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WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today discussed the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, his bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would reduce the financial burden associated with various fitness-related purchases and activities. Specifically, the bill would allow individuals and families to use a portion of the pre-tax money in their health savings account or flexible spending account toward qualified sports and fitness purchases, such as gym memberships, fitness equipment, and youth sports league fees.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, as the winter season drew to a close, South Dakota’s high school and college athletes were busy.
“And from basketball and wrestling to track and field, they have a lot to be proud of.
“The University of South Dakota Coyotes swept the men’s and women’s Summit League titles for indoor track and field for the first time in program history.
“Black Hills State made a Final Four run in the Division II men’s basketball tournament.
“And South Dakota State wrestler Tanner Sloan came in second at the NCAA tournament as the Jackrabbits wrestling team notched its second-highest finish as a Division I program.
“Mr. President, as I traveled around South Dakota this month, I was able to see many of our student athletes compete.
“I saw Lower Brule take on White River in the high school boys’ Class B state basketball semifinals in Aberdeen.
“I caught the girls’ Class B state basketball tournament in Huron, where I got to see my hometown Jones County Coyotes cap off their historic season.
“And I was at the Summit League tournament in Sioux Falls as the South Dakota State women began their run for the tournament title.
“Mr. President, being back in a high school gym – seeing student athletes playing hard and working together for the good of their team – always brings back good memories.
“And it makes me reflect on how sports have shaped my life.
“In addition to instilling important values like teamwork, humility, and service, playing sports taught me the importance of staying active and made me a lifelong fitness enthusiast.
“Mr. President, the benefits of living an active life are well-documented.
“Regular physical activity is associated with greater physical well-being, longer lifespans, and improved mental health.
“Staying active can help prevent a host of chronic conditions, including type 2 diabetes, various types of cancer, heart disease, and depression.
“And for those who do develop chronic conditions, exercise can help to manage them.
“For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, physical activity can help prevent heart disease from getting worse and lower your risk of dying from the disease.
“Or to name another example, exercise’s benefits for managing anxiety and depression are well-known.
“In fact, one study found that exercise may be more effective than medication when it comes to managing anxiety and depression.
“And the health benefits of exercise can also help individuals save money on health care as they age.
“One study found – and here I quote a New York Times article – ‘that people who start to exercise before or during middle age typically save anywhere from $824 to $1,874 annually on health care costs after retirement, and the earlier they start their workouts, the greater those savings can be.’
“Unfortunately, despite exercise’s significant health and even financial benefits, a lot of American adults – and children – either don’t exercise at all or don’t get enough exercise.
“There are a number of reasons for that, of course, but one disincentive to exercising can be the cost of some exercise equipment and programs.
“Some of the tools that can help people be more active – like a gym membership or fitness equipment – can be too costly for some Americans.
“Even registration for youth sports leagues can be expensive, making it harder for some families to take advantage of these activities’ health benefits.
“That’s why I recently introduced the Personal Health Investment Today Act – the PHIT Act – with Senator Murphy.
“The PHIT Act would allow Americans to use a portion of the money in their pre-tax health savings account or flexible spending account for fitness-related expenses.
“It wouldn’t cover things like an expensive new putter or fees at a country club.
“But it would allow individuals to use up to $1,000 – or $2,000 for married couples – from their HSA or FSA to invest in preventive health tools like exercise equipment or a gym membership – investments that can result in meaningful, long-term health benefits as well as health care savings.
“The PHIT Act would also allow families to use these pre-tax dollars for youth sports registration fees and some of the gear kids need to participate in sports.
“The typical family pays hundreds of dollars a year for registration and equipment for youth sports.
“Many families say sports can be a strain on their budgets, something that has only become more pronounced as inflation has gone up.
“And, unsurprisingly, some families have had to reduce their kids’ level of participation in sports because of the cost.
“Mr. President, as I said earlier, I learned a lot by playing sports while I was growing up, and I’m not alone.
“Youth sports are one of the best ways to build lifelong healthy habits.
“They help kids build strong friendships and learn important skills and values that they carry throughout their lives.
“And the PHIT Act would help reduce some of the cost barriers that many families face when it comes to getting their kids involved in sports.
“Mr. President, with more and more of our life spent with technology, we can’t overestimate the value of spending time disconnected from screens and being active.
“Fortunately, no matter how well my bracket is doing, watching March Madness always makes me eager to ‘lace ’em up’ and get on the court myself.
“Although, I’ll be honest, I spend more time trying to keep up with my grandkids than I do working on my jump shot these days.
“But whether you’re playing in a rec league or with your kids, going to the gym or making a walk or a run a part of your routine, staying active throughout your life is an important part of staying healthy.
“And with the warmer weather inching closer every day, it’s a great time to get active.
“Mr. President, the PHIT Act is a common-sense way to help encourage more Americans to invest in tools that make fitness goals easier to attain.
“And I’ll continue to work to pass the PHIT Act and promote healthy living for more Americans.
“Mr. President, I yield the floor.”