Pushing a fitness agenda in D.C.: You can help make the change

In a continued push to move ahead the government's help in getting America more fit, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association will storm Capitol Hill on March 4 for its 10th annual "National Health Through Fitness" lobbying day in Washington, D.C.
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In a continued push to move ahead the government's help in getting America more fit, the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association will storm Capitol Hill on March 4 for its 10th annual "National Health Through Fitness" lobbying day in Washington, D.C.

With the new president and his new agenda in place -- and the potential for increased interest in fitness and health -- the SGMA will host the sports and fitness industry in lobbying and education sessions with legislators.

Already more than 25 celebrity athletes such as football Hall of Famer Herschel Walker have signed on to join manufacturers, retailers, educators and others in the industry make it known how important fitness and health initiatives are for the American public.

"America must get more active to improve health and lower healthcare costs," said Bill Sells, SGMA's vice president of government relations. "The time is now for the sporting goods and fitness industries to lead the effort toward more active, healthy lifestyles. The changes in Washington provide a great opportunity for policies that encourage physical activity."

Participants in the event will have a chance to learn what issues will be addressed, how to lobby and present important points, and will then divide into groups to spread through the halls to sit down with legislators and their aides to discuss the issues -- basically having a "say" in how government spends its money and refocuses its attention.

More than 100 participants are expected, including from companies such as Gatorade, Nike, Icon and Accusplit, among others, for 24 hours.

Key initiatives to be presented include one that could help sell goods, in effect ringing up more sales for both supplies and retailers:

>> Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) encourages improved health through physical activity and makes it more affordable with tax incentives. The act would change current federal tax law to allow for deduction or use of pre-tax dollars in existing accounts such as Health Savings Accounts for sports, fitness or other physical activities and needed gear or necessary expenses. It would allow an investment of up to $1,000 each year per person.

"PHIT gives families a financial incentive to be active by making physical activity more affordable," Sells said. "Families deserve the same benefits afforded employees through workplace wellness programs that consistently show a positive return on the investment in prevention by significantly reducing health costs. PHIT fills this void."

>> The Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) provides grants to school districts and communities to support physical education and activity through the purchase of new equipment and training. The association is asking for $100 million in funding for Fiscal Year 2010, up from $78 million in 2009 and from $5 million its first year in 2001.

Click here to read a Feb. 21, 2007, SNEWS® story, "SGMA continues drive for fitness-oriented legislation," to read more about both bills and how they could impact and benefit the fitness industry.

"As America moves forward, we cannot afford to commit 20 percent of our economy output to treat illness in the U.S.," Sells said. "Obesity in children and adults stands at a record level and the increase in sedentary lifestyles is a primary reason. PEP and PHIT are aimed directly at addressing this problem by introducing young people to the benefits of physical activity through PEP and making physically active lifestyles more affordable via PHIT. A lifelong commitment to physical activity is needed to reverse the sedentary lifestyle trend and lower health costs in America going forward."

For more information, click here. There is no registration or attendance fee. A cocktail reception will be Tuesday evening, March 3, with meetings and lobbying all day March 4.

To read more about the 2008 event, click here to read a March 18, 2008, SNEWS story, "SGMA's National Heath-through-Fitness Day spotlights legislation to boost fitness industry."

--Therese Iknoian

SNEWS® View: As we have said before and we will say again, if you have not lobbied on the Hill before, it is an educational experience you will not forget -- especially when you discover that our voices really do make a difference. We strongly advise that fitness specialty retailers and suppliers, especially those in the mid-Atlantic area, take 24 hours from their schedules and get themselves to D.C. The PHIT bill in the short term could put money directly in your pockets, while the PEP bill builds interest and fitness, establishing long-term interest in physical activity among children and youth -- who could one day be your customers.

--SNEWS® Editors

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