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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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September 12 Issues

What’s the Final Verdict on Overtime Rules?

The results are in. Here’s the final ruling on the DOL’s proposed overtime rule.

IHRSA Visits with House Ways and Means Committee Members

Last week, IHRSA and some of its ILC members met with representatives from the House Ways and Means Committee to discuss the state of the nation’s health and the many reasons to pass PHIT.

#WhyGetActive? Because Your Legislators Do Too

Believe it or not, our legislators are just like us. Some even share the same passion for healthy lifestyles and support policies that encourage more Americans to be physically active.

Pick Up. PHIT’s Calling.

Friendly reminder that the Public Policy Committee of the IHRSA Board is hosting an exclusive conference call on Thursday for ILC members (and staff) to discuss what has been happening on PHIT in D.C. If you’re an ILC member, RSVP for the call. If you’re not an ILC member, what are you waiting for?

How Health Clubs Are Helping Communities Affected by Hurricane Harvey 



The Final Decision on the DOL’s Overtime Rule Is...

It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. On August 31, a federal judge in Texas struck down the federal overtime rule that would have made more than four million currently exempt employees eligible for overtime pay.

The proposed rule would have required that an employee must have a guaranteed salary of at least $47,476 to qualify as exempt, which is more than double the current minimum salary of $23,660. It was originally scheduled to go into effect on December 1, 2016, before an emergency motion for filed in October halted its implementation.

The recent ruling constitutes a final decision, meaning the existing overtime regulations, including the $23,660 exempt salary threshold (which were last updated in 2004) still apply.

It is possible for the DOL to challenge the final ruling, however this seems unlikely. Secretary of Labor, Alexander Acosta, said he recognizes that the salary threshold needs to be increased (though not as high as the proposed rule would have required) and has sent a request for information on the 2016 overtime rule to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. This request for information marks the first step in determining how to increase the existing exempt salary threshold, while ensuring that it remains reasonable.

If you’d like to submit a comment, the DOL is currently accepting feedback regarding changes to the salary threshold. And, if you have any other questions please contact our advocacy team.


See How Your Legislators Work(out) With You

Has scheduling a meeting with your member of Congress ever intimidated you? Have you ever viewed these people as policy wonks in suits that cannot relate to the issues you face as an average citizen?

If you nodded your head ‘yes’ in response to either of these questions, you’re not alone.

Here’s the truth. Believe it or not, your legislators work for you.

So picture your legislator as an average person—someone just like you. They wake up each morning, enjoy a good sweat session, eat a healthy breakfast, and then jet off to work refreshed and ready to start a new day. Sound familiar?

In fact, what if I told you that Senator Catherine Pugh is an avid runner like your cousin Joe (she even helped start the Baltimore marathon) and that Rep. Dana Rohrabacher is an avid surfer. In order to stay mentally and physically alert, many legislators (like many of us) prioritize exercise and look for ways to ensure others are given equal opportunities to experience the positive benefits associated with a physically active lifestyle.

To demonstrate the truth in this statement, IHRSA is hosting the fourth annual #WhyGetActive Health Policy Fair on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, October 11. As in years past, this event engages members of Congress—and their staff—in national efforts and policies to promote physical activity and gets them to share their personal reasons for being active. The day-long event will also feature interactive exhibits from IHRSA members and IHRSA allies, free body composition screenings, massages, and a group workout.

“It [physical activity] is so, so important,” Rep. Ron Kind (WI) said in a speech during last year’s fair. “As we know, we’ve got to change the culture in America, we’ve got to make it easy for more people to be more active. Basically, we have to make the healthy choice the easy choice in people's lives—that means not only physical activity, but nutrition.”

So consider this. The next time you go to schedule a meeting with your legislator, perhaps an alternative option may be inviting them to tour your health club. Because it’s always okay to mix fitness and politics.


IHRSA Visits with House Ways and Means Committee Members

A delegation of IHRSA’s ILC members met with representatives from the powerful House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday, September 7, in the U.S. capitol.

The delegation, led by IHRSA Board Member Jim Worthington and Linda Mitchell of the Newtown Athletic Club, included representatives from ACAC, Anytime Fitness, The Atlantic Club, The Cooper Institute, IHRSA, Life Time Fitness, and Planet Fitness.

