Indiana State University Newsroom

National fitness expert expected to challenge Hoosier lawmakers during INShape Indiana event

September 17, 2009

When the "father of aerobics" appears in Terre Haute later this month, he'll be encouraging state leaders to enact legislation that will help get our children in shape.

More than 41 years ago, Dr. Kenneth Cooper introduced to the world the concept of aerobic exercise when he authored his first bestseller titled "Aerobics." Cooper has since dedicated his life to promoting fitness worldwide.

Cooper will visit Terre Haute on Sept. 29 as part of the INShape Indiana Health Summit at Indiana State University, and during the visit he expects to surprise those in attendance with his blatant assessment of the fitness levels of our children.

"If we don't do something to reverse the trend, by the year 2050 one out of three children will have diabetes because of obesity and inactivity," he said. "We could end up with 100 million diabetics in this country."

Cooper's research shocked Texas legislators in March when he released statistics that showed how cardiovascular fitness levels decreased among Texas children as they aged.

Cooper and his team at The Cooper Institute developed six FITNESSGRAM® tests that were administered to more than 2.4 million students in 6,532 Texas schools during the 2007-2008 school year.

The tests evaluated body composition, aerobic capacity, muscular strength, endurance and flexibility of students in grades three through 12, then placed them in appropriate "healthy fitness zones" according to their age and gender.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the test results showed that while 78 percent of fourth-grade students were considered healthy and fit, only 20 percent of high school seniors possessed the same level of cardiovascular fitness.

But more significantly, Cooper said, the tests linked high levels of physical fitness to increased academic success, better school attendance, fewer disciplinary problems and higher standardized test scores.

"If you look at this data on 2.8 million kids, it's clear to see that the future of our country is at stake," Cooper said.

In addition to educating Hoosiers about the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, Cooper said his goal during his trip to Indiana is to convince legislators to take action to reverse the instances of child obesity. Cooper plans to emphasize the importance of collecting the data about the levels of fitness of our children and then acting on that data.

"If we can get administrators and teachers interested ... that's the first gigantic step," he said. "They have to be convinced of the importance of the situation we're facing, then I hope the state of Indiana will fall in line right behind this, too."

But there's no cheap fix for this problem. Evaluating the fitness levels of public school-aged children, including training teachers to complete the evaluations and supplying the schools with the necessary equipment, came with a $3 million price tag in Texas, Cooper said. And when the state refused to commit funding for the project, Cooper independently raised the money to pay for it.

Cooper did it, he said, because he anticipates his investment will have long-term benefits.

"If we don't do something now, the penalty we'll pay in the future will be incredible," he said.

Cooper's appearance is just one highlight of the 2009 INShape Indiana Health Summit sponsored by Indiana State University, the Indiana State Department of Health and the Indiana Rural Health Association.

The Health Summit is part of Gov. Mitch Daniels' initiative to challenge Hoosiers to eat better, move more, and avoid tobacco.

Activities begin at 8 a.m. in Hulman Center and continue until 4 p.m. Presentations throughout the day will focus on tobacco control and healthy eating. Additionally, participants will have an opportunity to learn about communities in which model health initiatives are underway.

Registration for participants is $30 and can be completed online at

Writer: Rachel Wedding McClelland, assistant director of media relations, Indiana State University at 812-237-3790, or

Contact: Linda Crossett, director community and professional programs, Indiana State University at 812-237-8479, or

Story Highlights

Health and fitness expert Dr. Kenneth Cooper predicts that unless Americans reverse the trend, one out of three children in this country will have diabetes by the year 2050. Cooper will discuss his findings at ISU on Sept. 29.

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