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IHRSA Advocate

The IHRSA Advocate is your guide to knowing and understanding the policies that influence daily health club operations. We analyze the action, so you know when to take your own.

For more timely relevant news about advocacy issues affecting the industry, and your bottom-line, subscribe to​ the bi-weekly (member-only) IHRSA Advocate newsletter

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Overtime Regulations December Deadline Looms

Efforts to Delay in Congress, Courts

On December 1, the new federal overtime rule is scheduled to go into effect, estimated to extend overtime eligibility to more than 4 million workers. Under the new rule, an employee must have a guaranteed salary of $47,476 or more to qualify as exempt from overtime rules under the executive, administrative, or professional exemptions. That’s more than double the current minimum salary level of $23,660.
IHRSA is concerned about the potential costs to health clubs posed by the overtime rule and about the short time frame for businesses to prepare for compliance. Therefore, IHRSA has joined the Partnership to Protect Workplace Opportunity (PPWO), a diverse group of businesses and associations advocating that regulations take into account the economic realities facing businesses.
Potential Congressional relief. On September 28, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 6094 “Regulatory Relief for Small Business, Schools, and Nonprofits Act.” This bill would delay the implementation of the overtime rule for 6 months until June 1, 2017. A related bill, S. 3462, was introduced into the Senate on September 29. The Senate must pass this measure either before they adjourn for the election or in a possible lame duck session that could be held after the election. IHRSA will be joining the other members of the PPWO in asking the Senate to pass S. 3462.
Potential legal relief. In addition to the legislative effort, a lawsuit has been filed by fifty-five business groups seeking to stop the implementation of the overtime rules. And, twenty-one states are jointly filing a case against implementation.
IHRSA discussed this issues in both May and July and we will keep you informed of any new developments as they emerge. In the meantime, if you have questions or concerns, please email IHRSA’s public policy team at


Recognizing the Fitness HEROes Among Us

IHRSA Joins Conversation On Workplace Health and Wellness at 2016 HERO Forum

Amy Bantham, IHRSA’s VP of health promotion & health policy just returned from the 2016 HERO Forum (a ‘think tank’ of health and wellness leaders) who gathered to discuss the importance of workplace environments on the health of employees, families, and entire communities.

More than 500 leaders from across the health and wellness industry met in Atlanta to discuss their experiences “Leading in Well-Being” and share ideas and best practices about how to create a nationwide culture of wellness.

Addressing the need to establish wellness as a cultural priority, former Assistant Secretary for Health, Dr. Howard Koh implored more organizations to become involved in educational research—citing a new collaboration between Harvard Business School and Harvard School of Public Health focused on examining whether or not a culture of health in the workplace is a business imperative.

Physical activity interventions were also mentioned as part of discussions about workplace well-being initiatives.

As the national spokesperson for the CEO Pledge, Jack Groppel, Ph.D. and co-founder of the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, emphasized the significant effect physical activity has on employee health and business performance. IHRSA strongly supports the CEO Pledge, as it would help our members build lasting relationships with influential corporations.

Other noteworthy initiatives that were discussed include the 100 Million Healthier Lives in America initiative, which focuses on social interactions and building partnerships to get 100 million people regularly active by 2020, and the Move More Challenge, an eight-week physical activity program incorporating wearable devices to encourage increased physical activity.

Major corporations in attendance included Target, Delta Airlines, Wells Fargo, and the Cleveland Clinic—all of whom emphasized the importance of using best practices and tracking metrics to clearly illustrate the physical and financial benefits that workplace wellness programs have on the health of the population.

“It was truly remarkable to see so many of our strategic allies in the physical activity community represented at the HERO Forum,” says Amy Bantham, IHRSA’s vice president of health policy and health promotion. “It is encouraging to know physical activity is becoming a priority and so many are dedicated to making the world a healthier place—one employee at a time. IHRSA and our industry partners have made it our mission to promote policies and develop resources that encourage active lifestyles. Armed with new knowledge from peers and a renewed sense of motivation, we are all excited to apply these fresh ideas to our workplace wellness models.”  