“It was a great experience to see industry leaders engage in meaningful conversations about the state of our nation’s health and the solutions our industry provides with powerful lawmakers, including Kevin Brady, (R-TX) Chairman of House Ways and Means Committee,” said Meredith Poppler, IHRSA’s vice president of communication and leadership engagement.

Members of Congress and their staff received a call to action to pass PHIT, federal legislation that would make physical activity more affordable and accessible.

The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT S.482/H.R.1267) will expand the IRS definition of a medical expense to include expenses paid for exercise, such as gym membership and sports participation. Then, Americans will save 20-30% of their fitness expenses by tapping pre-tax accounts like Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Savings Accounts.

PHIT is pending in the House Ways and Means Committee, and so this opportunity for IHRSA member clubs and staff to call on elected officials to advance the legislation is critical to the #PassPHIT effort.

If you have not signed up for the September 14 ILC call, which will provide a recap of the meetings and lobbying, please do so.

Outside Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulson’s office, left to right, Brian Zehetner, Planet Fitness, Claire Kinsey, Cooper Institute, Kevin McHue, Atlantic Club, Jeff Perkins, IHRSA, Linda Mitchell, Newtown Athletic Club (NAC), Meredith Poppler, IHRSA, Jim Worthington, NAC, Erik Lindseth, Life Time Fitness.Minnesota native Brian Zehetner discussing PHIT with Rep Paulsen.Claire, Kevin, Brian, Paulsen, Erik, Jim and Linda.


August 29 Issue

If You Build It, They Will Come

Wise words that can be applied to much more than just fields of dreams. If you make a conscious effort to support and create programs that encourage PE in schools, we may begin to see an increase in youth physical activity levels.

PHIT Called. It Wants to Hear From You.

The Public Policy Committee of the IHRSA Board is hosting an exclusive conference call on September 14 for ILC members (and staff) to discuss what has been happening on PHIT in D.C. If you’re an ILC member, RSVP for the call. If you’re not an ILC member, what are you waiting for?

Focusing the State House on Wellness

We’re taking a closer look at policies and legislation that promote workplace wellness. One of our top priorities has been saving the Massachusetts wellness tax credit, which provides incentives for businesses to offer fitness and health resources to employees.


We all love the King in the North, but do you know the real John Snow 



Focusing the State House on Wellness

Last week, IHRSA public policy staff and our Massachusetts lobbyist travelled to the state house to increase support for extending the state’s wellness tax credit, which is set to expire at the end of this year.

Why would the Massachusetts wellness tax credit vanish on January 1, 2018? Was this intentional?

Five years ago, Massachusetts passed healthcare legislation that contained innovative strategies for preventative health and wellness. The wellness tax credit, one of the strategies enacted, allows small businesses (under 200 employees) to offset the cost of designing and implementing workplace wellness programs. Businesses can claim a tax credit for 25% of the cost of their wellness programming, at a cap of $10,000 per business per year.

Referred to as “sunsetting,” legislators may choose to limit a funding stream, program, law, or initiative to a set number of years, in effect creating an expiration date for the legislation. Sunsetting can act as a best practice for elected officials and their staff to re-evaluate laws and programs after a number of years, in light of new information and budget constraints.

IHRSA has a keen interest in protecting the wellness credit, which can be used to purchase or subsidize gym memberships. It can also be used to fund employee stress management and nutrition programs, in addition to similar health promotion initiatives.

We believe that financial tax incentives for exercise work to create an environment where a healthy lifestyle is easier to achieve, based on encouragement by policy makers and company leadership.

At the state house, we met with the office of Senator Jason Lewis, who co-chairs the public health legislative committee.

The good news is that state legislators will use the fall to tackle healthcare cost containment, including re-working a law that created the tax credit in 2012. With that momentumcontaining healthcare costs through prevention and wellnessIHRSA will advocate for continuing the wellness tax credit. Earlier this year, we convinced the Maine legislature to continue that state’s wellness tax credit (instead of repealing the credit), helping the state incentivize a healthier and more active workforce.


