate Milk: The Ultimate Workout Recovery Strategy

Refueling after a workout can be tricky. It is helpful to understand more about what your body needs to properly recover. Whether you’re running or lifting weights, your body is using its glycogen stores as fuel.

Glycogen is the stored form of glucose — the main molecule your cells break down to produce energy. Most of your glycogen is found in your liver and muscle cells. When you deplete your glycogen by working out, you become fatigued. The goal is to replenish or refuel the cell as soon as possible after a vigorous workout. After light to moderate physical activity, an immediate post-workout snack is not as crucial. For optimal results, aim to consume your recovery fuel within 30-45 minutes after a challenging workout.
Refreshing Delicious Chocolate Milk with Real Cocoa
After you exercise, your body begins to replenish its glycogen stores and repairing your muscles. This is why sports dietitians recommend a post-workout snack that contains both carbohydrates and protein. The International Society for Sports Nutrition recommends keeping the ratio of carbs-to-proteins around 3:1 or 4:1. This happens to be the precise ratio for chocolate milk! In addition, chocolate milk also rehydrates quickly and is high in potassium — a helpful electrolyte for athletes. Chocolate milk brands recommended by Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services include:

  • Horizon® Organic Low-Fat Chocolate Milk
  • TruMoo® Low-Fat Chocolate Milk
  • Great Value™ 1% Low-Fat Chocolate Milk
  • *Fairlife® Reduced-Fat Chocolate Milk

*Because Fairlife is ultra-filtered, it contains 50 percent more protein and 50 percent fewer carbs, making it a 1:1 carb to protein ratio.

There are certainly other foods and drinks that provide that same balanced ratio for post-workout recovery. Other snack ideas that are ideal for optimizing recovery are:

  • 7 oz. Greek yogurt + 1 cup blueberries with a drizzle of honey = 20 grams protein, 30 grams carbs
  • ⅔ cup of almonds + 1 banana = 15 grams protein, 30 gams carbs
  • Turkey + cheddar sandwich on whole grain bread = 20 grams protein, 30 grams carbs

Whatever recovery snack suits your fancy, make a habit of eating something you know has the right fuel to resupply your muscles with nutrients to stay strong and recovery properly.

Meridan Zerner, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, Cooper Clinic Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, contributed this article.

For more information on chocolate milk and post-workout recovery read this blog.

Categories: Cooper Updates

The Freshman 15: Myth or Fact?

A nutrition coaching session for your college student should be a prerequisite.
Your son or daughter is about to head off to college soon. You may be in the midst of purchasing school supplies or dorm décor. Where does nutrition fall on your checklist? It is believed that college freshmen gain 15 pounds during their first year of college, otherwise known as “The Freshmen 15.” The subject of weight gain within the first year at college has been researched extensively in both the United States and Canada. The results from these studies indicate that “The Freshman 15” is simply a myth. However, the idea of “The College 15” may hold more truth than you think.

Auburn University began a study in the fall of 2007 with results reported in 2012 following changes in body weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), composition and shape (using body circumference measures). Over a 3-4 year college period with 131 male and female students, the study concluded:


  • 70 percent of participants gained weight
  • Correlation found between waist circumference changes and weight/percent body fat changes in both males and females
  • The number of females with unhealthy waist circumference measurements (> 35 inches) doubled between the beginning of freshman year and the end of senior year
  • 26 percent of the gains in circumference measures in males were at the waist

Among both males and females, the observed weight gain consisted primarily of fat mass gains and smaller changes in fat-free mass.

Both “obesity” (having a BMI > 30) and “normal weight obesity” (having a normal BMI range of 18.5-24.9 but having excessive body fat) are associated with numerous health problems including elevated cholesterol, heart disease, hypertension and elevated blood sugar.

Whether you have a teenager at home about to go away to college for the first time or a college student in the midst of their college career, make sure to include nutrition coaching as a prerequisite. Equip your student with a nutrition consultation from a Cooper Clinic registered dietitian nutritionist. A realistic nutrition game plan doesn’t have to be complicated and will serve them well throughout their college career.

Cynthanne Duryea RDN, LD, Cooper Clinic Registered Dietitian Nutritionist contributed this article.

Categories: Cooper Updates

Air Fryers – Satisfy Your Crispy Cravings

Air fryers have sparked the curiosity of many people over the past several years now enabling you to enjoy healthy alternatives to fried food in less time. The name can be a bit misleading because this machine does more than just fry – it can roast, grill and bake. Air fryers simulate frying by circulating hot air around the food rather than submerging the food in high-fat oil.

