The Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association (SGMA) said that so far,  a record total of 40 companies have agreed to be sponsors of the the 11th Annual National Health Through Fitness Day ( in our nation's capital. The big day of advocacy in Washington, D.C. is Wednesday, March 10. 

The purpose of the day is to meet with members of Congress (and their staffs) to discuss the importance of legislation that encourages more physical activity for all Americans. 

The United States Tennis Association is the Presenting Sponsor.  The Active Network and Accusplit are the Special Event Sponsors.  To date, 37 other groups and companies are Supporting & Celebrity Sponsors.  They are The Annika Foundation, Callaway Golf, Century Martial Arts, Cramer Products, Easton-Bell Sports, Everlast Worldwide, Everlast Climbing Industries, Flaghouse, Franklin Sports, Game Bike, Gatorade, General Mills, GeoFitness, Good Sports, Gopher, Head, HOPSports, Mizuno USA, NASPE, National Football League, NFL Players Association, Nike, National Sporting Goods Association, PlayCore, Polar Electro, Precor, Prince Sports, Rawlings, Reebok, SGMA's Legal Task Force, Speed Stacks, Sportime, Tennis Industry Association, Ultimate Fighting Championships, Under Armour, Wilson, and XaviX.

The big day of advocacy in Washington, D.C. is Wednesday, March 10.  On that day, SGMA will assemble a group of well known athletes, sporting goods and fitness manufacturers, sports retailers, physical educators, and association leaders for a series of face-to-face discussions with U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators about the importance of federal funding to (1) support quality physical education in schools and (2) encourage more physical activity for families by making it more accessible and more affordable.

“The great news about SGMA's National Health Through Fitness Day is that the 40 companies which are sponsoring this event totally understand the value of this 'day on the Hill,' ” said SGMA President/CEO Tom Cove. “Some of the companies which are sponsoring this event are doing so by supplying a well-known celebrity to join our lobbying delegation.”

To date, the list of celebrities includes football legend Herschel Walker (Franklin Sports), LPGA Hall of Fame golfer Annika Sörenstam (The Annika Foundation/Callaway Golf), internationally renowned golf instructor David Leadbetter (Callaway Golf), 2010 NFL Hall of Fame Inductee Tim Brown, nine-time UFC world champion Matt Hughes (Century Martial Arts), world-class tennis teaching professional/coach Nick Bollettieri (Prince Sports), boxing champ Andre Berto (Everlast Worldwide), Jennie Finch (U.S. Olympic gold medalist/softball pitcher), Gray Maynard (Undefeated Professional MMA Fighter), and former NFL players Ken Harvey and John Booty (NFL Players Association).  

The SGMA-led group will 'walk the halls of Congress' generating support for two physical activity initiatives:

(1)  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.

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

The consortium will ask Congress to approve the PEP Bill in Fiscal Year 2011 for $100 million.  In Fiscal Year 2001, the PEP Bill was approved for $5 million; $50 million in FY 2002; $60 million in FY 2003; $70 million in FY 2004; $73.4 million in FY 2005; $72.7 million in FY 2006; $73 million in FY 2007; $75.7 million in FY 2008; $78 million in FY 2009; and $79 million in FY 2010.

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 improving the health of Americans 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), Health Savings Accounts (HSA), Medical Savings Accounts (MSA), and/or medical reimbursement arrangements.  PHIT would not increase contribution limits to these accounts.