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Decorated Athletes Headlined SFIA's National Health Through FItness Day

Date: 3/4/15

SILVER SPRING, MD – March 4, 2015 – Six Olympic gold medalists, one Heisman Trophy winner, one Super Bowl champion, one Olympic silver medalist, more than 100 leaders from organizations in the sports and fitness industries, and  athletes from MLB, NHL, NBA, USA Swimming, Easton, Nike, Puma, ASICS, EvoShield, Polar, Franklin, Speedo and Under Armour joined together on March 4th to meet with the U.S. Congress and requested support for federal legislation to help this country reverse the current ‘Inactivity Pandemic.’  The event was the 16th Annual National Health Through Fitness Day in Washington, D.C. – organized by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association in partnership with the American College of Sports Medicine and sponsored by PHIT America.

On National Health Through Fitness Day, a delegation of celebrity athletes, sporting goods and fitness manufacturers, sports retailers, concerned citizens, physical educators and association leaders met with more than 100 members of Congress and had staff meetings with an additional 60 Congressional offices to encourage passage of three legislative initiatives to help all Americans become more physically fit.

(1)  PHIT (Personal Health Investment Today) Act, which will encourage improved health through increased physical activity for all Americans by making it more affordable to participate in sports and engage in physical fitness and recreation activities – through the use of tax incentives.   

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

(3) The Physical Activity Recommendations (PAR), promotes awareness of the types & amounts of physical activity that Americans, of all ages and physical aptitudes, should perform to gain important health benefits.
It is worth noting that National Health Through Fitness Day is SFIA’s signature Capitol Hill event which is designed to promote policies to improve health by encouraging active lifestyles though increased participation in sports, fitness and recreational physical activities. 

This year, a record 21-person sports celebrity delegation attended National Health Through Fitness Day.  The ‘VIP’ cast included Herschel Walker (1982 Heisman Trophy winner/NFL All-Pro /undefeated MMA fighter/past U.S. Winter Olympian); Carl Lewis (nine-time Olympic track & field gold medalist); Matt Stover (Baltimore Ravens, two-time Super Bowl-winning placekicker); Tommy John (retired Major League Baseball pitcher); Tommie Smith (1968 Olympic gold medal winner sprinter – 200m); Rowdy Gaines (1984 Olympic gold medal swimmer & NBC swim commentator); Shannon Miller (1992 and 1996 U.S. Olympic gold medal winning gymnast); Cullen Jones (2008 and 2012 Olympic swimming gold medalist); Esther Lofgren  (2012 Olympic gold medal winning rower); Jason Collins (retired NBA star); April Ross (2012 Olympic silver-medal winning beach volleyball player); Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell (Cleveland Browns running backs); Skip Bertman (LSU Hall of Fame and five-time College World Series winning baseball coach); Sharon Day-Monroe (#1 ranked U.S. heptathlete); Charlie Rymer (current Golf Channel analyst/former PGA Tour player); Ken Harvey (four-time NFL All-Pro Washington Redskins linebacker); John Booty (retired NFL defensive back -- Eagles, Giants, Cardinals, & Buccaneers); Alan May (former Washington Capitals hockey player and current analyst); Kelly Ward (national champion wrestler/former wrestling coach at Iowa St. & Nebraska); and Darrell Miller (retired California Angels outfielder).

These champions of sport had two key messages: (1) there’s an overwhelming need for daily P.E. for all school children and (2) all Americans need to embrace healthy, active lifestyles. 

“Our message was well received ‘on the Hill,’ today,” says U.S. gold medal winning Olympic gymnast Shannon Miller.  “Giving children and their families a chance to be active and to exercise is a passion of mine.”

“It was a very positive day.  I spoke with a number of Congressmen who are on board with our message,” says U.S. gold medal winning swimmer Cullen Jones.  “Giving kids a chance to exercise every day in school through P.E. classes has a way of changing their lives.”

