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Athletes Speak Out in Favor of P.E. and Physical Activity

Date: 3/16/10

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 16, 2010 – During SGMA’s recently completed 11th Annual National Health Through Fitness Day in Washington, DC, on March 10th, nearly 20 well known figures from sports and fitness joined more than 100 sports industry leaders to meet with members of Congress to speak about two issues:

  1. the importance of federal funding for quality physical education and
  2. increasing physical activity for families by making it more accessible and more affordable for all Americans. 

The group conducted just over 100 meetings with U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators and nearly 30 meetings with key Congressional aides and staff members.

Listed below are just a few of the comments made by this year’s group of sports celebrities who ‘walked the halls’ of Congress:

“Growing up being physical active, having PE, and playing multiple sports got me to level that I’m at today.  Physical activity is a form of health prevention and children are not getting enough exercise these days.”  -- Elana Meyers, 2010 Olympic bronze medalist in the two-man bobsled

“Physical education is very important because it allows children to move.   When children move, they pay attention better in class.  As the saying goes, when you have a sound body, you have a sound mind.  Physical education is about keeping children moving and helping to create a healthy lifestyle.”  -- Michele Smith, two-time Olympic softball gold medalist

“Physical education is important to me for so many reasons.  It kept me alive and healthy when I was a kid.  There is something to be said for a strong body yields a strong mind.  There are so many things that I learned during those PE days that I have carried with me – being physically fit, being sound with your nutrition, and the team skills you learn when you play with other kids.  They transcend your youth and are so applicable during your adult years.” -- ESPN broadcaster Bonnie Bernstein

“An active kid does very well in school.  As a kid, I was a little overweight, I had a speech impediment, and I was not in great shape, but I had a high school coach that got me active and involved in sports activities which gave me confidence in the classroom.  I eventually became the valedictorian of my high school class.” -- 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker

“There are a number of reasons why physical education is important.  With PE, kids develop socially and physically.  It helps the mind and the body.”  -- Former major league baseball pitcher Tom Candiotti                                                   

The advocates walked the halls of Congress generating support for two physical activity initiatives:

Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP)- provides the only federal money to school districts and community based organizations for physical education and innovative physical activity methods;

Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act- PHIT can encourage physically active lifestyles by making sports, fitness, and recreational activities more affordable -- through the use of tax incentives.

PEP provides grants to local school districts and community based programs to purchase equipment and train instructors in innovative physical education methods.  Since 2001, PEP has successfully enhanced K-12 physical education programs across the country through more than $600 million in grants used for training in state-of-the-art health and wellness-based physical education methods.  PEP uses new technology such as heart-rate monitors, pedometers, and the acquisition of state-of-the-art fitness equipment and facilities.

The PHIT Bill, whose main sponsor is U.S. Representative Ron Kind (R-WI), has risen from a concept in the fall of 2005 to a viable vehicle for promoting health and disease prevention in America through physically active lifestyles.  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. Once an individual or family spends 7.5% of their income on qualified medical expenses, they can deduct physical activity expenses directly.  More than 45 million Americans live in families that meet the 7.5% threshold to deduct medical expenses.  PHIT would also allow Americans to invest up to $2,000 annually in existing pre-tax medical accounts to pay for physical activities.  PHIT would only 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.  

The facts about physical inactivity levels in the United States are startling and eye-opening, which underscores the importance of National Health Through Fitness Day: 

  1. recess is not a regular part of the schedule in many schools,
  2. obesity costs our health care system as much as $147 billion a year,
  3. less than 10% of U.S. schools have daily physical education classes for their students,
  4. 46% of high school students receive no physical education, and
  5. the fastest-growing cause of illness and death in America today is obesity. 

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