Interested in learning more about how to implement a workplace wellness program in your community? Look no further. Check out IHRSA’s resources on collaborating with businesses to make physical activity part of employees’ daily routines:


ILC (Fundraising) Talking Points

Many people have asked for talking points, to explain the importance of the Industry Leadership Council and IHRSA's Advocacy Efforts to their peers.

After reading the below and this "ILC Update" document, please let Meredith Poppler know if you have any questions, or need more information. And, please feel free to share the "ILC Update" early and often. 

The Basic Message 

I'm an ILC member because I am proud to financially support IHRSA's advocacy efforts to Promote physical activity and Protect the industry from harmful legislation. You should contribute to the ILC as well. Here's a pledge form. (Available as part of the ILC Update).

The Slightly Longer Message

IHRSA's advocacy efforts protect clubs from legislation and taxes that could seriously hurt club operations and profits. And IHRSA works to grow your business by creating and supporting policies that encourage physical activity and club membership. Your IHRSA membership dues do not come close to funding all of IHRSA's advocacy efforts. Therefore, contributions from ILC members are needed to track legislation, educate lawmakers, submit testimony, and set up grassroots campaigns.

Not only is the financial support important, but IHRSA's message is stronger when more clubs are involved to show industry support. So I would like you to join the ILC and pledge your support. Here's a pledge form. (Available as part of the ILC Update).

What is the ILC? 

The Industry Leadership Council is a group of club operators and industry professionals — competitors and friends, independent clubs and large chains, franchisors and franchisees, individuals and suppliers — who work together, contributing time, expertise and funds, so that IHRSA and the industry have the resources needed to achieve common goals. See the complete list of ILC members and contribution levels.

Additional Resources

Benefits of ILC Membership 

Aside from the knowledge that your contribution helps foster the success of the industry, Industry Leadership Council members enjoy exclusive benefits such as:

  • Early access to Hotel Reservations for the annual IHRSA Convention
  • Private sessions with keynote presenters at IHRSA Conventions
  • Preferred seating at the annual Convention
  • ILC Member Only updates on important issues 
  • Additional ILC Member Benefits are available by contribution level (to include complimentary publications and reduced or complimentary convention rates)

Opportunities to Grow the Health Club Industry

Federal Opportunities

IHRSA strongly supports two federal legislative opportunities, The Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT) and The Workforce Health Improvement Program Act (WHIP). Both would make physical activity more affordable, and hence have significant potential to grow the physically active population legislation that

  • PHIT would allow the use of flexible savings and health saving accounts to pay for physical activity to include health club memberships. 2016 marked the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the PHIT Act in Congress. IHRSA used this noteworthy milestone as an opportunity to reinvigorate efforts to win support for this important piece of bipartisan legislation by launching the Tax Weekend Challenge in April 2016. – As of July 18, PHIT had 100 co-sponsors, 87 House, 13 Senate, with a truly bipartisan split of 55D-45R.
  • WHIP would permit employers to deduct the cost of providing offsite health club benefits and remove the tax employees currently pay on their subsidized club membership. 82% of Americans say that they would exercise regularly if their employer subsidized a health club membership. 

Opportunities at the State Level 

  • Financial Incentives for Physical Activity: In 2016, IHRSA working on (or foresees) legislation that would incentivize physical activity and remove financial barriers to health club memberships in Colorado, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wisconsin.
  • Expanding Opportunities for Children’s Physical Activity: While most children are not current club members or targets, building a healthy generation is important for the future of the health club industry. IHRSA is currently pursuing initiatives that would encourage children to be more physically active in Arizona, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

To learn more, download the current ILC Report. And to support these efforts, join the Industry Leadership Council.


ILC Update: Where are the Industry Leaders?

Kay Yuspeh, of Elite Fitness Clubs in Wisconsin, brought a member of her staff with her to the ILC Lunch at the convention. Her thinking was that they might not be interested in the meeting, but  they would at least appreciate a free lunch. But what surprised her was how interested her staff member was in the meeting content itself.  

