The name Dr. Kenneth Cooper echoes bountifully throughout the worlds of fitness, exercise physiology and cardiac medicine.
Have you ever heard of aerobic exercise? That’s because he introduced the concept to the world in 1968.
It is hard to imagine that during a time when practically everyone was smoking cigarettes on live television shows such as “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” to be fashionable, an innovative young doctor that was serving in the U.S. Air Force was about to begin a long campaign to improve the health of average people through prevention.
I make the point about the widespread smoking to illustrate the ignorance of the times.
At about the same time around 1970, my father, who never smoked in his life, was presented with a gift of a cigarette lighter by his employer, a life insurance company as recognition for good job performance.
Think about the irony of that for a minute.
I still have the lighter as a memento of the absurdity of a company that should be focused on promoting good health being caught up in the current fashion of smoking.
Obviously, Cooper began his lifelong campaign to improve the fitness and health of average people, the idea of preventative medicine and lifestyle modification had not yet caught on.
Yes, this was even before mythical Forrest Gump began the jogging craze. In fact, had it not been for Cooper, there may have never been a sport called jogging.
Prior to his publication of the book “Aerobics,” few would have thought about just going out and running for miles with no apparent reason.
To say his concept of fitness for everyone was revolutionary is an understatement.
He is still busy promoting a healthy, active lifestyle through his work with the Cooper Institute in Dallas, as well as more than a dozen other health-oriented organizations. In March, he will turn 82 years old.
Recently, the Cooper Institute released some intriguing information that may be pivotal in motivating even more people to actively ramp up their level of physical activity.
The researchers at the Cooper Institute are world leaders in determining the long-term effects of fitness, health habits, nutrition and other factors on heart disease, diabetes and dementia, among other problems.
This group has pioneered long-term health research in way that has never before been accomplished. For a number of reasons, the vast majority of health studies are of short duration, often spanning only weeks or months. However, several studies conducted by the Cooper Institute span decades.
The most recent findings released by the research group demonstrate a relationship between fitness levels of people in their 40s and 50s and their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
You can go to the Annals of Internal Medicine website to learn all the details, but the short story is that people who are active and fit in the middle of their lives are substantially less likely to develop Alzheimer’s dementia later in life.
Earlier research has also shown significantly less risk of other health problems, such as cardiac failure, diabetes, high blood pressure, in addition to a host of other undesirable conditions for people who are active.
The reason these new findings may be important lies in the mindset of the average person.
Many people who are nonchalant about their risk of heart attack are much more motivated to avoid Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s now is more frightening to many people than other diseases, including cancer.
The good news is that you can play an active role in reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
They are recommending that you “Get Cooperized.”
Here are the eight most important steps:
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Eat healthy most of the time
• Exercise about 30 minutes most days of the week
(Researchers stress that you don’t have to be a marathoner – just get moving.)
• Take the right supplements for you
• Stop smoking
• Be sensible about alcohol
• Manage stress
• Get a thorough medical check-up
I will be visiting Dallas in the coming weeks to learn more about how the Cooper Institute can provide help and resources for you.