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Olympian Mary Lou Retton Talks Fitness Achievements

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The Cooper Institute Study to Follow Nearly 6,000 Students from 19 Private Schools in Dallas Area

The Cooper Institute announced today that donation from its second-annual “A Life Rx for Health” luncheon benefiting the Our Kids’ Health initiative will fund a two-year research project. The study will follow 19 of the 57 Dallas-area private, faith-based, and charter schools that received the FITNESSGRAM® physical fitness testing tool as a result of donations from last year’s luncheon.

Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton spoke about her childhood and athletic pursuits while thanking donors at today’s benefit luncheon attended by more than 400 guests at the Hilton Anatole Hotel in Dallas.

“As a mother and fitness enthusiast, I understand the importance of keeping our children active,” said Retton, who has four daughters. “Youth don’t have to be Olympians or even athletes to experience the health benefits of daily physical activity. It’s up to us as parents and adults to lead by example and get moving as families.”

Funds raised from this year’s luncheon will provide ongoing support of the private schools and allow experts to work closely with the students, teachers, parents, and communities to help improve fitness programs and increase the amount of children’s physical activity and healthy behaviors each day. Researchers will also gather and analyze the 19 schools’ FITNESSGRAM data of nearly 6,000 students to mark fitness levels and progress. The results from the study will be compiled to create a “best practices” model that will ultimately be available to all Texas schools.

“Collecting data is critical to the success of any program,” said Dr. Kenneth Cooper, founder and chairman, The Cooper Institute. “We have based our work on research for more than 40 years to validate correct action and guide proven-effective programs. The data we collect on these 19 private schools, and data we are gathering on 2.6 million Texas public school students, will help provide a comprehensive picture to help improve the health of our youth.”

FITNESSGRAM, created by The Cooper Institute, was selected in 2007 by the Texas Education Association as the statewide physical fitness assessment tool. Senate Bill 530 requires that public school students, grades 3 through 12, be tested by the FITNESSGRAM on their physical fitness annually. SB 530 also mandates physical education for K-8th graders.

Results from the spring 2008 tests showed that fitness levels declined as students increased grade levels. New data will be released March 9 showing how student’s fitness levels correlate with attendance, violence and academic scores.

Recent obesity statistics show that Texas is home to 5 million obese people and that number is expected to grow to 15 million by 2040—that’s 43 percent up from 29 percent. Dallas county projections show that 46 percent of residents will be obese in 2040, up from 31 percent. More than one-fifth of adults 18-25 were obese in 2007—up from 10 percent in 2000. 

Major sponsors of The Cooper Institute’s second-annual “A Life Rx for Health” luncheon include Olympic-level sponsor Roger Kent Investments, Inc.; Decathlon-level sponsor Vought Aircraft Industries, Inc.; and Marathon-level sponsor KDFW FOX4; as well as more than 60 individual and corporate donors.

The Cooper Institute Development Advisory Board co-chairs are Carol Seay and Pam Denesuk. The luncheon co-chairs are Shirley Dunn Hanks and Carmaleta Whiteley, with Donna Arp as the underwriting chair.

The 19 schools participating in the research project are:
• A.W. Brown – Fellowship Charter School, Dallas
• Fellowship Christian Academy, Dallas
• Good Shepherd Catholic School, Garland 
• Hampton Preparatory School, Dallas
• Holy Trinity Catholic School, Dallas
• Immaculate Conception School, Grand Prairie
• J. Erik Jonsson Community School, Dallas
• James L. Collins Catholic School, Corsicana
• KIPP Truth Academy, Dallas
• Lighthouse Christian Academy, Dallas
• Poetry Community Christian School, Terrell
• Scofield Christian School, Dallas  
• St. Bernard of Clairvaux School, Dallas  
• St. Philips School and Community Center, Dallas
• St. Thomas Aquinas School, Dallas  
• Summit International Preparatory School, Arlington
• The Lamplighter School, Dallas
• West Dallas Community School, Dallas   
• Williams Preparatory School, Dallas

FITNESSGRAM measures aerobic capacity, body composition, muscular strength, endurance and flexibility. Students do not “pass” or “fail” tests or are compared against each other; rather the student’s performance is individually evaluated against standards for a healthy level of fitness based on gender and age. The goal is for all students to achieve the “Healthy Fitness Zone” for each test.  Each student’s results are compiled in a report, which the schools can make available to parents. FITNESSGRAM is used in more than 65,000 schools nationwide, and is distributed by Human Kinetics.

About The Cooper Institute
Founded by Dr. Kenneth Cooper, the Our Kids’ Health initiative led by The Cooper Institute, a 501(c)3 research and education nonprofit located at Cooper Aerobics Center in Dallas, seeks to improve children’s health by reducing childhood obesity. In 1982, The Cooper Institute created and still maintains the FITNESSGRAM testing tool. The Cooper Institute also conducts preventive medicine research, houses the largest database on exercise and health, and certifies health and fitness professionals. For more information, visit or