‘Father of Aerobics,’ HSPH alumnus, receives Healthy Cup Award

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The Nutrition Round Table of the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) honored Kenneth Cooper, groundbreaking author of the best-selling book “Aerobics,” with its Healthy Cup Award this past Tuesday (April 22). The award was presented as part of a lecture, reception, and fundraising dinner for the School held at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square. Cooper also presented a lecture at the event.

When Cooper published “Aerobics” in 1968, only about 100,000 Americans jogged. Forty years later, that number exceeds 30 million, thanks partly to Cooper’s influence. Today, at age 77, he leads 10 health companies and the Cooper Institute, a nonprofit center dedicated to fitness research and professional education.

The Nutrition Round Table at HSPH aims to bridge the gap between scientific advances and sustainable changes in food policy, practices, and products, with a focus on obesity, healthy lifestyles, global nutrition, and chronic diseases. Its members include scientific experts, business leaders, restaurateurs, health educators and health care providers, writers, doctors, philanthropists, and citizens.

“Dr. Cooper has been a pioneer in helping to change the social norm around exercise, making its preventive health effects accessible not only to athletes but to everyone,” said Barry R. Bloom, dean of HSPH. “The challenge now is to reintroduce opportunities for fitness pursuits to our schools and communities. We applaud Dr. Cooper’s continuing efforts to educate the public on evidence-based strategies for lifelong wellness. And we are grateful to our Nutrition Round Table for helping to bring our research on prevention into practice.”

Cooper earned his M.D. from the University of Oklahoma and his M.P.H. from HSPH. During 13 years in the U.S. Army and Air Force, he worked with NASA to help create a conditioning program to prepare astronauts for space, as well as exercise systems used in flight. Cooper also developed the 12-minute and 1.5-mile fitness tests and the Aerobics Points System, all used today by military organizations, amateur and professional athletic teams, law enforcement agencies, and public schools and universities around the world.

His recent work has championed the health and fitness of America’s youth by leading successful legislative efforts to put physical education back in Texas schools, and by creating the Our Kids’ Health Foundation to promote physical fitness testing among students.