The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act
Federal Legislation Incentivizing Physical Activity
The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act will allow Americans to use pre-tax dollars—flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs)—to pay for health club memberships, fitness equipment, exercise videos, and youth sports leagues.
In 2018, the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act passed the House of Representatives for the first time, but Congress adjourned before the Senate could vote.
PHIT will allow flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) to pay for health club memberships, fitness equipment, exercise videos, and youth sports leagues. If passed, PHIT would enable individuals to use up to $1,000 per year—up to $2,000 for families—to cover physical activity-related expenses.
The coronavirus pandemic disrupted normal life for everyone, especially exercise and physical activity routines. When the government decided that physical activity was not essential and mandated health clubs close, physical activity levels in the U.S. declined by 48% between March 1 and April 8. This drop is especially alarming when you consider pre-COVID-19, three out of four adults were already not getting enough physical activity.
But, physical activity is essential! It strengthens the immune system and may diminish the risk of contracting some communicable diseases, including upper respiratory tract infections common to COVID-19.
The PHIT Act will play an important role in getting Americans up and active by lowering the cost of physical activity through tax incentives. PHIT continues to gain bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. Visit the Senate PHIT page and the House PHIT page for the latest information on Congress members who support increasing physical activity.
4 Reasons to Support the PHIT Act
- SAVINGS: PHIT could help Americans save 20-30% on yearly expenses related to physical activity. By increasing physical activity, reducing smoking and obesity, and improving treatment rates, $116 billion could be saved yearly.
- PREVENT & REDUCE CHRONIC DISEASES: Physical activity is a cost-effective way to prevent and reduce chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes, which account for approximately 86% of nationwide healthcare costs.
- HELP YOUR KIDS SUCCEED: Kids and adolescents who exercise regularly experience less anxiety and stress, have healthier bones and muscles, better self-esteem, and are less likely to be obese—which could save them up to $19,000 in lifetime medical costs.
- THINK BETTER, FEEL BETTER: Physical activity can help prevent depression and be an effective treatment comparable to pharmacotherapy or psychotherapy. It can also help improve your cognitive ability and reduce your risk of dementia.
“As a lifelong athlete and fitness enthusiast, I understand the value of and feel grateful to have access to gyms and fitness equipment, especially over the last 12 months. For some Americans, though, certain gym or athletic league membership costs can be prohibitive, keeping them from pursuing healthy habits like exercising or participating in other physical activities. By giving Americans greater flexibility with their HSAs and FSAs, we can empower people to make healthy choices, get active, and hopefully avoid the onset of costly chronic conditions.”
PHIT co-sponsor Sen. John Thune (R-SD)
Obesity, Lifestyle, and Covid-19
Factors in COVID-19 cases include obesity and lifestyle, with obesity being one of the biggest risk factors for severe COVID-19 cases, particularly among younger patients.
- Obese patients (BMI > 40 kg/m2) had 6 times the risk of being hospitalized for COVID-19.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that people with heart disease and diabetes are at higher risk of COVID-19 complications.
- According to Aspen Institute’s Project Play, 1 in 5 parents say that since the shutdown, their child has lost interest in playing sports again.
- The impact of COVID-19 on children’s sports “could be a lot worse than the Great Recession,” said Tom Farrey, executive director of the Sports & Society Program at the Aspen Institute.
Exercise Delivers or Improves Overall Health Gains
Being physically active has numerous benefits to people with substance use disorders.
Physical activity can have a more indirect, positive effect on immune function by mitigating stress. Research out of Carnegie Melon found that people with higher levels of psychological stress were more susceptible to the common cold.
Acute bouts of exercise—less than 60 minutes—enhances the circulation of immunoglobulins, natural killer (NK) cells, T cells, and other immune cells that play critical roles in the body’s defense against pathogens, and can help reduce inflammation.