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Richard Simmons, American Heart Association and Others Team Up with Reps. Kind, Wamp, and Chairman Miller Calling for More P.E. in Schools

April 22, 2010
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) today with U.S. Reps. Zach Wamp (R-TN), George Miller (D-CA), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, fitness  guru Richard Simmons, and representatives from the American Heart Association, Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association (SGMA), and the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) celebrated the passage of the Fitness Integrated with Teaching (FIT) Kids Act, which combats childhood obesity by strengthening physical education programs in schools across the country.  

The FIT Kids Act, H.R. 1585, which passed the House of Representatives yesterday, renews the emphasis on physical education in schools.  The Act would work to ensure kids are active during the school day and are taught to be personally responsible for their health.  The legislation would engage parents and the public by requiring all school districts and states to report on students’ physical activity, including the amount of time spent in required physical education in relation to the recommended national standard.  In addition, the Act would fund research to examine the link between children’s health and their academic achievement and recommend effective and innovative ways to get physical education back into schools.

“This bill gets to the simple truth: in order to develop healthy minds, you need healthy bodies,” said Rep. Ron Kind, co-chair of the Congressional Fitness Caucus.  “Providing increased physical education in public schools will give every child an opportunity – regardless of their background – to learn healthy habits and get moving.  We will see the benefits in their math and reading test scores, get to the root of the obesity epidemic, and get kids on a healthy path early in life.”

“Physical Education has been squeezed out of our schools and it needs to be welcomed back in with open arms,” said Rep. Zach Wamp.  “Research shows that children who get a good healthy dose of cardiovascular exercise have better brain functions, test scores and sleep patterns, along with an increased quality of life. Children who are physically well do much better in schools and avoid the chronic health consequences of a sedentary lifestyle, such as type 2 diabetes, obesity and hypertension. The FIT Kids Act will help provide the research and information on what works best to incorporate P.E. into schools. This can be shared with parents, teachers and school directors so they can help our next generation lead an active lifestyle.”

“With one in three children in this country considered overweight or obese, childhood obesity has become a major threat to our nation’s physical and economic health,” said Rep. George Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. “The First Lady has rightfully recognized the need to address this epidemic and this bill complements the work of Congress and represents a first step toward improving the health and well-being of our schoolchildren.  By empowering parents, schools and students to lead healthier lives and become more physically active, we can help our kids grow, thrive, and succeed in school and in life.”

"In my heart I knew this day would come,” said Richard Simmons.  “For the last three and a half years I have worked so hard with my team to make the FIT Kids Act a reality.  We will continue to work hard so it will also pass in the Senate, and on the day that President Obama signs the bill in to law, he'll give me one of the pens. I look forward to sharing with he and the First Lady all of my ideas on how we can get our kids more fit."

“House passage of FIT Kids Act reinforces the American Heart Association’s efforts to improve the health and wellness of children,” said Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association.  “With childhood obesity still a growing national health concern, this bill brings us one step closer to making daily, quality physical education a reality for all America’s kids.”

“The National Football League's youth health and fitness campaign, NFL PLAY 60, recognizes the importance of daily physical activity and encourages children to lead active lifestyles,” said Roger Goodell, NFL Commissioner.  “The Fit Kids Act shares that goal and is an important step in strengthening physical education programs in our schools.

“Wisconsin’s educators care about their students and we support efforts to teach them the importance of living healthy lives,” said Mary Bell, President of the Wisconsin Education Association Council. “The classroom is an essential part of the solution when it comes to fighting the growing trend of childhood obesity, along with home and community. By ensuring schools have the resources they need to offer strong, comprehensive physical education and related programs, our entire state will benefit right along with the students.”

“The University of Wisconsin – La Crosse has a long tradition in the education of physical education teachers and has a firm understanding of the importance of physical activity and health,” said Mark Gibson, Director of Athletic Training at UW-L.  “The Department of Exercise and Sport Science strives to serve as a catalyst for expanding the scope of physical activity throughout the nation.  The passage of the FIT Kids Act is a required step to fundamentally change the future health of the United States population.”

With the continued rise in childhood obesity, it is important that we make physical activity a bigger priority in schools,” said Bill Sells, Vice President of the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association.  “Active children are much more likely to be active adults.  The Fit Kids Act will be a key part of the solution to sedentary lifestyles by getting America’s young people moving to encourage lifelong activity and health.”

“The passage of the Fit Kids Act supports NASPE’s mission by disseminating crucial information to parents and the public about the quality and quantity of physical education being offered in our schools,” said Dr. Fran Cleland, NASPE Past President. “This information will lead to providing the nation’s students with highly qualified teachers who implement best practices and innovative programming and instilling students with the knowledge, skills and confidence to lead a healthy and active lifestyle.”

The FIT Kids Act has been endorsed by the following organizations: The American Heart Association, American Stroke Association, National Association for Sport and Physical Education, Afterschool Alliance, American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation, American School Health Association, Healthy Schools Campaign, National Association of Health Education Centers, National Association for County and City Health Officials, National Recreation and Park Association, Obesity Action Coalition, Researchers Against Inactivity-related Disorders, SPARK, Shaping America’s Health, Trust for America’s Health, American College of Sports Medicine, and the YMCA.

Childhood Obesity in America

Childhood obesity in the United States has reached epidemic proportions.  Recent studies indicate that 17 percent of 6 to 11 year olds and 17.6 percent of 12 to 19 year olds are considered obese. Furthermore, 33 percent of 6 to 11 year olds and 34 percent of 12 to 19 year olds are overweight; these rates have roughly doubled since 1980.

Overweight children and teens are much more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea, and various forms of cancer.  This is a costly expense to our health care system; obesity related medical costs totaled $147 billion in 2008.  

Researchers suggest that the childhood obesity epidemic is largely due to a decline in regular physical activity and a diet high in empty and fat-laden calories.  A lack of regular physical activity not only hurts a child’s health, it can also affect his/her academic development, as research also shows that healthy children learn more effectively and are higher academic achievers.  

Increasing physical activity is the most important component of any initiative to combat childhood obesity and promote the health of students. Unfortunately, many schools are being forced to cut back on PE programs because of lack of resources and competing academic demands and testing. Between 1991 and 2003, enrollment of high school students in daily PE classes fell from 41.6% to 28.4%.