Thanks to the IHRSA’s Tax Challenge last weekend, over 750 emails on WHIP and PHIT were sent to members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Collectively, challenge participants reached 178 members of Congress - including 64 Senators and 114 Representatives. What surprised me when I looked over the list of people who participated, was that the overwhelming majority of senders were either from clubs who have never actively supported efforts to pass WHIP or PHIT before, or from a diverse mix of club staff who make up the ILC roster.

The Public Policy Committee of the IHRSA Board is also doing its part to expand the list of IHRSA leaders and engaged members. Each member of the Public Policy Committee is contacting  IHRSA members who they know should be part of the ILC and asking them to get on board. What may have  surprised some, is how receptive club operators are to a pitch to join the ILC when made by a peer. Early reports from Allison Flatley of Corporate Fitness Works  show that the first call to a peer is easy and results in pledges and participation in the IHRSA Tax Challenge. And Jim Worthington of Newtown Athletic Club has brought at least half a dozen new members into the ILC during and since the convention.

What’s the point of these three stories?

One of the complaints that has been raised during recent ILC meetings is that the room is filled with the same people. Where’s all the new blood? But look around:

  • young staff members are interested in the ILC meetings,
  • hundreds of new club operators and their staff are committed to take political action to get more people physically active, and
  • more and more clubs are willing to make a contribution to the ILC to pay for the industry’s lobbying efforts.

This makes me think that the new blood is here. Don’t be surprised that when we educate and engage them, they are willing.

What can you do?

Let’s see if we can raise the number of emails sent to Congress to 1,000. If you didn’t do so last week, please send your email asking for support of WHIP and PHIT. I know you are busy, but it really only takes 2 minutes. Just click here now.

If you only have time to send one email, don’t send it to a member of Congress. Send IHRSA’s Tax Challenge link to your staff and ask them to send an email to support WHIP and PHIT. You too may be surprised how interested the members of your staff are in WHIP and PHIT and other ILC issues. In fact, if you would like any more of your staff members to get the ILC emails, just let me know and I would be happy to add them to this list.

And, maybe the next time you are talking to a club operator at your roundtable or another leadership event, you can ask them if they are a member of the ILC. And if they aren’t, ask them why not. Here are some talking points to make the ask easier.

As always, if you have any questions or need more information. Please let me know.



Helen A. Durkin
EVP Public Policy


ILC Update: Voice Your Support for PHIT

Our industry is about to reach a significant benchmark. May 2016 marks the 10th anniversary of the introduction of the PHIT Act — the Personal Health Investment Today Act — in Congress. This noteworthy milestone offers us the chance to reinvigorate our industry’s efforts to win support for this important piece of bipartisan legislation.

Why is PHIT so important to our industry?                   

PHIT will make it easier for all Americans to build the habit of exercise into their daily lives and help individuals and families to afford exercise-related expenses. It lets them pay for health club memberships, youth sports league fees, fitness equipment, and exercise DVDs with pre-tax dollars from health savings (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs).

PHIT also signifies a far-reaching effort by the health club industry to elevate the importance of exercise in the minds of policy makers, doctors, government administrators, business leaders, educators, and everyday Americans.

PHIT has served as a unifying focal point in the broader industry’s fight to influence policy, improve public health, and shape American culture. Over eighteen organizations are active participants in the PHIT Coalition, with the lobbying effort lead by IHRSA and Sport and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA).


Just look at how far we’ve come.

In 2006, when we first won introduction of PHIT into the U.S. Congress, little serious attention was being given to the importance of exercise to our nation’s health, economy, and security. By doggedly rallying behind PHIT these many years, we succeeded in educating Members of Congress, the Administration, the media, influencers in all realms of society, and the American public on the importance of physical activity to our collective future.

