Getting Fit

Everything I Could Ever Tell You About …

NAME: Kenneth Cooper | AGE: 75 | HOME: Dallas | QUALIFICATIONS: Founder, president, and CEO of Dallas’s Cooper Aerobics Center / Coined the word “aerobics” in 1968 / Currently developing Cooper Life at Craig Ranch, a master-planned “new urbanism” community / Personal physician to George W. Bush since 1989

• I was an athlete in high school and went to the University of Oklahoma on a track scholarship. But later, in medical school, I didn’t have time to exercise. I stayed up half the night, ate, and gained about 40 pounds. By the time I was 29, I weighed 204 pounds. Then I went water-skiing for the first time in years and had a supraventricular tachycardia. I thought I was having a heart attack. That shocked me into reality, and I lost the weight within six months.

• I ran my first marathon a year later. In the past 46 years I’ve covered more than 38,000 miles.

• A lot of people are frightened into fitness. They’ll come to me when they have that first attack of chest pain. Of course, the most common first symptom of severe heart disease is sudden death.

• Exercise can be for several purposes: rest and relaxation, musculoskeletal conditioning, or cardiovascular fitness. All have merit. Only one can prolong your life.

• George W. Bush is in outstanding shape. He exercises approximately one hour six days a week—except weekends, when he goes cycling for long distances. When it comes to fitness, he’s set an example for this nation.

• You must walk before you run. I don’t care what your age is, you don’t want to start too fast. Walk, walk faster, jog slowly, then transition to faster jogging. Listen to your body.

• The older you are, the longer it takes you to get into shape and the faster you lose it. The younger you are, it’s the reverse. Once you reach that high level of fitness, it’s pretty easy to maintain it by primarily just avoiding inactivity.

• One of my classic patients is Rick Salewske. He came to us in October 2000 weighing 538 pounds, and within two years, he’d lost 300 pounds. He’s kept it off now for the past four years, and he’s become a marathoner. The other day when he came to the clinic for a fitness test, at 44 years of age, he walked 27 minutes and 30 seconds on the treadmill, which is close to what the president did on his test.

• Five is fine, nine is divine. That’s the number of fruits and vegetables you should be consuming daily. Average American adult: 3.1. Average American teenager: 1.6. That’s one reason we have such a problem with obesity and deconditioning.

• Always finish your evening meal before seven at night. Don’t snack, and try to exercise before the evening meal. Sweat-producing exercise suppresses the appetite.

• People don’t take responsibility for their health care. They think, “It’s not my responsibility. It’s my physician’s, the government’s, or my insurance company’s.” Until we change that attitude, we’ll never keep the cost of health care under control.

• The thing that’s overwhelming our country is the obesity problem, particularly in our children. If obese children come down with diabetes—we call this “diabesity”— before they are fifteen, they shorten their life span by 17 to 27 years. This may be the first generation in which parents outlive their children.

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