By McGill Reporter Staff
Dr. Steven Blair, an exercise scientist at the University of South Carolina, has been named the winner of the inaugural Bloomberg Manulife Prize for the Promotion of Active Health – a $50,000 prize awarded annually to a researcher whose work promises to broaden understanding of how physical activity, nutrition or psychosocial factors influence personal health and well-being.
Widely regarded as a leading contributor to a new area of epidemiological research linking physical fitness with numerous health benefits, Dr. Blair was among the first researchers to show that even moderate increases in fitness, regardless of one’s weight, translate into significantly reduced mortality rates. His research has shown that as little as 30 minutes of physical activity a day can drive down mortality rates by 50 per cent, and he contends that it is the lack of physical activity – and not obesity – that is the single biggest health issue today.
Dr. Blair has published over 500 scientific papers and book chapters and is one of a handful of people outside the U.S. Public Health Service to be awarded the Surgeon General’s Medallion.
The prize was the brainchild of Toronto financier and McGill alumnus Lawrence S. Bloomberg, chair of the Board of Directors of BloombergSen Inc. and longtime chair of the board of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. To better educate Canadians on issues of health and lifestyle, and to promote positive shifts in behaviour, Bloomberg joined forces with corporate partner Manulife Financial, with each pledging $1 million to set up this 10-year initiative, launched in May 2011.
“The goal of the Bloomberg Manulife Prize is to honour research that has the potential to have transformative impacts on how people approach their health and well-being, be it through increased fitness, better nutrition or other behavioural lifestyle changes,” Bloomberg explained. “Thanks to Dr. Blair’s research, we have scientific proof that the key to living healthier and longer is just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day. It’s this kind of concrete, useful knowledge that we hope to bring to Canadians through this prize.”
Dr. Blair will accept the prize at a ceremony at the MaRS Centre in Toronto on Jan. 11. This will be followed by a public roundtable discussion at McGill on Jan. 12 from 12:30 to 2 p.m.
The Bloomberg Manulife Fund also awards two research fellowships annually, valued at $22,500 each, to PhD students who show exceptional promise in their field. These recipients will undertake research projects in the Dept. of Kinesiology and Physical Education, which administers the prize. This year’s fellowship winners are Jeff Caron from Moncton, NB, who is researching the psychological aspects of concussions, and Fennigje Purves-Smith from Carstairs, Alta., who is studying skeletal-muscle aging.
To register to attend the Jan. 12 roundtable discussion, go to: www.alumni.mcgill.ca/events/bloomberg-mtl2012