And we — IHRSA, SFIA and the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA) — the original engineers who got PHIT off the ground, have reintroduced PHIT into each new Congress. Achieving the important milestone of getting PHIT introduced for the first time in the Senate at the end of 2015.

A danger exists, when faced with national gridlock in Congress, to measure success only by a bill’s passage. Such a measure overlooks the progress made since we first embarked on this initiative 10 years ago. To keep the focus on what we need to do today, not what we accomplished yesterday, I will leave the details of how our efforts helped re-shape the national dialogue and ripen the climate for action on the issue of physical activity for another email.

On this 10th anniversary year of the PHIT Act, I’m calling on you to work with us to make a difference. In this 114th Congress, nine Senators and 54 members of the House of Representatives have co-sponsored PHIT. With your help, we can get the number of sponsors higher.

What can you do?

  • Do you have a good relationship with your Senators and member of Congress in DC? Are they members of your club? Have you held a fundraiser for them or contributed to their campaign? Or maybe you just went to college with a member of Congress. Let me know and we can develop the right strategy for you.
  • Is your Senator a member of the Senate Finance Committee? Or is your member of Congress on the House Ways and Means Committee? Members of these two committees are key players in gaining eventual passage of PHIT. We want them as sponsors of PHIT. If you aren’t sure, click here for a list of the members of the Senate Finance Committee, and here for the members of the House Ways and Means Committee.Let me know and we can develop the right strategy for you.
  • Did you ever meet meet with your members of Congress or their staff and ask for them to cosponsor PHIT? Maybe they said yes, but they haven’t renewed their sponsorship, or maybe they said they couldn’t do anything without a score (the cost of the bill.) In any case, it’s time to get back in touch. Let us know and we will help.
  • Finally, if you haven't developed a relationship with your members of Congress, let us help you start to get to know them. IHRSA makes the process easy for you. All you need to do is send me an email and let me know you are interested in getting involved.

Bottomline - if you are interested in getting the country more active, and getting more people in your club by contacting your member of Congress;  raise your hand and we’ll let you know the best way you can help.

Thank you for your support.



Helen A. Durkin
EVP Public Policy


ILC: Time to Change Club Contract Laws

There are a number of state laws that impose requirements on health clubs that do nothing to protect consumers, but create a hindrance to day-to-day operations as well as significant liability risks for clubs. The importance of the issue has grown in recent years due to the emergence of changes in the marketplace and of predatory attorneys that aggressively seek to exploit outdated laws. The predatory attorneys turn what was a pain into something that carries significant cost and implications. If you are doing just one thing legally “wrong” in your contract, even if it is a benefit to your members, every one of your contracts is potentially voidable.

For example, you may allow your members to conveniently cancel via email, but your state law may require the cancellation to be by registered mail.

Or the law may require that you give every consumer a copy of their contract in writing -- in some cases with the signature next to the cancellation clause -- but what if they sign an electronic contract and they can print a contract. Is that covered by the law?

We’ve been talking to many of you and believe it’s time to act.

Here’s what we’ve been doing to prepare.

  • First, IHRSA conducted a review of all 50 state statutes and recent legal cases to identify the parts of the state laws causing the most problems for clubs.
  • Then, we asked each of IHRSA's state lobbyists to evaluate the feasibility of enacting changes that align with current industry practices and mitigate legal exposure for clubs. While the feasibility of enacting industry friendly legislation varies by state, updating antiquated rules for business - some written 40+ years ago for a completely different marketplace - has a fair amount of appeal for legislators across the country.
  • Next, we tasked our lobbyists with identifying legislators who would be receptive to our cause, preferably those who hold leadership positions or sit on committees likely to receive our legislation, to serve as effective champions for this pro-business, pro-consumer, common sense issue. These efforts are ongoing.

The results: We’ve begun background research to feed advocacy strategy in each state. In some states, we are setting the stage for action in 2017. In others states, we see the opportunity to act this year. For example, we are already in the process of introducing a “placeholder” bill in California, having secured a sponsor.

