WASHINGTON, D.C. – December 16, 2008 – It’s imperative that physical activity become a national priority here in the U.S. That mandate will be delivered to the U.S. Congress next spring by celebrity athletes, physical educators, sporting goods manufacturers, concerned members of the sports and fitness industry. The setting for this event is 10th Annual National Health through Fitness Day – Wednesday, March 4th in Washington, D.C. – which is organized by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA). Every year since 2000, SGMA has organized a lobby day for the sporting goods industry on Capitol Hill to help drive legislation that supports physical activity. Those interested in joining this advocacy effort can register on-line at: www.getinvolved.sgma.com.
On National Health through Fitness Day, a delegation of well known athletes, fitness and sporting goods manufacturers, sports retailers, concerned citizens, physical educators and association leaders will visit Capitol Hill to lobby Congress for continued funding of quality P.E. classes in our nation’s schools and P.E. programs in local community based organizations. Leading the delegation from the sporting goods industry will be former NFL running back/U.S. Olympic bobsledder/1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker.
“As a young child, I was timid, shy, and overweight – but once I learned the importance and fun of physical fitness, I gained personal confidence in my ability to interact with others and achieve academic success in the classroom,” recalled Walker. In the end, he graduated from high school as the valedictorian of his senior class. He credits his exposure to P.E. as the foundation of his success.
Right now, only about 25% of U.S. schoolchildren have a daily P.E. class. Only one state (Illinois) requires daily P.E. from kindergarten through 12th grade. The lack of daily P.E. is clearly evident, especially if you focus on the expanding waistlines of American children. That’s a major problem – if you ask Walker – which needs to be addressed.
“My life wouldn’t be where it is today without that P.E. class,” noted Walker. “P.E. in schools is as important as the other subjects.”
Some of the more prominent individuals from the sports world who have participated in this advocacy effort in the past have included NFL Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow (San Diego Chargers); NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young (San Francisco 49ers); current NFL quarterback Peyton Manning (Indianapolis Colts); 1972 Wimbledon and U.S. Open tennis champ Stan Smith; former world heavyweight boxing champion Larry Holmes; former NFL wide receiver Tim Brown (Oakland Raiders); and Hall of Fame basketball great Bill Russell (Boston Celtics).
The advocates will meet face-to-face with U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators (and their key staffers) to discuss two key physical activity initiatives – (1) the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP), which provides grants to local school districts to purchase equipment and train teachers in innovative physical education methods and (2) the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, which encourages improved health through increased physical activity for all Americans by making it more affordable to play sports and engage in physical fitness and recreation activities -- through the use of tax incentives.
For PEP, this consortium is asking Congress to provide $100 million in PEP funding in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010. The group plans meetings with more than 100 U.S. Senators and Representatives that day. In FY 2001, the PEP Bill was approved for $5 million. In FY 2002, Congress allotted $50 million; $60 million in FY 2003; $70 million in FY 2004; $73 million in FY 2005; $73 million in FY 2006; $73 million in FY 2007; $75.7 million in FY 2008; and $78 million in FY 2009.
The PHIT Act would change current federal tax law to allow for the deduction or use of pre-tax dollars to cover expenses related to sports, fitness and other physical activities. Americans could invest up to $1,000 annually to pay for physical activities by investing money in existing pre-tax Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Medical Savings Accounts (MSA), and/or medical reimbursement arrangements. PHIT would only expand the eligible expenses. It would not increase contribution limits to these accounts. Once an individual or family spends 7.5% of their income on qualified medical expenses, they could deduct physical activity expenses directly.
“Too many American youngsters are overweight and this trend toward obesity is growing at an alarming rate,” said Tom Cove, president of the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association. “Funding provided by PEP grants gives American children the chance to learn about the importance of physical fitness on a regular basis. Our children must have quality physical education in our schools. The PHIT Act encourages healthy, active lifestyles by making physical activity more affordable for individuals and families. We need to start focusing more time and resources on preventing illness as opposed to treating people once they are already sick. If we encourage active lifestyles as a way to help reverse the obesity trend, then the costly illnesses associated with inactivity will decrease.”
“Those who have participated in National Health through Fitness Day in the past have played a big role in getting this legislation passed,” said Bill Sells, SGMA’s vice president of government relations. “It’s a special opportunity to meet face-to-face with members of Congress to ask for their support of legislation to prevent illness through increased physical activity. The PEP bill helps finance a new way to approach P.E. for American children. PHIT will encourage physically active lifestyles by making sports, fitness and recreational activities more affordable.”
Polar USA and Accusplit are key sponsors of this day of advocacy on Capitol Hill.
If you are interested in being a part of this advocacy effort, please register to attend by accessing www.getinvolved.sgma.com or contacting SGMA’s Bill Sells (202.349.9417 or firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, the #1 source for sport and fitness research and author of the single-sport participation study on basketball, is the global business trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products industry. SGMA leads the sports and fitness industries while enhancing industry vitality and fostering sports, fitness, and active lifestyle participation. More information about SGMA can be found at www.sgma.com.