So how does it work? The Maillard reaction is a scientific principle, normally refered to as browning. The air fryer uses the Maillard reaction to its advantage by using dehydration and intense heat to brown and form a crust on the surface of the food. The air fryer employs convection currents by swirling hot air around the fryer in order to cook foods quickly and evenly.

Frites de Patates Douces aux Epices Cajun et Sauce Yaourt et Aneth

There are several styles of air fryer models with various features which include:

  • Basket
  • Oven
  • Paddle

Air fryers are especially beneficial for those interested in reducing the fat content of their diet. Little or no oil is required in comparison to deep-frying or sautéing on a stovetop.

Air fryer recipes typically call for:

  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil =
    • 14 grams of total fat
    • 2 grams of saturated fat

Deep fat frying or sautéing usually requires much more oil and results in more calories. Air frying is an excellent way to reduce copious amounts of fat and calories without sacrificing taste and flavor.

Give this sweet potato fries recipe a try in your air fryer:

Air Fryer Sweet Potato Fries (serves 1)


1 medium sweet potato

1 Tbsp. olive oil

¼ tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. garlic powder

1/8 tsp. sweet paprika

Black pepper to taste


Preheat fryer to 400°. Slice potato into even 1/8 inch fries. Toss with oil and seasonings. Cooking time will vary depending on size and make of fryer. Check the manual included in your air fryer for cooking times.

Categories: Cooper Updates

Lighten Up – The Scoop on Ice Cream

What better way to cool down on a hot day than with a scoop of ice cream? Before diving into this deliciously cold treat, you may want to consider a light ice cream with lower calories, saturated fat and sugar—a tasty alternative to regular ice cream.

79772400_ice cream


Buyer beware, a serving size for most ice cream is half a cup. Being mindful of the serving size when consuming this cold treat will prevent overindulgence. Premium ice cream can pack as many as 350 calories in a half cup serving! Instead, opt for light ice cream that has no more than 150 calories per serving.


Saturated Fat

Regarding saturated fat, it is important to watch your intake because diets high in saturated fat can raise “bad” LDL cholesterol. American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 6 percent of calories per day from saturated fat. For a 2,000-calorie diet this equates to 13 grams of saturated fat per day. Unfortunately, many ice cream brands have that much saturated fat packed into a single serving. Again, light ice cream is the better choice, boasting less saturated fat by using skim milk instead of whole milk. When choosing a lighter frozen dessert, reach for one with no more than 3 g of saturated fat per serving.



Since we are talking about ice cream, of course it’s going to have sugar. Limiting added sugar in your diet can help control weight, improve health and cut calories that don’t add any nutritional value.

American Heart Association recommended amount of added sugar:

  • Women:

< 100 calories per day

  • Men:

< 150 calories per day

So how do you calculate that? Each gram of sugar contains 4 calories, so take the grams of sugar, multiply it by four and that’s how many calories you’re consuming from sugar. A good rule of thumb is to limit sugar to no more than 12 grams per serving.

1 gram sugar = 4 calories

 [#] grams sugar X 4 = total number of calories from sugar


When purchasing light ice cream look for:

  • 150 calories or less per serving
  • ≤ 3 g of saturated fat
  • ≤ 12 g of sugar


Light Ice Cream Ideas

Below is a table comparing light ice cream options according to calories, saturated fat and sugar content. All of the ice creams listed are preferred over regular ice cream. Many light ice creams even boost your protein content either from milk protein concentrate or milk protein isolate, reflected in the table below.

Ice Cream/Frozen Desserts Calories per Serving Saturated Fat (g) Sugar (g) Protein (g)
HALO TOP® – Chocolate 80 1.5 6 5
Arctic Zero® Light – Vanilla Bean 70 0.5 9 2
Skinny Cow® – No Sugar Added Vanilla Ice Cream Sandwich 150 1 5 4
Enlightened® – Cold Brew Coffee Chip Ice Cream Bars 90 2 5 7
Breyers® Delights – Mint Chip 100 2 2 7
Yasso® – Chocolate & Vanilla Swirl Frozen Greek Yogurt Bar 80 0 11 5


Next time you’re looking for something sweet, stick to these tips to enjoy a sensible ice cream treat!


Article provided by Nicole Hawkins, University of Oklahoma student, and Cooper Clinic Nutrition Services.