Now, we need to identify the bill language we wish to introduce. We are relying on you to inform us of the specific statutes that either impede your clubs’ operations or increase your liability risks (e.g. the laws that are being exploited by predatory trial attorneys). If you want to review the consumer protection law for you state, you can access them all at

We will be holding a meeting to discuss this campaign on Tuesday, March 22, 3:30 - 4:30 PM at the IHRSA Convention. (The ILC Meeting and Lunch will be held on the same day at 11:45.) In the meantime, if you have thoughts about the consumer protection laws that impact your club, please send me an email. If you can’t attend the meeting in Orlando, then we will share the notes of the meeting with you and schedule a conference call for the spring.



Helen A. Durkin
EVP Public Policy

P.S. Please check out the for additional ILC special events during IHRSA 2016.


ILC: Legislative Threats

I’m writing to bring to your attention the legislative threats that IHRSAs sees on the horizon for clubs in 2016. The work to arrive at this list began last fall. The process of looking forward began by looking back, starting with a review of what was introduced, in which states, over the past few years.

We do this to look for patterns, trends and unresolved issues. Then we poll and interview each of our state lobbyists to see what they anticipate in the next year. But we aren’t done yet. Starting in November, we read the pre-filed bills for the next year. We do a little digging, which includes calling bill sponsors or Committees to see what is behind the bill. Often, it includes additional calls with our lobbyist.

Once the bill reading starts, it doesn’t end until each state legislature adjourns. Every day, we review what has happened since the day before. What new legislation has been filed. Which Committees plan to consider which bills.

Legislative surprises can happen, but through our process of reviewing, anticipating and monitoring we do our best to make sure the surprises are rare and even then, we are prepared to address the challenge. All this behind the scenes work is what brings you the four paragraphs below (and the entire 2016 Legislative Threat Report.)  This work and your support are a good part of the reason why IHRSA’s 2015 track record is 13 wins and 0 losses.

Anticipated Threats

Restrictions on Membership Contracts

During the 2016 session, IHRSA anticipates that we will see numerous bills that would limit how a health club and retains its members. In particular, we will be keeping a close watch on Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Vermont.

Personal Training

IHRSA remains concerned about legislation that would limit a clubs’ access to qualified personal trainers, or make fitness services more expensive for consumers without safeguarding the consumer – as it generally claims to do. Our Public Policy team anticipates that we will see this issue in multiple states in 2016, most notably in Florida, Georgia, Maryland, and Massachusetts.

Sales Tax

I am honestly looking forward to the day when sales tax on memberships is not even a category because lawmakers have recognized the importance of healthy lifestyles and the fact that taxes change behavior.  But in 2016, we also must continue to fight the cost barrier that a sales tax can impose. Legislators will consider the issue in multiple states in 2016, most notably in California, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, and Virginia. (And of course the battle to stop the sales tax is continuing in Pennsylvania.)

Locker Rooms

Currently, 17 states have passed laws granting protections for transgender individuals in places of public accommodation, and IHRSA’s Public Policy team predicts that this issue will be seen in a number of other states in the 2016 session.  This issue is gaining steam throughout the country. Clubs who have been operating in states that were early adopters of the transgender laws are having an increasing number of people inquiring about this issue. And while club operators and members in the locker room understand the privacy issue, it is very hard to get government officials and transgender advocacy groups to understand the locker room side of this problem.

If you would like to get a more background on these issues we’ve compiled the IHRSA blog series on Industry Threats into an e-book. It is available here for download. And of course as always, if you have any question please don’t hesitate to contact us. 



Helen A. Durkin
EVP Public Policy


ILC Summit

IHRSA has announced that content creation expert Ann Handley, will be the featured presenter at The ILC Summit ~ A Gathering of Global Leaders ~ sponsored by ABC Financial.

“Content marketing and brand storytelling represent a vast opportunity for all businesses. That’s especially true for the operators of fitness companies who have such great stories to tell” said Ann Handley when speaking about her upcoming presentation, “From Puny to Ripped: How to Inspire Great Marketing”.

