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Reps. Kind, Wamp, Inslee, Sen. Harkin Reintroduce FIT Kids Act, Calling for More P.E. in Schools

WASHINGTON, DC – With work on education reform expected this year, U.S. Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI), Zach Wamp (R-TN), Jay Inslee (D-WA), and U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) today reintroduced the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act (FIT Kids Act) which would combat childhood obesity by strengthening physical education programs throughout the country.  They were joined at an event on Capitol Hill by NFL players from the Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, obesity expert Dr. Kenneth Cooper, Jamie Dukes of NFL Network and DC-area students.

The FIT Kids Act would engage parents and the public by requiring all schools, 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.  The Act would further ensure appropriate professional development for health and physical education teachers, fund research to examine the link between children’s health and their academic achievement, and recommend effective ways to combat childhood obesity and improve healthy living and physical activity.

“This bill gets to the simple truth: in order to develop healthy minds, you need healthy bodies,” said U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI), who is a 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.”

 “Preventing disease today means healthier, more active and engaged kids tomorrow,” said Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA).  “This legislation takes action to combat rising rates of childhood obesity and diabetes, a public health crisis that we cannot ignore.  As every parent knows, engaging children in physical activity throughout the day improves fitness, burns off excess energy and boosts concentration in the classroom. I hope this bill will empower our schools and parents to help improve our kids’ health.”

 “The statistics on childhood obesity are staggering, and we need to get them going in the other direction,” said U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN), founder and member of the Congressional Fitness Caucus. “Research shows that healthy children learn more effectively and achieve more academically. The FIT Kids Act would give physical education a strong emphasis to help bolster academic performance and provide students with the physical activity and education to lead healthy lifestyles.”

“A University of Washington study showed that nearly a quarter of the Evergreen State's eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders are overweight or obese,” said U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA).  “And in the face of those statistics, it’s shocking that Washington state has been ranked as having one of the lowest youth obesity rates nationwide.  We can and must do better for our kids.  As Congress works to reauthorize No Child Left Behind, we need to include provisions to ensure every child has a fair chance at health, just like the law now aims to give all children a fair chance at learning.”

“With the alarming increase of childhood obesity in our nation, physical education needs to be a priority in all schools,” said Robert DiBianco, M.D., cardiologist at Washington Adventist Hospital and American Heart Association spokesperson.   “While the challenge we face in reversing this national health crisis is a shared responsibility, Congress has the power to take immediate action with the FIT Kids Act.   We must increase quality physical education to reduce each child’s risk for heart disease and stroke later in life and boost their potential for academic achievement and general well being. 

"The NFL is proud to be playing a role in today's event to reintroduce the Fit Kids Act," said Arthur M. Blank, owner & CEO of the Atlanta Falcons, who spoke at today's event. "Major steps need to be taken to curb the trend of childhood obesity, and through initiatives like NFL PLAY 60 the league is playing its role in the fight." 

“The National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE) envisions a society in which all individuals are physically educated and participate in lifelong physical activity,” said Executive Director Charlene R. Burgeson.  “We advocate for quality physical education for all students because the goal of physical education is to develop physically educated individuals who have the knowledge, skills, and confidence to enjoy a lifetime of healthful physical activity.”

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.  Currently 25 million children in America are obese.  The childhood obesity rate has tripled since 1980 and continues to rise.  It is estimated that by 2010, twenty percent of children in the United States will be obese. 

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 children’s health, it can also affect their 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 P.E. programs because of lack of resources and competing academic demands and testing. Between 1991 and 2003, enrollment of high school students in daily P.E. classes fell from 41.6 percent to 28.4 percent.