Columbia Scientist Wins American Heart Association Prize

November 10, 2008

COLUMBIA, SC – November 10, 2008 – The American Heart Association has awarded its Population Research Prize to Steven N. Blair, P.E.D., of the University of South Carolina, Columbia, for leading major population studies that established the benefits of aerobic exercise in achieving cardio-respiratory fitness, thereby reducing illness and death from cardiovascular disease.

“Over the past 25 years, clinical trials and observational studies led by Dr. Blair have provided the world with solid scientific evidence of the efficacy of physical activity as a weapon against disease,” said Timothy J. Gardner, M.D., Association president, in presenting the prize including a $5,000 honorarium.

Dr. Gardner made the presentation Sunday at the opening of the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions 2008 at the New Orleans convention center.

Foremost among Dr. Blair’s studies has been the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study, which provided some of the first major evidence of the importance of cardio-respiratory fitness to health in a large group of adult women and men, Dr. Gardner said.

The aerobics center study showed that physically fit individuals have about a 50 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease and death than their sedentary peers. Dr. Blair’s many other studies include a finding that lower fitness levels increase the risk of high blood pressure.

“This research has provided important contributions to our understanding of the health benefits of physical activity,” the AHA president said. He said Dr. Blair’s work was a major factor in the American Heart Association’s decision to recognize physical inactivity and low cardio-respiratory fitness as a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.

From 1980 to 2002, Dr. Blair was director of epidemiology and clinical applications at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas. He currently is professor of exercise science, epidemiology and biostatistics in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.

About the American Heart Association

Founded in 1924, the American Heart Association today is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary health organization dedicated to building healthier lives, free of heart disease and stroke.  These diseases, America’s No. 1 and No. 3 killers, and all other cardiovascular diseases claim nearly 870,000 lives a year.  In fiscal year 2007–08 the association invested more than $559 million in research, professional and public education, advocacy and community service programs to help all Americans live longer, healthier lives. 

To learn more, call 1-800-AHA-USA1 or visit