By Jim Baugh, President and CEO, PHIT America

(AFS Note… Illinois, the last state with mandatory daily physical education in schools, has succumbed to society and in 2018 joins the other 49 states in this regard.  “…Daily Physical Education No Longer the Law…” read the headline in the Chicago Tribune on December 26. AFS invited a response from advisory council member Jim Baugh, President and CEO of PHIT America, a nonprofit organization promoting kids fitness.)

The latest change in the Illinois law reducing physical education requirements for kids in our schools does not make sense. It not only hurts kids today but everyone in Illinois will bear the burden of the cost.

Don’t our legislators realize sitting is the new smoking? Physical inactivity is a bigger killer than smoking and statistics show it kills more people that being overweight or obese combined! Our kids are so soft that in a recent study, US kids were ranked 47th out of 50 countries in children’s fitness.

How will the change reducing the amount of physical education in our schools affect us?  Let me describe four big ways:

  • Kids who do not have PE are 2-3 times less likely to be active outside of school.  Check out the conclusive research on PHIT America, a national charity and campaign to get America moving, has been studying the ‘Inactivity Pandemic’ for years. Less active kids are much more likely to be prone to sickness, disease and other physical and mental conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure. Just look at how many kids are on ADHD drugs because they are so inactive.
  • Adults are impacted too, again with conclusive research.  Kids who did not have PE in school are twice as likely to be totally sedentary as adults. Here are the numbers: 19% of all adults who had PE in school are sedentary. But, if someone had no PE, the sedentary percentage jumps to 39%!  And, by the way, approximately 48% of high schools in America have no PE today. Do we want Illinois to be part of this issue?
  • We will all pay for this. When kids (and adults) are inactive, healthcare costs go up. And, we know very well that many of these costs are shared by all of society. Our healthcare system is really a ‘sick care’ system. We treat people who are sick with better pills, procedures, and ‘sick care’ plans. The only way to control healthcare costs is through prevention. And, increased physical activity is the best form of prevention. Healthy people need less ‘sick care’.
  • Kids will do worse academically with less PE.  Yes, that is right and again, we have the research to prove it. More active kids definitely do better academically. Fluid intelligence and actual school grades improve with physical activity and fitness.  As John Ratey, MD at Harvard Medical School says, “Exercise is Miracle-Gro For The Brain.” Illinois – and all states - must get kids more active, not less active.

Our society has become so sedentary that the only things kids are moving today are their fingers…managing their electronic devices. Illinois legislators are making this worse. We may feel like this is the right thing to do but it is totally wrong for the reasons above.

If you want an expert’s view on this, just ask Thomas Frieden, Director of the Center For Disease Control. This is what he says about the topic. “Physical activity is the closest thing we have to a wonder drug.” 

It’s time to stop this legislation. We should be putting more physical activity into the lives of children - not the opposite.

More information on PHIT America and how you can become involved, can be found at

A distinguished sports and fitness industry veteran, Jim’s experience is incredibly impressive. From his start at Prince where he rose to VP of Sales & Marketing, to Wilson Sporting Goods where he went from GM of the racquet sports division to President of the company – huge success has been – and continues to be - his trademark. Jim’s giving spirit has been tapped for the past 15 years as a member of the board of directors of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA, formerly Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association [SGMA]) including a tour of “duty” as chairman of the board.

He also served as board member and chairman of the board for the Tennis Industry Association (TIA). Currently consulting in the industry (clients include PGA of America) Jim’s passion for fitness has evolved into spearheading national initiatives to fight the ever-growing and ever-menacing obesity epidemic in the US and worldwide. That passion manifested itself earlier this year with the launch of PHIT America, to bring national attention to the PHIT Act (Personal Health Improvement Today) and other pro-fitness legislation. Currently over 135 major US companies have joined the initiative.

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