By Susan Thomas
America needs to embrace the idea of exercise and wellness in order to increase the odds for a lifetime of good health, said Dr. Kenneth H.Cooper
“I believe that unless we can implement the concepts of wellness in America, we”ll never get ahead,” Cooper said.
Known as the “father of aerobic exercise,” Cooper is the founder, president and CEO of the Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas. He has worked closely with President Bush since 1988 as his general physician. Cooper spoke at the Forum on Tuesday at the Marriott Center.
Cooper coined the word aerobics in 1966 when he wrote his best selling first book entitled “Aerobics.” His book has been translated into 41 different languages, each one interpreting the word a little differently.
Cooper said his name and running are synonymous terms in the South American language.
“Instead of asking have you done your aerobics, or your running, they will ask if you have done your “Cooper” today,” he said.
The official definition of the term aerobics was written by Cooper for the Oxford Dictionary in 1986.
Cooper talked about the progression of American mindsets over the years. He said from 1968 to 1990, the amount of Americans exercising jumped from 24 percent to 59 percent. He attributed the decrease in coronary heart disease during this period to the change in attitudes about aerobic exercise.
But, Cooper said today there is an obesity epidemic. In 2000, nearly 65 percent of Americans were considered overweight and 31 percent were considered obese, Cooper said. By 2010 half of the American population will be 30 lbs overweight, he said.
Cooper linked the obesity epidemic to many problems that exist today, including an increase in heart disease and strokes, adult onset diabetes and even cancer.
“It is not so much that we die, we kill ourselves.” Cooper said. “It”s the way we treat our bodies.”
Cooper said he was concerned about the growing increase of childhood obesity. He said in 1980, only 8 percent of American children were considered overweight. Today, that statistic has increased to 22 percent. He said today”s generation of children could possibly be outlived by their parents.
“What are we raising in America today?” Cooper said. “We better wake up America, because we got a major problem.”
Cooper acknowledged the lack of integrity among corporations that are willing to help with the obesity problem.
He said he was recently asked by Steve Reinemund, the CEO of PepsiCo., to assist in improving the products the company offers to children. Cooper said both he and Reinemund firmly believe the obesity problem in American children is not going to be resolved by removing vending machines from schools.
“The kids will get what they want,” Cooper said. “What we as responsible adults have to do is put better products into the vending machines, educate and motivate the kids to select those products and bring PE back into school systems. That is the only way we will resolve the problem of obesity in American children.”
Cooper said corporate integrity is an attribute that many organizations lack in America today.
He praised the corporate integrity of PepsiCo. for its efforts in helping with the nation”s obesity problem. PepsiCo. spent $57 million on taking 55 million pounds of trans fat out of the American diet over 12 months without increasing product prices. PepsiCo. plans to offer nutritional products including carrot sticks, fruit and orange juice in new vending machines by January 2005. Cooper said PepsiCo.”s actions are a major move in the right direction.
Cooper said it is fascinating to know that one can grow healthier as one grows older. He shared pictures and stories about some of his older patients that are examples of how to embrace the idea of wellness and aerobic exercise.
In closing, Cooper said that he could not guarantee someone to live a longer life by following the guidelines of wellness, but he assured his listeners that the lives they live will be happier, healthier and more productive.