U.S. Olympic middle distance runner Jenny Barringer Simpson will be joining a number of sports superstars help fight childhood obesity and to help ‘Get America Moving’ as part of SGMA's National Health Through Fitness Day.  Simpson is the World 1500m champion and a Team New Balance athlete.

These champions of sport will have a message that there’s an overwhelming need for daily P.E. in U.S. schools, which will help trim the fat off America’s children who are overweight and out of shape.  To date, the celebrity delegation includes 1982 Heisman Trophy winner/former U.S. Olympian Herschel Walker; Hall of Fame golfer Gary Player; former Wimbledon & U.S. Open tennis champ Stan Smith; NFL Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith (Carolina Panthers); former Major League Baseball pitcher Tommy John;  ex-NHL star/current ice hockey commentator Jeremy Roenick; former U.S. Open/British Open golf champion Johnny Miller; WNBA star Tamika Catchings; Team USA softball star Monica Abbott; LPGA superstar Stacy Lewis; Golden Gloves Boxer Cara Castronuova; former NFL players Ken Harvey, John Booty, and Aaron Beasley, among others.

On Wednesday, March 7, a delegation of well-known athletes, fitness & sporting goods manufacturers, fitness & sports retailers, concerned citizens, association leaders, and Simpson will visit Capitol Hill to participate in the 13th Annual National Health Through Fitness Day, presented by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA).  Primarily, they will lobby Congress for passage of two legislative initiatives that will help all Americans 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.    

Simpson will be volunteering her time to be a part of this lobbying group because of her personal commitment to promoting physical activity to reverse the obesity trend in America.
“I am looking forward to sharing the news with members of Congress that the PEP grants are working at the local level around the country,” said Simpson.  “We need fitness facilities at every school site for students, staff and their local community.”
“In the budget-cutting environment on Capitol Hill, our goal is to save physical education in schools and encourage active lifestyles,” said Bill Sells, SGMA’s vice president of government relations.  “It’s imperative that they understand the adverse impact of sedentary living and appreciate the positive economic outcomes of healthier, more active lifestyles.”

For the PEP Bill, this consortium will ask Congress to continue funding the program in FY 2013.  PEP is the only Federal funding dedicated to physical education. SGMA will schedule meetings with more than 100 U.S. Senators and Representatives on March 7.  In FY 2001, the PEP Bill was approved for $5 million.  The success of PEP has led to a steady increase in funding.  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; $75.7 million in FY 2008; $78 million in FY 2009; $79 million in FY 2010; $79 million in FY 2011; and $79 million in FY 2012.  To date, nearly $800 million in PEP 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 $2,000 annually to reimburse physical activity costs using PHIT-designated contributions to existing pre-tax Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA), Medical Savings Accounts (MSA), and other medical reimbursement arrangements.  PHIT would only expand the eligible expenses.  It would not increase contribution limits to these accounts.  Once an individual or family reaches the 7.5% threshold on income spent for qualified medical expenses, they could deduct physical activity expenses directly.

“Too many people in the U.S. are inactive and as a result, are unhealthy,” 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.  We must encourage active lifestyles as a way to help reverse the obesity trend.”

“Participation in our National Health Through Fitness Day activities is a win-win for all those affected by the legislation,” said Sells.  “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.”

To keep up to date on what's happening with SGMA and SGMA's National Health Through Fitness Day, follow us on Twitter @TheSGMA.  We’ll be using the hash tag #nhtf12 for anything NHTF Day related.  You are also encouraged and invited to be a 'fan' of National Health Through Fitness Day on our Facebook page to let your friends know that you support a physically active lifestyle.
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