In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (NKJV). In Genesis 6:3, the Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time, for they are only mortal flesh. In the future, their normal lifespan will be no more than 120 years” (NLT).
Compare 120 years to the current global life expectancies at birth—75 years for women and 70 years for men. In America, the average life expectancy (pre-pandemic) for women was 81 years and for men it was 77. In fact, not counting fluctuations from COVID deaths, the U.S. was 43rd in longevity among 224 countries and territories, even though we spend twice as much money on health care as any other country.
My usual response to these statistics is, “The reason we don’t live to 120 years is not due to design deficiency, it is because of the way we treat our bodies.” The reason health care costs are so high is because we spend way too many of our health care dollars on administration and diseases that could be prevented through healthier lifestyle choices.
Is there any hope for changing those statistics? I believe the answer is definitely yes.
At our nonprofit, The Cooper Institute in Dallas, we have been following the survival of 73,558 men and 32,748 women who have been evaluated at Cooper Clinic at least 20 times over 45 years. When I founded The Cooper Institute in 1970, I intentionally waited six months before opening Cooper Clinic, in order to collect preventive medicine data. In the early days of my practice, we collected consented patient data in a shoebox with the goal of proving prevention works, beginning the public-private partnership between Cooper Clinic and The Cooper Institute. That shoebox has evolved into what is now the largest computerized study in the world with measured levels of fitness.
Today, The Cooper Center Longitudinal Study (CCLS) contains more than 2.2 million person-years (a cumulative research measurement) of observation from more than 116,000 healthy patients to inform and direct healthy living and preventive medical care. Our world-renowned CCLS provides the opportunity to evaluate healthy people and how healthy behaviors and preventive medicine affect individuals. The Cooper Institute is different because it focuses on well people and the “better together” approach between the clinic and the institute. We have discovered in these 116,000 patients that the estimated median survival age for our men is 86.5 years and for our women 90.4 years. They are living at least 10 years longer than the national average.
- I’m proud to share that throughout our 50 years, The Cooper Institute has proven that:
- Being more fit is associated with lower cardiovascular disease.
- Increasing fitness decreases the risk of dying from all causes by 58%.
- Higher fitness levels greatly lower the risk of dementia later in life.
- Fitness is a means to reduce mortality risk in today’s era.
In addition, in a 25-year follow-up of 28,000 patients, we found a valuable statistic for our men and women who at age 50 were in the top 40th percentile level of fitness as measured by their time on the treadmill stress test. Those in the top fitness level had health care costs that were 40% less between the ages of 65 and 75 than the bottom 40th percentile for fitness. In addition, our patients tend to “square off the curve”—that is, they live long, active and healthy lives, and then they die suddenly. They don’t just exist in their final years; they live. At age 91, I am still working and have not thought about retiring. If I have a choice, I also prefer to “square off the curve.”
Is there a reason I have lived so long when most of my fellow medical school class graduates have already passed away? And why our Cooper Clinic patients are living much longer than the national average?
First, in my case, as my wife says frequently, it is because the Lord is not through with me yet.
And second, because I—and most of our patients—try to follow what we call the “8 Steps to Get Cooperized.” What does that mean? Over the past 50 years, we have developed recommendations on how to live a long, abundant life to the fullest, and the results are too impressive to be ignored.
You can see the “8 Steps to Get Cooperized” at cooperaerobics.com under the “Health Tips” tab. Start with the two steps that provide the greatest benefit—weight and physical activity.
Finally, remember that in 1 Corinthians 6:20 it says, “for God bought you with a high price” (NLT). So, you must honor God with your body.
I finish most of my presentations by telling the audience that my hope and prayer is that they will live as long and as active a life as I have been able to live for 91 years, and I wish the same for you. ©2022 Kenneth H. Cooper
The Scripture quotation marked NKJV is taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version. The quotations marked NLT are taken from The Holy Bible, New Living Translation.
Kenneth H. Cooper, M.D., M.P.H., known worldwide as “the father of aerobics,” is the founder and chairman of Cooper Aerobics in Dallas and chairman emeritus of The Cooper Institute.
Photo: Matthew Miller/Genesis Photos/©2021 BGEA