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SGMA's Efforts to Push Physical Activity Can Make A Difference

Date: 11/23/09

SILVER SPRING, MD – November 23, 2009 – The results of a national fitness study released last week revealed some disturbing trends about current fitness levels in the United States and expected health care expenditures in the U.S. in the not-too-distant future – unless something is done to reverse the negative trend.  The 20th Anniversary Edition of America’s Health Rankings highlighted some eye-opening figures such as 27 percent of the U.S. population is obese and U.S. health care expenditures are now $2.4 trillion.

As startling as those figures may be, they underscore the significance of the initiatives the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) is promoting to reverse the negative health trend.

“This news confirms the importance of our public policy work which is focused on making physical activity a priority – for physical education in schools, youth sports, and adult fitness and recreational activities,” said SGMA President Tom Cove.  “SGMA is leading the effort on two pieces of legislation that promote sports, fitness, exercise and physical activity: The Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) and the Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT).

PEP provides the only federal money to school districts and community based organizations for physical education and innovative physical activity.  PEP grants are used by local school districts and community based programs to purchase equipment and train instructors in new physical education methods.  Since 2001, PEP has successfully enhanced K-12 physical education across the country with more than $600 million in grants for training in state-of-the-art health and wellness-based physical education methods.  Physical education classes supported by PEP grants use heart-rate monitors, pedometers, and state-of-the-art fitness equipment to motivate students to exercise.

PHIT encourages physically active lifestyles by making sports, fitness, and recreational activities more affordable -- through the use of tax incentives.  The PHIT Bill, introduced by U.S. Representative Ron Kind (R-WI), 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. PHIT would allow Americans to invest up to $2,000 annually in existing pre-tax medical accounts to pay for physical activity expenses including fitness equipment, youth sports fees, health club dues, and other expenses that directly relate to exercise and physical activity.  PHIT would expand the eligible expenses for pre-tax Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Medical Savings Accounts (MSA), and/or medical reimbursement arrangements.  PHIT would not increase contribution limits to these accounts.

“One of the keys to successfully confronting the issue of obesity is to focus on prevention and one of the best ways to prevent obesity is with exercise.  Naturally, an ideal way to introduce people to exercise is through P.E. programs in our schools.  That’s the power of PEP,” noted SGMA Vice President Bill Sells.  “PHIT will give people a financial incentive to get active – to participate in that exercise class, join a local sports team, or sign up for a gym membership.”
“Together, as individuals, community leaders, health care professionals, employers, and elected officials, we must elevate disease prevention and health promotion to the top of our agendas,” said Reed Tuckson, M.D., chief of medical affairs, UnitedHealth Group.
“By encouraging more physical activity through financial incentives, we will improve health, reduce medical costs and lower absenteeism at school and in the workplace,” said Bill Sells, SGMA’s vice president of government relations.  “PHIT has the potential to make a big difference in people’s lives, provide a boost to the economy and eventually lower health care spending.”

“I challenge leaders from all sectors of the sporting goods industry to support this effort next spring by participating in SGMA’s 11th National Health Through Fitness Day on March 10,” said SGMA President Tom Cove.  “On that day, industry leaders will meet face-to-face with members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to encourage Congressional support of PEP and PHIT.”
National Health Through Fitness Day’s website is www.getinvolved.sgma.com.

The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA), the #1 source for sport and fitness research, is the leading global trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products industry.  SGMA helps lead the sports and fitness industries by promoting favorable public policies, fostering participation through research, thought leadership and product promotion.  More information about SGMA membership, SGMA public policy platform, SGMA's Sports Research Partnership, and SGMA's National Health Through Fitness Day can be found at www.SGMA.com . 

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