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SGMA’S National Health-through-Fitness Day Helps Your Bottom Line

Date: 2/13/08

WASHINGTON, D.C. – February 13, 2008 – “Because of rising health care costs, it’s important that we take prevention seriously. If people spend more time and a small amount of money on physical activity programs now, these preventative measures to get and stay healthy will be less costly than treating disease and sickness down the road. The end result will be a healthier population with fewer visits to the doctor and less absenteeism in the workplace and at school – and that adds up to more productivity.”

"The fraction of Americans who are overweight or obese has increased in recent years,” said Peter R. Orszag, the director of growth in health care costs for the Congressional Budget Office, who spoke before the U.S Senate Budget Committee on January 31st. “Obesity raises an individual`s risk of serious illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and obese persons incur greater health care costs. In 2001, for example, spending for health care per person of normal weight was $2,783, compared with $3,737 per obese person and $4,725 per morbidly obese person. A rise in the prevalence of obesity is therefore a likely contributor to the growth of health care spending.”

On National Health-through-Fitness Day, a delegation of well known athletes, sporting goods manufacturers, sports retailers, concerned citizens, physical educators and association leaders will visit Capitol Hill to meet with members of Congress to encourage passage of two legislative initiatives that will help Americans (of all ages) become more physically fit.

(1) Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) Bill, which provides grants to school districts and community based organizations to support innovative physical education and activity methods;

(2) PHIT (Personal Health Investment Today) Act, which will encourage 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.

Leading the delegation from the sporting goods industry will be former NFL running back/U.S. Olympic bobsledder/1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker – the honorary chairman of National Health-through-Fitness Day. To date, joining him will be former NFL Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow (San Diego Chargers); former NHL player Warren Young (Pittsburgh Penguins/St. Louis Blues); ex-NFL player John Booty (Philadelphia Eagles); ex-Major League Soccer great Eddie Pope; NFL Pro Bowler Patrick Kearney (Seattle Seahawks); 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders (Indianapolis Colts); Hall of Fame catcher Gary Carter (Montreal Expos/New York Mets); WNBA star/2004 U.S. Olympian Swin Cash (Detroit Shock); Arena Football League Commissioner David Baker; and Premier Basketball League President Tom Doyle.

Right now, only about 25% of U.S. schoolchildren have a daily P.E. class. Illinois is the only state that requires daily P.E. from kindergarten through 12th grade. The lack of daily P.E. is evident on the expanding waistlines of American children.

“National Health-through-Fitness Day is one powerful way to push ahead our ultimate goal of providing people all over the country with access to the tools and knowledge needed to measure and maximize the precious time we all need to devote to physical activity to understand our bodies and lead healthier lives,” stated Jeff Padovan, president of Polar, Inc.

“Recent studies indicate that obese workers have up to 21 percent higher health care costs compared to normal weight employees,” said SGMA President Tom Cove. “Also, about 39 million days of work each year are lost due to obesity. By lowering obesity rates, we will reduce absenteeism in the workplace and improve productivity.”

For the PEP Bill, this consortium will ask Congress to provide $100 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2009. The SGMA will schedule 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; and $75.7 million in FY 2008. To date, nearly $500 million in PEP Bill grants have been distributed across the country by the U.S. Department of Education.

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.

“The importance of the PHIT Act can be underscored by the fact that in 2004, more than 45 million people in the U.S. lived in a family that had to spend more than 10 percent of its income on out-of-pocket healthcare costs,” said Bill Sells, SGMA’s director of governmental relations. “If fitness issues were given more attention and support, healthcare spending would drop.”

Accusplit and Polar, the world's number 1 heart rate monitor, are Supporting Sponsors of this advocacy effort. Accusplit is donating pedometers to those who participate in the National Health-through-Fitness Day lobbying effort so that each person can calculate how far they walk that day on Capitol Hill.

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