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Richard Simmons Rallies with Reps. Kind & Wamp, American Heart Association for More PE in Schools

July 24, 2008
Press Release

Teachers, Parents, Kids Join in Calling for ‘FIT Kids’ Legislation

Washington, DC – Following testimony at a House Education and Labor Committee Hearing, fitness guru Richard Simmons joined with U.S. Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI), Zach Wamp (R-TN), Jay Inslee (D-WA), Ric Keller (R-FL), and Mike McIntyre (D-NC), representatives of the American Heart Association, educators, and kids to rally for greater emphasis on physical education in schools.

The group called for the passage of the “Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids (FIT Kids) Act” (H.R. 3257), authored by Reps. Kind, Wamp, and Inslee which would combat childhood obesity by amending No Child Left Behind to support quality physical education for all public school children through grade 12 and ensure they receive important health and nutritional information. The bipartisan bill enjoys nearly 70 cosponsors.

“It’s a simple concept: healthy minds need healthy bodies,” said U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, who is a co-chair of the Congressional Fitness Caucus. “Putting a greater emphasis on PE and nutrition in schools will not only go a long way to our kids on a healthier path in life, we’ll also see the benefits in their math and reading test scores, and get to the root of the obesity epidemic. It’s time to ‘Leave No Child On Their Behind’ and get this done for our kids.”

“The human body was made to move,” said U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp, founder and co-chair of the Congressional Fitness Caucus. “The more children we can encourage to have a regime of physical activity in their lives and take better care of themselves, the better off we will be as a society. The FIT Kids Act is critical to strengthen physical education, which will improve academic performance and provide students with the physical activity and education to lead healthy lifestyles.”

The FIT Kids Act supports making physical education a factor in measuring schools’ progress. Specifically, the bill would provide information to parents and the public by requiring all schools, districts, and states to report on students’ physical activity. This information would include the amount of time spent in required physical education in relation to the recommended national standard and the percentage of age-appropriate physical education curriculum and certified physical education teachers.

“Children and youth spend more time in schools than any other setting except their homes,” Russell R. Pate, Ph.D., Associate Vice President for Health Sciences at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health testified before the House Education and Labor Committee. “To stem the rise in obesity, it is imperative that children and youth become physically active during the school day. Although parents, community agencies and healthcare providers share the responsibility for ensuring that young people are physically active, schools are uniquely positioned to address this critical public health concern. In order for children to obtain adequate amounts of physical activity, schools must be more aggressive in providing these opportunities.”

In addition, the bill promotes physical education and activity in school programs, supports professional development for faculty and staff to promote kids’ healthy lifestyles and physical activity, and authorizes a study and pilot program to support effective ways to combat childhood obesity and improve healthy living and physical activity for all children.

A student advocate, Robert Kaiser, from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, came to the rally to show his support for greater emphasis on P.E. in schools. Growing up, Robert was overweight and spent too much time playing video games and snacking on junk food. By joining team sports, Robert excelled, lost over thirty pounds, gained strength and a renewed confidence. He wanted to help other teens like him, so he established a teen council and helped to successfully lobby for passage of a PE bill in Florida that mandates 150 minutes per week of P.E. in elementary schools. Now 18 years old, Robert is the only youth appointed member on the Florida Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness.

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.