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Cooper Health Books Reviewed

Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper is the founder and director of the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research, based in Dallas, TX. He coined the term “aerobics” in 1968 with the publication of his book Aerobics. Since then he has published numerous books. Since he is a Christian, his books often have a Christian slant to them.

Below are short reviews of several of his books which this writer has read. The title links are direct links to where the books can be purchased from Amazon.

Faith-based Fitness

The Medical Program That Uses Spiritual Motivation To Achieve Maximum Health And Add Years To Your Life

This is the first book by Cooper that I read. And it is an excellent resource for the person wanting to get into shape. Cooper presents all the information one needs to get started and stay motivated. What makes this book unique is the Christian orientation Cooper gives to fitness. He states, "… the belief required for a 'fitness conversion' involves a conviction about your body and health that should be an outgrowth of your basic spiritual worldview" (p. 17).

So the faith that Cooper is referring to in the title is not just a belief in the importance of fitness but one that is an outgrowth of strong spiritual convictions. Such a faith would include the belief that the body is sacred and should be taken care of. He even includes a chapter of soul-searching questions for the reader to ask to determine your spiritual state as it relates to your health and suggestion for improving it.

The bulk of the book is occupied with giving specific workout schedules to follow for starting an exercise program. These include exercises for increasing ones level of endurance, flexibility, and strength. Cooper outlines programs for walking, jogging, cycling (both outdoor and stationary bikes), and swimming. So the reader can choose what type of exercise most fits you and have a detailed routine to follow. If you stick with the routines you are sure to increase your level of fitness. And Cooper provides encouragements along the way to help you stay motivated. He even dispels some exercise myths that might discourage the budding exercise enthusiast.

I read this book at a time when I was really making an effort to get back into shape. I didn't follow the specific routines Cooper gives, but I did get many good ideas from reading this book. It gave me a standard by which to measure my fitness levels. And I appreciated the fact that Cooper is a Christian and looks at the spiritual side of health, even citing a few Bible verses along the way.

So if the reader has allowed yourself to get out of shape as I did, I would strongly encourage you attain this book to help you get motivated and to give you the information you need to begin improving your health.

This book provides such a good treatment on how to go about starting an exercise routine that I refer to it in the chapter on this subject in my book Creationist Diet: Nutrition and God-given Foods According to the Bible. Then in my newer book God-given Foods Eating Plan, I present a detailed chapter on "Starting and Progressing in an Exercise Program," in which some of the ideas are taken from Cooper's book.


Antioxidant Revolution

This book discusses ways to reduce the free radical damage that is thought to lead cancer and heart disease. Cooper presents ways to do so through exercise, diet, and supplements. And it the supplements part that is the most controversial of this book.

Dr. Cooper was one of the first noted fitness experts to recommend people start taking high doses of the antioxidant vitamins beta-carotene (the precursor to vitamin A), vitamin C, and vitamin E, along with the mineral selenium. He recommends taking levels that are several times the RDA for these nutrients. Cooper cites many scientific studies that show high does of these antioxidants reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer. However, this book was published in 1994, and more recent studies have not given unqualified support to these earlier studies. In fact, more recent studies have been mixed.

Some studies do show that taking antioxidants reduce risk, but other studies show there is no effect. I summarize many of these studies in a chapter on supplements in my book Creationist Diet. My conclusion is that there is some evidence for the benefit of taking antioxidants, but it is not clear-cut as Cooper makes it out to be. There may or may not be any benefit to the practice.

Further clouding whether to take these supplements is the risk of side effects. Fortunately, Cooper does list possible side effects one might experience.

Another issue that Cooper does not address is the cost factor. Vitamin C is rather inexpensive and vitamin E and selenium moderately so, but beta-carotene tends to be rather expensive. And beta-carotene is the antioxidant with the least evidence supporting it.

Given the split evidence, I would say that if money is tight, one should spend their money on healthy food, not supplements. It is foods like fruits and vegetables that have unqualified evidence for their health benefits. And Cooper does include information on what foods are highest in the antioxidants and how best to prepare them to retain the nutrients. And my book provides further details on what foods help to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, and strokes.

As for myself, I have tried taking antioxidants in the amounts Cooper recommends, but I ended up with some of the side effects he mentions. I even tried taking different brands and forms of each nutrient and still had problems. So I simply don't bother with them anymore and focus on eating a healthy diet instead.


