11/23/2014 | By Herschel Walker, Mike May and Michele Smith
The event is the 16th Annual National Health Through Fitness Day, organized by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (www.SFIA.org) and PHIT America (www.PHITAmerica.org).
This issue of physical inactivity in the U.S. is a critical one because military leaders in the U.S. are concerned about the fitness levels of future troops, many members of the medical community say that “sitting is the new smoking,” and it’s well known that physical activity benefits academic performance.
On National Health Through Fitness Day, a delegation of well known athletes, sporting goods and fitness manufacturers, sports retailers, education leaders, physical educators and association executives will “walk the halls of Congress” and meet with members of Congress to encourage passage of two legislative initiatives to help all Americans become more physically fit:
- The PHIT (Personal Health Investment Today) Act: When it is passed, the PHIT legislation will change the IRS definition of a “medical expense” to include physical activity as a form of prevention. Expanding the definition would make physical activity expenses reimbursable using pre-tax dollars in Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts. To date, 50 cosponsors (25 Republicans and 25 Democrats) have been secured for the PHIT Act. More cosponsors are needed. The goal is to get the PHIT Act passed in the next Congress, which takes office in January of 2015.
- The Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP): PEP funds a competitive grant program to give school districts and community based organizations resources to provide students with quality, innovative physical education. PEP has been passed and funded every year since fiscal year 2001. To date, more than $900 million in PEP grants has been distributed to school districts from coast-to-coast by the U.S. Department of Education. Continued passage of PEP is a priority. With access to PEP grants, school districts are able to cultivate future generations of active Americans through innovative physical education programs.
“Rising inactivity levels in the U.S., where 80.4 million Americans are currently inactive, underscore the urgency of National Health Through Fitness Day,” said PHIT America Founder Jim Baugh.
In a nutshell, National Health Through Fitness Day is a signature event for the SFIA and PHIT America to promote the adoption of federal policies that will increase participation in sports and fitness activities to improve healthy and active lifestyles for all Americans. Readers of this story — leaders in local, statewide, and national education — are ideally qualified to participate in this day of advocacy in our nation’s capital. And, understand the true value of this lobbying effort.
CELEBRITY SCENE ... “ON THE HILL”
Since the first National Health Through Fitness Day in 2001, the celebrity delegation has included a “who’s who” of champions in sport such as ex-Heisman Trophy winners, Baseball Hall of Famers, Olympic medalists, Grand Slam tennis champions, well-known current athletes, and successful coaches. The list of athletes includes former Heisman Trophy winners Tim Brown (Notre Dame) and Herschel Walker (Georgia); Hall of Fame golfer Gary Player; former Wimbledon and U.S. Open tennis champ Stan Smith; 18-time Grand Slam singles winner Martina Navratilova; NBA legend Bill Russell; current NFL Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith (now, Baltimore Ravens); former Major League Baseball pitchers Tommy John, Dave Stewart, and Tom Candiotti; former heavyweight boxing champion Larry Holmes; former U.S. Women’ Soccer great Mia Hamm; 1973 U.S. Open/1976 British Open golf champion Johnny Miller; current WNBA star Tamika Catchings (Indiana Fever); former U.S. Olympic softball gold medal-winning pitchers Michele Smith and Jennie Finch; U.S. Olympic middle distance runner Jenny Simpson; LPGA superstar Stacy Lewis; college basketball coach Tubby Smith; among others.
“This event is a key event on the calendar for the sports and fitness industry,” says National Health Through Fitness Day honorary chairman and former Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker. “It is our opportunity to meet with Congress to explain the immense benefits that funding for PEP and the passage of PHIT will mean to this country.”
“In the budget-cutting environment on Capitol Hill, our goal is to save physical education in schools with PEP and encourage active lifestyles through the PHIT Bill,” says Michele Smith, two-time U.S. Olympic gold medal winning softball pitcher.“When we have these face-to-face Congressional meetings, it’s essential that we communicate the magnitude of the adverse impact of sedentary living and fully emphasize the positive economic outcomes of healthier, more active lifestyles.”
“As leaders and decision makers in the education system, you have the opportunity to be catalysts of change that will benefit the minds and bodies of all young Americans ... and the future of this country,” said former Wimbledon and U.S. Open tennis champ Stan Smith.“It all begins with physical fitness.”
YOUR VOICE CAN BE HEARD: ADVOCATE NOW
Listed below is a link that allows the general public to send a personalized electronic letter to their local Congressman and their state’s two U.S. Senators — seeking support for PHIT and PEP.
You simply access www.phitamerica.org, click on the red Advocate icon, and follow the prompt which asks for your zip code. Then, you click “submit.” At that moment, an electronic letter of support for PEP and PHIT will be sent to your local member of congress in the U.S. House of Representatives and your state’s two U.S. Senators.
“Please advocate now and help this cause. Share the link with friends, family, and colleagues,” declares PHIT America’s Baugh.
“National support of PHIT and PEP can make a difference in reducing health care expenses and reversing inactivity in America,” said SFIA’s Vice President of Government Relations Bill Sells.
Let’s give all young Americans the chance to enjoy the benefits of physical activity. And, don’t forget, nobody sweats on the Internet!