“Father of Aerobics” turns 90

Dr. Kenneth Cooper, who many call the “Father of Aerobics”, has just turned 90.

His book Aerobics came out in 1968 and helped start the running boom that took off in the 1970s as well as introducing the term aerobics to us. I read it in 1975, and it helped me get back in shape after I let things go my last couple of years in college. Dr. Cooper had access to aerobic testing data on thousands of US Air Force personnel, and used it to come up with an aerobic training point system. Earning 30 points a week was the goal to get you in good shape, and there were charts of how long at various speeds you had to go to get the points. You could run, bike, or swim. I chose running, and it worked great for me.

Contrary to what is sometimes thought, Dr. Cooper did not advocate for long slow distance running. A good way to earn points was to run for shorter distances, like 3 miles, but more briskly. Way back then he was quoted as saying “if you run more than 15 miles a week you’re doing it for something besides fitness”. And he later started emphasizing strength training more for health, especially as we age. Dr. Cooper also founded the Cooper Institute in Dallas which has done world-class research and providing education for life-long health and wellness for decades.

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