Advanced Nutritional Therapies

This book is an A-Z listing of Dr. Cooper's recommendations for vitamins, minerals, specific foods, supplemental foods, disease conditions, and related items. For each item, Cooper gives the following: Basic Nutritional Therapy, Extra Scientific Information, Special Food Sources, Therapy Recommendations, and Cross-References to related entries.

The information is presented in an easy to understand format. A table of context gives the page numbers for each entry. However, it is hard to find items by flipping though the pages as the publisher did not put identifying markers at the top of each page, like the item or letter covered on the page. So one has to keep turning pages to where the next entry begins to find out where in the alphabet you are. And flipping back and forth to the table of contents is tedious.

But these format problems aside, the information presented is rather good. Cooper provides sound recommendations on each of the items. And the scientific research given enables the reader to decide for yourself if Cooper's recommendations are correct. In fact, this research is so helpful that I cite some of it in my book Creationist Diet. I also have referred back to Cooper's book many times for personal information.

For instance, I have multiple allergies. And I have read in several "natural healing" sources that licorice is good for allergies. But I am glad I read Cooper's entry on licorice before trying it. He cites evidence that taking licorice for prolonged periods in the amounts I've seen recommended can raise one's blood pressure. As a result, Cooper recommends, "that everyone stay away from it" (p.273). And I think I will head this advice. I don't need high blood pressure on top of my allergies!


Regaining The Power Of Youth at Any Age

Startling New Evidence from the Doctor Who Brought Us Aerobics, Controlling Cholesterol and the Antioxidant Revolution

This books presents basic information anyone can incorporate to try to evade the ravishes of advancing age. Cooper gives recommendations in regards to exercise, stress management, diet, supplements, and related matters that will help people to retain their youthful energy.

He also explains that most people have unrealistic expectations on how much their physical abilities will decline with advancing age. Most people tend to think the decline is much more rapid and pronounced than it really is. This is particularly encouraging to me since I just turned 40!

His recommendations in regards to exercise include doing aerobic, strength training, and flexibility exercises. It is important for one to do all three kinds of exercises. Doing so will reduce the loss that most people experience in each of these areas.

He correctly notes that emotional stress can be as much a drain on one's vitality as poor exercise and diet habits. And as a Christian, I appreciate that he emphasizes that spiritual activities like prayer, Bible study, and attending worship services are ideal ways to deal with stress.

In regards to diet, he presents "bedrock principles" like eating more fruits and vegetables and reducing one's intake of fat. And he correctly points out that trans fat, found in hydrogenated oils, are the worst kind of fat. He doesn't go into too much detail in regards to diet in this book. But what he does give I tend agree with as I present similar information in much greater detail in my books Creationist Diet and God-given Foods Eating Plan.

But it is in regards to supplements that I disagree with Cooper. He wholeheartedly recommends high doses of the antioxidant vitamins beta-carotene (the precursor to vitamin A), vitamin C, and vitamin E, along with the mineral selenium. He claims taking amounts several times the RDA helps to prevent heart disease and cancer. However, the evidence is not as clear-cut as Cooper makes it sound. I include a chapter in my book citing scientific studies in this regard. Some have shown a reduced risk from taking antioxidants, but other studies have shown no effect.

But that disagreement aside, this book does present helpful information for those of us who are starting to worry about our health and vitality as we age.

October 2014 Update

The above reviews were written in 2001. Now, thirteen years later, there is even stronger evidence that mega-does supplements are not helpful, but in fact can be dangerous. That is why in my newer book, God-given Foods Eating Plan, I do not recommend them. At best, a basic multi-vitamin/ mineral supplement with 100% of the RDA for a variety of nutrients might be helpful, just to be sure you are attaining all the major nutrients, but if you are following a healthy diet, even that might not be needed. For more in this regard, see the two-part article Folly of Mega-Dose Supplements.



Disclaimer: The material presented in this article is intended for educational purposes only. The author is not offering medical or legal advice. Accuracy of information is attempted but not guaranteed. Before undertaking any diet or exercise program, one should consult your doctor. The author is in no way responsible or liable for any bodily harm, physical, mental, or emotional, that results from following any of the advice in this article.

Note: All Scripture references from: The New King James Version. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, unless otherwise indicated.

The above review was posted on this site April 21, 2001.
They were updated October 22, 2014.

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