August 15 Issue

Should IHRSA's Personal Trainer Guidelines Recognize ANSI?

The IHRSA Board has been asked to consider adding The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accreditation to the approved list of accrediting organizations for personal training certification programs. But first, we want to hear from you. Tell us what you think.

State Sales Tax: The Threat That’s Not Going Away

Spoiler alert: state governments like the idea of taxing health club businesses to make up for revenue shortfalls. Don’t believe me? Jeff Perkins explains the problem well in this video.

Worthington to White House: “What Are Business Lessons You've Learned?”

Jim Worthington, IHRSA Board member and owner of Newtown Athletic Club, recently visited the White House to discuss business best practices. Here’s a look at his time at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.


Do you have advocacy or public policy questions? Ask us! We're taking questions for our Aug. 16th Facebook Live event!



August 1 Issue

Which Type of Reform Is the Best Fit for PHIT?

Here’s the latest intel from IHRSA’s ‘man on the ground’ about what is happening on Capitol Hill and how key decisions could impact health clubs and the fitness industry.

Can Being Social Improve Wellbeing? Does Playtime Make Children Smarter?

Every month, IHRSA’s Alex Black explains the latest health news and why it matters to your business via Facebook Live. Bummed that you missed yesterday’s chat? Here’s your recap.

#PassPHIT to Get Americans Moving Again

"Many leaders in the public policy arena now recognize how far-reaching the ramifications of a sedentary population can be..." - Helen Durkin, IHRSA’s EVP of public policy in The Washington Examiner on why PHIT could be the change Americans need.


To celebrate  & all the gyms with dance programs pls enjoy Shake It Off 1989 Aerobics Edition.



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4 Times Health Studies Made the News This Month

Yesterday, IHRSA’s Health Promotion Manager, Alex Black, sat down (well, actually stood) with Digital Advocacy Content Coordinator Kaitlynn Anderson to discuss the latest health news on the web. Here's a look at what was discussed:

A Prescription of Activities Shown to Improve Health and Wellbeing

Prescribing certain activities is shown to improve health and wellbeing. In the UK, researchers interviewed participants of the “Ways to Wellness” program. The program connects people with chronic diseases to “link workers,” individuals who help them connect with health programs and resources in the community.

For example, a link worker  would help a person with heart disease connect with a gardening program or help someone with diabetes find a walking group. They also help with other issues like debt management, housing, and navigating benefits systems. The idea is that by helping people find programs that work forand appeal tothem and helping them manage other aspects of their lives, it is possible to address the barriers to a healthier lifestyle.

The participants interviewed discussed how working with a link worker built self-confidence, self -reliance, and independence. The activitieslike gardening, dance clubs, and volunteeringhelped them lose weight and increase fitness, which helped them better manage pain and tiredness related to their illnesses. They also reported feeling less socially isolated and noted increases in self-esteem and mental wellbeing.

The benefits of this program did not necessarily come out of the activities people did, but rather they were developed through the social support they received from link workers. On average, general practice physicians spend about 15 minutes with their patients. Specialists may have more time with patients, but the majority of those appointments are still spent discussing the medical management of an illness. That leaves little time and support for patients who are told to be more active and eat better but don’t think they can afford it or access it. The link workers played a key role in breaking down some of those barriers, as well as others, like confidence and self-efficacy.

Losing Fat, Gaining Brain Power on the Playground

A recent study looked at the impact of 70-minutes of play or daily exercise on test results among a group of obese and normal weight kids, and compared them to a similar group of kids who didn't exercise. They found that the more visceral fat (the kind of fat deep beneath the skin surrounding the organs) kids lost, the better they did on cognitive testing. Kids saw results even if they lost visceral fat but remained overweight.

IHRSA has testified on behalf of policies at the state level to provide greater access to physical education and recess time in schools, and this study now provides even more evidence that such policies are not only beneficial but critical.

Just One Minute of Running a Day Could Lead to Better Bone Health

For one week, researchers followed 2,500 women to assess their physical activity levels and  find a relationship between bone health and exercise. They found that women who did at least one to two minutes per day of high intensity, weight-bearing exercise (like running) had four percent better bone health than inactive women.

