A delegation of physical activity proponents met on March 4th
with members of Congress in Washington,
to talk about what can be
done to ‘Get America Moving’  as part of the 10th Annual National Health Through Fitness Day. The group included one Heisman Trophy winner; three Olympic gold medalists; a former Wimbledon and U.S. Open tennis champ; an ex-World Series
MVP; and a host of other current and former star athletes joined the advocacy
effort. Organized by the Sporting Goods
Manufacturers Association (SGMA), t
he consortium asked Congress to approve the PEP Bill in
Fiscal Year 2010 for $100 million.


According to a statement from the SGMA, the game plan was to
have a series of face-to-face discussions with U.S.
Representatives and U.S.
Senators about the importance of federal funding for quality physical education
and increasing physical activity for families by making it more accessible and
more affordable for all Americans. The group conducted 87 meetings with U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators and an additional 33
meetings with key Congressional aides and key staff members.


SGMA noted that less than 10% of U.S. schools have daily physical
education classes for their students, 46% of high school students receive no
physical education, and the military is struggling to find recruits in tip-top
shape. Every year since 2000, SGMA has organized a day on Capitol Hill to push
physical fitness initiatives as a way to improve overall health in America.


The celebrities participating in National Health Through
Fitness Day included 1982 Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker (University of
Georgia); former U.S. women’s soccer World Cup champion and Olympic soccer gold
medalist Mia Hamm; 1984 Olympic women’s marathon gold medalist Joan
Benoit-Samuelson; former Wimbledon and U.S. Open tennis champ Stan Smith; current
U.S. women’s soccer star/2008 Olympic soccer gold medalist Abby Wambach; former
IBF welterweight boxing champion Paulie Malignaggi; 1989 World Series MVP
pitcher Dave Stewart (A’s); 9-time UFC welterweight champion Matt Hughes;
active NFL players Chris Draft (Panthers & Rams), Trent Cole (Eagles),
Vernon Davis (49ers), and Kerry Rhodes (Jets); current Canadian Football League
player Claude Harriet (Toronto Argonauts); former NFL players Ken Harvey
(Redskins & Cardinals) and John Booty (Cardinals, Jets, Giants, Eagles,
& Buccaneers); and Bernie Salazar from the NBC hit show “The Biggest


There were a number of representatives from SGMA member
organizations which participated in the lobbying process.  Those companies included Accusplit, Brain
Pad, Century Martial Arts, Continental Sports Supply/Reusch USA, Cramer
Products, Easton-Bell Sports, Everlast Worldwide, Franklin Sports, Head,
HOPSports Training Systems, Horizon Fitness, ICON Health & Fitness, Jarden
Team Sports, Lifeline International, Mizuno USA, New Balance Athletic Shoe,
Nike, Polar Electro, Prince Sports, Reebok, Rollerblade, Russell Athletic,
Spalding, SPRI Products, Under Armour, and Wilson Sporting Goods.


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


The SGMA-led industry delegation has asked Congress to
provide $100 million in PEP funding.


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 $500 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, which will be introduced 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 $1,000 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.  

The consortium asked Congress to approve the PEP Bill in
Fiscal Year 2010 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; and
$78.0 million in FY 2009.


In addition to the lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill, there
was a physical education demonstration which was held in the Rayburn House
Office Building
.  It featured a PE class and their teachers
from the greater Washington,
area.  This demonstration featured a group of
students from a DC-area school which was the recipient of a PEP grant.  It was coordinated by Cindy Sisson Hensley of
HOPSports.  The event was also supported
by SGMA, NASPE, and the National Coalition for the Promotion of Physical


“The sports and fitness industry has been influential in
demonstrating that physical activity is the foundation for a healthy nation,”
said Tom Cove, SGMA’s president.  “PEP
will help give Americans of all ages an opportunity to learn about the
importance of physical fitness in their daily lives.  PHIT will help encourage physical activity by
making it more affordable and available. 
Adults need regular exercise and the PHIT Act will help them achieve
that goal.”


“PEP helps finance a new way to approach P.E. for children
and PHIT encourages physically active lifestyles by making sports, fitness and
recreational activities more affordable,” said Bill Sells, SGMA’s vice
president of government relations.


“This issue will help the new Administration’s focus on preventative
health care,” said Ron Sutton of Accusplit. 
“We are the right industry with the right message points at the right
time to have reduce overall health care costs.”


“We have to change the national consciousness on this
issue,” said NFL veteran linebacker Chris Draft (Rams).  “The connection between good health and being
effective in the classroom or the workplace is undeniable.” 


“The PHIT Bill and PEP work hand in hand on this issue,”
said Colleen Logan of ICON Health & Fitness.  “PEP can help keep children active through
high school, while PHIT can help make physical activity expenses more
affordable for adults.”


“I understand the severity of this issue,” said NFL tight
end Vernon Davis (49ers).  “Both PEP and
PHIT will help improve health levels, reduce absenteeism, and increase


“Physical education is as important as other subjects in
school and it needs to be given the attention and support it deserves,” said
football legend Herschel Walker, who was the honorary chairman of National
Health Through Fitness Day. 


“I have seen first-hand how a PEP grant can transform a PE
program in a school,” said Ellen Smith, a physical education teacher at Gove Elementary School
in Belle Glade, Florida.”


Accusplit, General Mills, Polar Electro, Tennis Industry
Association, National Sporting Goods Association, and the United States Tennis
Association were Supporting Sponsors of this advocacy effort.  The Active Network and leaders in the SGMA’s
Legal Task Force — Snell & Wilmer, LLP; Frilot, LLC; Duane Morris, LLP;
Morrison Mahoney, LLP; and Liner, Yankelevitz, Sunshine & Regenstreif, LLP
– generously supported National Health Through Fitness Day as Special Event


Part of Accusplit’s support was a gift of a pedometer to
every person participating in the National Health Through Fitness Day
congressional meetings.  Most people
walked between 8,000 and 12,000 steps while walking between Congressional


Century Martial Arts, Easton-Bell, Everlast Worldwide,
Franklin Sports, Gatorade, HOPSports, NFLPA, Mizuno USA, Nike, Prince Sports,
Reebok, and Under Armour supported National Health Through Fitness Day by
donating the services of celebrity athletes to help in this lobbying effort.