Handley added,the questions for fitness leaders are, How do we inspire our teams to create more robust, effective marketing? How do we up the quality of what we are producing? (And how do you define “quality,” anyway?).”

Invitees of this special session will learn

  • Why storytelling matters to you (and to your members).
  • To inspire your teams to create more effective marketing.
  • How your organization can tell bigger, better stories from your unique viewpoint.
  • To provoke 'best of breed' content from your teams.

Helen Durkin, Executive Vice President of Global Public Policy added, I had a chance to hear Ann speak this fall. I was a fan before her talk – two of her books 'Content Rules' and 'Everybody Writes, Your Go-To Guide for Creating Ridiculously Good Content' – are two of my favorites. Her talk was so good that I had to go up to her after and asked what she knew about the fitness industry. Ironically, I learned that back in the day, Ann was a writer for Club Industry. So not only is she an excellent speaker and writer and content marketer, but she knows the fitness industry, cool!”.

Invitees of the ILC Summit and reception are asked to RSVP here. You and your guests must be registered for the Convention Sessions to attend this special event.

And, ILC members are invited to check out the additional special ILC member-only events (like private sessions with keynote speakers) taking place as part of the ILC Executive Track during IHRSA 2016 for ILC members here.


ILC: Transgender Rights, Privacy in Locker Rooms

In today’s email, I’m going to talk about what is clearly a sensitive topic - the issue of transgender people using health club locker rooms. My intent is to provide some help to you on this sensitive topic and to ask for some help from you.

This is not a new issue for clubs. One of the earliest briefing papers we did contained the question, “What do we do when a man dressed as a women wants to use the locker room?” The answer then was to use the sex specified on the person’s driver’s license to guide what locker room to send them to. These days that advice is virtually useless because eighteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws that - to different degrees - make it illegal to discriminate against transgendered individuals.

So when we get an email from a club operator asking us what to do when a member of their club told them he was transitioning from a he to a she, the first thing we do is reference the law in that state and see what it tells us to do. We have created a chart that summarizes the transgendered laws in the US. If you are interested in receiving the chart, please let me know via e-mail.  

Since these transgender discrimination bills were first introduced, IHRSA has been working with legislators to help them see the importance of protecting the rights of transgendered individuals AND protecting the privacy rights and standards of modesty for health club members by exempting locker room and bathrooms from the provisions of the law. But times are changing. In Massachusetts, where IHRSA has been able to convince the legislature of our position since 2008 with bathrooms and locker rooms exempt, it appears that they are re-examining the  locker room exemption. So we have been working to develop new ways to provide assistance for clubs. IHRSA has requested that if the law passes,  regulations should be written to provide guidance for clubs when dealing with the competing issue of privacy rights and transgender rights.

On Tuesday, IHRSA met with the Judiciary Committee’s office to discuss the need for the guidelines. Here’s where we need your help. We need to get back to the Judiciary Committee staff with examples of situations in the club. Don’t worry if you aren’t located in Massachusetts, this is an issue across the country and we need to hear from all of you. If we are able to develop helpful guidelines in Massachusetts, it can serve as a guide for the rest of the country. In addition, IHRSA is developing resources to help you deal with this sensitive issue  when it comes up in your club. Your answers to these questions will be extremely helpful in helping us develop more and better resources for you on this issue.

Given the sensitive nature of this issue, I’m not asking you to fill out a survey form. I’m just going to list some questions that it would be helpful to hear from you about. Just send an email reply and I will keep the source of the information confidential.

Here’s what we would like to know:

Have you had any situations involving a transgender member or potential member?

If you did, how did you resolve the situation?

What questions or concerns do you have? (Either that you can anticipate or you have experienced.)

If you could change the law on public accommodation in your state, how would you have it read?

Remember, just send me an email to let me know you would like a copy of the transgender law chart. If you can take a moment to reply to any or all of my questions, I would really appreciate it.

Thanks so much for your help.



Helen A. Durkin
EVP Public Policy