Bone mineral density is an indicator of how strongand resistant to fracturea bone is, and is typically used to determine bone health. It’s important to note that the study says it doesn’t actually prove the link between weight-bearing exercise and increased bone health, but the link is very probable.

Running benefits bone health because it is a weight-bearing exerciseyou would see similar effects from resistance exercises or dancing. When bones have to work harder against gravity, the body works to strengthen them  over time.

Doctors Should Counsel Healthy People on Diet, Exercise

In the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Preventive Services Task Force reaffirmed their 2012 recommendation that doctors should provide healthy lifestyle behavioral counseling even to their lower risk patients.

Why do low-risk patients need counseling? A patient may be low risk or healthy at one point, and progress to high risk later. Risk level also progresses over timea person who is active and “has it together” in their 30’s may struggle to be active and eat healthy twenty years later. Consistent counseling through the lifespan might help them maintain healthful habits and thus prevent chronic disease. The cornerstone of prevention is creating healthy habits before a medical issue arises.


Healthcare Reform, Tax Reform, Or Another Kind of Reform? Which One Can Help Pass PHIT?

Unfortunately, the answer is not simple.

To get a better understanding of the current political climate in Washington, we spoke with IHRSA’s federal lobbyist, Jay Sweeney, to get his expert opinion on the changes that have been happening and what they mean for health clubs and their members.

“I have a background in health and healthier lifestyles since three of my family members are physicians. Weas a familyhave always been committed to living healthy and being active. So that’s really how I got associated with the industry, and I’ve been doing that ever since,” said Sweeney who has been working on behalf of IHRSA and health clubs for more than a decade.

We are grateful to have his guidance to help us sort through the unanswered questions surrounding reform efforts on Capitol Hill and how choices that are being made ultimately impact our industry.

To Reform or Not to Reform…

Last weekto the surprise of manythe Senate voted to reject the latest effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), effectively nullifying the healthcare reform debate until after Congress returns from its summer recess. However, this does not mean that efforts to pass federal bills incentivizing physical activity—like PHIT and WHIP—will stall.

“Now that the bigger healthcare reform bill has stalled, it’s time for members of Congress to move on to something like a PHIT/WHIP package since PHIT enjoys bipartisan support, unlike many other options that were discussed in the broader context of healthcare reform,” said Sweeney. “PHIT is a tax bill, and there could be opportunities to move this piece of legislation as part of this type of reform.”

For example, the Children’s Health Insurance Program is set to expire at the end of September, and Congress must act on this if they wish for the program to continue. This program does include various tax provisions, so a bill like PHIT and/or WHIP could certainly be moved as part of this package if the legislature agrees to do so.

PHIT vs. WHIP and Why Timing Is Everything

There has been a lot of recent discussion surrounding the reasoning behind the industry’s focus on PHIT versus WHIP and why that is. Really the answer is simple: because timing is everything.

Because the hope was to attach PHIT to a larger healthcare reform package, it made sense to focus on PHIT while the discussions of healthcare reform were happening.

How Can Clubs Get Involved?

Timing really is everything, and right now the timing is right for clubs to take action to get these pieces of legislation passed.

Currently, PHIT has roughly 70 bipartisan supporters in the House and the Senate, and the IHRSA team with its members are determined to increase the number co-sponsors who sign on in the coming months.

“I wish I had the magic number that I could use to say ‘if we get this amount of sponsors then the bill will pass,’ but that is not the case,” said Sweeney. “While it’s not productive to focus on a specific number, a greater number simply indicates the amount of support behind a particular concept or idea. The number of co-sponsors is important simply because the more we can get, the better.”

Therefore, it’s crucial that club operators reach out to their representatives while they are home in their districts to voice their support for PHIT. They should ask their member of Congress to sign on as a co-sponsor upon their return to Washington, D.C., in the fall.

“We are living in very different times now, this Congress is operating in a way that is very different...and we need to continue to be persistent. What we’re engaged in is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. We need to continue with outreach and keep pushing to get this bill across the finish line despite any frustrations that may arise that we cannot control,” said Sweeney.