This commentary, written by U.S. Congressman Zach Wamp of Tennessee, details the importance of crafting, through legislation, workplace and school policies that emphasize physical activity. The main reason for this emphasis is that most adults spend the majority of their day at work, and children the majority of their day at school. Congressman Wamp founded the Congressional Fitness Caucus in 2003 to raise awareness about obesity and the potential threat to our health system posed by obesity-related conditions.
A strong emphasis of this commentary is that congressional action is needed to stop schools from cutting physical activity out of the school day in an attempt to increase academics. The bill, entitled the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act, asks all schools, districts, and states to report on students' physical activity, and authorizes a pilot program to help decrease childhood obesity. Similarly, the Workplace Health Improvement Act would ensure that businesses have incentive to provide off-site fitness access by changing the way this benefit is taxed; currently, employees who receive an off-site fitness subsidy are required to pay tax on this benefit.
Congressman Wamp cites studies showing that activity in schools increases students' concentration and cognitive performance. Schools do not have to choose between academic performance and physical health, and employers do not have to choose between productivity and healthy employees. These are mutually reinforcing, not mutually exclusive conditions, and policies that increase movement in schools and workplaces will increase productivity, decrease medical costs and save lives.