House bill would force HHS to prescribe exercise guidelines ‘for all Americans’

Two House members have proposed a bipartisan bill that would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to prescribe exercise guidelines for Americans.

Reps. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) and Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) proposed their Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Act, H.R. 2179, in an effort to help promote healthy exercise habits, especially among schoolchildren.

"Public health and physical fitness are pressing concerns for our country, and in order to get the best results it's important to instill healthy habits and routines early in life," Kind said last week. "Promoting good health, especially to kids, is something we can do to help keep America healthy and competitive on the global stage."

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Under their bill, HHS would publish a report on "Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans" every 10 years. The report would contain exercise guidelines, which would be promoted by federal agencies that promote good health.

The guidelines would be based on "current scientific and medical knowledge," and would include options for specific groups, including children.

Their bill is one of several introduced last week aimed at boosting the health and fitness of Americans. Kind and Schock also proposed the FIT Kids Act, H.R. 2178, which would create a new grant program for physical education and nutrition programs at schools.

The grant program would let states fund improvements to these programs in schools, as well as professional development for health and physical education teachers.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) proposed a companion bill in the Senate.

The FIT Kids Act has similar goals to a bill proposed by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), who offered the Promoting Health as Youth Skills in Classroom and Life (PHYSICAL) Act, H.R. 2160. Her bill would designate physical and health education programs as "core subjects" under federal law, which means they could use federal funds under Title I and Title II to improve these programs.

"Promoting healthy lifestyles and encouraging fitness are so important for our children’s development and reducing the nation's epidemic of childhood obesity," Fudge said last week.

"Many school districts, however, are forced to curtail or eliminate physical education and health classes due to lack of resources," she said. "The PHYSICAL Act gives our schools the flexibility they need to give physical education the attention it deserves in promoting our children’s well-being."