Athletes in attendance at SFIA’s 20th annual National Health Through Fitness Day on Wednesday boasted one World Series, one Stanley Cup, 11 Olympic medals; one Heisman Trophy; seven Pro Bowls invites; one NBA Most Improved Player Award and 10 MLB All-Star Game appearances.
In addition to the athletes, SFIA was joined by the American College of Sports Medicine, sports executives, youth league organizations, health and fitness industry representatives, and other physical activity proponents eager to speak with Congress about the importance of PHIT.
Throughout the day, more than 100 meetings were held, more than half directly with Congressmen/women and Senators, to discuss the severe state of inactivity in our country. Every year, individuals in households with an annual income under $75,000 become less active, and inversely, activity rates among higher-income households continue to grow. In turn, economic status is
strongly influencing youth participation in sports.
“Now, in schools, it’s all pay-to-play,” said former NFL Pro Bowl player, Santana Moss. “If my kid is going to play any varsity sport – I have to sign them up and pay first, then they have to make the team. Then, once they make the team, I have to buy the
equipment, the shoes, the uniform, and whatever else there is. If households can’t afford to buy the equipment, then their kids can’t play. That’s one of the biggest issues we’re seeing, and that’s why we’re trying to pass this bill.”
“The polarization of income dictating activity levels is evolving,” stated former NHL player, Kevin Westgarth. “The ability to participate in sports, or any kind of physical activity, in schools or wherever – places where, traditionally, everyone comes together and where everyone is supposed to be on equal footing, no longer exist. Losing those opportunities has been devastating to the landscape of youth sports, and it is something that the PHIT Act will help address.”
The United States government is in a critical position to stop this trend and prevent income from having such a strong impact on Americans’ activity levels. The PHIT Act proposes a change in the IRS definition of “medical expense,” to include physical activity-related expenses as a form of prevention. It is one of the most bipartisan pieces of legislation going through Congress at this time, due to the fact that a more active U.S. population will lead to healthier lifestyles and lower healthcare spending, which is currently projected to reach 20 percent of the U.S. GDP by 2025.
“National Health Through Fitness Day is a special time because it gives us a chance to actually connect directly with Congress and talk about things that are important to us and the industries we support,” said SFIA Chairman, Chris Clawson. “Most importantly,
the PHIT bill was introduced in the House yesterday, which means that we now have both House and Senate support. We are really excited about moving this forward. We think it’s a game-changer; not just for the industry, but more importantly, for the people of America, as it will provide them with the opportunity to use FSAs and HSAs to focus on prevention, as opposed to just treatment.”
SFIA applauded congressional efforts to encourage activity via the PHIT Act to reverse the inactivity trend, and presented Congressman Rodney Davis (R-IL) and Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-LA) with SFIA’s Champion of Health & Fitness Award for their leadership and concerted efforts to improve health through activity in America.
“Having athletes help us deliver our pro-health message is very exciting, as they are living proof of the everlasting benefits of an active lifestyle,” said Bill Sells, senior vice president of Government & Public Affairs at SFIA. “American society has changed over the years and casual daily activity is no longer free. Unfortunately, middle and lower-income families are suffering the most. The PHIT Act will lower the cost of active, healthy lifestyles by allowing consumers to use medical pre-tax dollars to prevent chronic disease. This is something our country needs.”
Other athletes slated to attend included Herschel Walker, Steve Garvey, Carl Lewis, Gheorghe Muresan, Ken Harvey, John Booty and Bobby Valentine.