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SGMA’s National Health-through-Fitness Day

Date: 1/30/08

WASHINGTON, D.C. – January 30, 2008 – “Spending a day on Capitol Hill with SGMA is an investment of time that will reap dividends – both now and in the future.” Those are the words of advice from Schutt Sports (Litchfield, IL) Chairman Julie Nimmons who will be in Washington, D.C. on March 12th for SGMA’s 9th Annual National Health-through-Fitness Day. Nimmons strongly encourages all executives in the sports and fitness industry to make this event a priority on their travel schedules.

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.

“There are many reasons why I plan to attend National Health-through-Fitness Day,” stated Nimmons. “The strongest reason is that it makes good business sense to participate in this advocacy effort. Frankly, industrywide initiatives like the PEP Bill and the PHIT Act are dynamic because they will encourage Americans to be more physically active which helps increase demand for our products. The PHIT Act is a new piece of legislation so it’s vital that we give it as much support as possible.”

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); and ex-NFL players Ken Harvey (Washington Redskins/Arizona Cardinals) and John Booty (Philadelphia Eagles).

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.

“My life wouldn’t be where it is today without P.E. class,” noted Walker. “P.E. in schools is as important as the other subjects.”

For the PEP Bill, this consortium will ask Congress to provide $100 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2009. 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; 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.

“Too many people in the U.S. are overweight and obesity is growing at an alarming rate,” said SGMA President Tom Cove. “PEP grants give American children the chance to learn about the importance of physical fitness on a daily basis. Our children must have quality physical education in our schools. As for the PHIT Act, it 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.”

“Participation in our National Health-through-Fitness Day activities is a win-win for all those affected by the legislation,” said Bill Sells, SGMA’s director of government relations. “You get the chance 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 will expose thousands of American children to a new approach to P.E. PHIT will encourage physically active lifestyles by making sports, fitness and recreational activities more affordable.”

Accusplit and Polar Electro are Supporting Sponsors of his 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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