The cost of obesity in America and how it affects the sports industry

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The inactivity and obesity epidemic is upon us. A recent study by Sports Marketing Surveys, Inc., shows the percentage of Americans who are totally sedentary increased from 25 percent in 2007 to 28 percent in 2012 with the largest increase in inactivity being among children. This number is projected to balloon to more than 31 percent by 2018 and will represent a painful $28 billion reduction in sports and fitness retail consumption alone. Add this to the more than $190 billion already spent annually in the United States on obesity-related medical expenses and it is clear this is an issue we can no longer ignore.

Researchers from Stanford recently released a study that suggests this inactivity trend has developed over the past two decades. Through an analysis of national health surveys from 1988 to 2010, they found that while there was no significant change in the overall number of calories consumed, there were huge increases in both obesity and inactivity rates.

Now is the time for the sports industry work to reverse these dangerous and expensive trends. In order to make an impact on a national level, Americans must be encouraged to support two key pieces of legislation that combat the sedentary crisis: the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act and the PEP Program.

(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
(AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

The PHIT Act would allow Americans to use pre-tax medical accounts for physical activity expenses, such as health club memberships and dues for youth and adult sports leagues. This would give Americans a direct financial incentive to get off the couch and be active.

The PHIT Act bill was scored this month by the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, which estimated that if the initiative was passed, Americans would invest approximately $2.5 billion in activity-related expenses over the next 10 years. The bill currently has broad bipartisan support with 22 Republican and 21 Democrat co-sponsors.

For the last 13 years, the PEP Program has been awarding millions of dollars in grants from the U.S Department of Education to schools and community organizations working to rebuild our physical education (PE) curriculum. Grants are utilized for equipment, support and training teachers and staff. PEP has spawned a “new PE,” in which new technologies such as heart-rate monitors and activity trackers are used to encourage healthy habits and spark a lifelong commitment to fitness.


Jim Baugh is a Sporting Goods Hall of Fame inductee and a 40 year industry veteran. In 2013 he founded PHIT America, a non-profit advocacy organization focused on overcoming the inactivity pandemic and creating a “Movement for a Fit & Healthy America.”

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