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SGMA Supports Federal Bill Which Will Encourage Fitness in the Workplace

Date: 10/4/11

SILVER SPRING, MD -- October 4, 2011 -- The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) is 100% behind the Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act.  The bill was introduced earlier today by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX). This legislation is a major step in helping to promote healthy lifestyles and will provide American businesses and their employees with an opportunity to upgrade their commitment to fitness, focus on healthy lifestyles, and improve productivity in the workplace.

If it becomes law, the WHIP Act would represent a significant step forward in overcoming hurdles to getting wellness established in the workplace. Under current tax law, businesses are allowed to deduct the cost of on-site exercise facilities and employees are not taxed on the benefit. However, if an employer provides this same benefit at an off-site facility, employees who take advantage of the benefit must pay income tax on the value of the subsidy—a requirement in direct contradiction to the goal of promoting healthful activity in the workplace. The WHIP Act would eliminate this inequity, reaffirming employers’ right to deduct the cost of providing off-site health club or gym benefits and preventing this wellness benefit from being considered additional income for employees.

"SGMA applauds Senator Cornyn for his commitment to the cause of wellness in the workplace,” said Bill Sells, SGMA’s vice president of government relations. "By encouraging workers to be healthy, we will help control the cost of health care, increase worker productivity, and reduce absenteeism at work.”

Sells also noted that the WHIP Act would have a particularly positive effect on America’s small businesses, which frequently struggle to afford benefits that allow them to attract and retain quality, loyal employees. Small businesses are the backbone of the U.S. economy and are an important source of job growth in the United States.

The WHIP Act actually complements two other pieces of federal legislation which SGMA supports -- PEP and PHIT – both of which are focused on improving physical activity in the U.S.
1.) The Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP) Bill funds a competitive grant program to give school districts and community based organizations resources to provide students with quality, innovative physical education;

2.) The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act would promote improved health through increased physical activity by making it more affordable to engage in sports, fitness and recreation activities -- through the use of tax incentives.

The WHIP Act also complements the nation’s first-ever National Physical Activity Plan. The Plan specifically calls on America’s CEOs to sign the “CEO Pledge” -- a written commitment to improve employee health and wellness by producing opportunities and resources for physical activity before, during, or after the workday.
“Why is WHIP important?  Because research shows that regular physical activity specifically helps reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, and various forms of cancer,” stated Sells.

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, and SGMA’s National Health Through Fitness Day can be found at www.sgma.com.

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