“In every meeting that I had today, congressmen were very supportive of our message,” says former NBA player Jason Collins.

“In the budget-conscious environment on Capitol Hill, our goal was to save physical education in schools with PEP and encourage active lifestyles through the PHIT Bill,” says Bill Sells, SFIA’s vice president of government relations. 

“When we had these face-to-face Congressional meetings, it was essential that our industry leaders communicated the magnitude of the adverse impact of sedentary living,” says SFIA President Tom Cove.  “Simply put, we fully emphasized the positive economic outcomes of healthier and more active lifestyles.”

“This event remains a key event on the calendar for our industry,” says SFIA Chairman Bob Puccini (President; Mizuno USA; Roswell, GA).  “It is our annual opportunity to meet with Congress to explain the immense benefits that funding for PEP and the passage of the PHIT Act will mean to the future health of this country.”

“Right now, getting PEP funded and passing the PHIT Act are major priorities this year,” says PHIT America Founder Jim Baugh.   “To say that inactivity in America is having an adverse effect on health care costs in the U.S. is an understatement.   By passing the PHIT Act, it will support grassroots sports, fitness and recreational activities and will help get Americans healthier.”

"The Physical Activity Recommendations (PAR) set a benchmark for daily physical activity," said Carol Ewing Garber, Ph.D., FACSM, president of the American College of Sports Medicine. "Physical activity is an important part of staying healthy and reducing risk for chronic disease."

The PHIT Act would change current federal tax law to include physical activity as a medical expense as a form of prevention.  This change would give consumers the option of using funds in pre-tax medical accounts to pay for  expenses related to sports, fitness and other physical activities. Americans could invest up to $2,000 annually to reimburse physical activity costs using PHIT-designated contributions to existing pre-tax Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Health Savings Accounts (HSA), and other medical reimbursement arrangements.  The PHIT Act will only expand the eligible expenses.  It would not increase contribution limits to these accounts.

For the PEP Bill, this consortium asked Congress to continue funding the program in FY 2016.  PEP is the only Federal funding dedicated to physical education. To date, nearly $1 billion in PEP grants have been distributed across the country by the U.S. Department of Education. 

It is worth noting that earlier this week, Representatives Charles Boustany (R-LA) and Ron Kind (D-WI) officially introduced the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. 
While waiting for Congress to get behind the PEP Program and the PHIT Act, there’s an easy-to-use tool for the general public to use so they can ‘voice’ their support for PEP and the PHIT Act.  Click here to send an electronic letter directly to your local members of Congress to encourage them to support PEP and the PHIT Act.

On the evening of March 3rd, SFIA hosted the National Health Through Fitness Day Reception inside the U.S Capitol.  At the event, SFIA recognized one individual for his support of physical activity policies in America.  This year, retired Major League Baseball pitching great Tommy John, 72, was presented with SFIA’s Lifetime Achievement Award “in recognition of his lifelong commitment to promoting physical education and active lifestyles in America.”

While athletes and other participants met with Congress on March 4th to request support for PHIT, PEP & PAR, there was a physical education demonstration inside the Rayburn House Office Building which featured students and teachers from public schools in the greater District of Columbia area.  It was coordinated by Sportime and SPARK.  The PEP Demo demonstrated the innovative, quality PE provided via PEP. 

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association, the #1 source for sport and fitness research, is the leading global trade association of manufacturers, retailers, and marketers in the sports products and fitness industry. SFIA seeks to promote sports and fitness participation as well as industry vitality through research, thought leadership, public affairs, industry affairs, and member services.

PHIT America -- an educational, grassroots, advocacy and social media marketing campaign -- is designed to reach millions of Americans and create a Movement for a Fit and Healthy America. PHIT America will combat the obesity and sedentary activity crisis -- which is having an adverse effect on health care costs in the U.S. -- by promoting new legislation and grassroots programs that will help get Americans more active, playing more sports, exercising, getting fit and becoming healthier.

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