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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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November 7 Issue

5 Pieces of Legislation that Still Haunt the Fitness Industry

We’re not seeing dead people this Halloween season, but we are being haunted by scary bill proposals from years past. Check out the five scariest pieces of legislation we stopped defeated over the last few years...if you dare.

How an Active Population Contributes to Success at Home and Abroad

This week we celebrate Veteran’s Day to honor the men and women that have served our nation. Unfortunately, Veteran’s Day also reminds us that 70% of the U.S. population is not able to serve due to health reasons. We interviewed retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Blake Williams to learn about this problem and what clubs can do to help.

Looking for Your Next ‘Employee of the Month?’

Hiring the right staff members is one of the most important steps any business can take on the path to success. Unfortunately, the recruiting process can often raise a number of legal questions that can make your head spin. This is why IHRSA has legal briefing papers that give your health club specific information you need to make informed business decisions. Here’s an exclusive look at the Recruiting and Hiring Briefing Paper.

Accommodating Members with Alzheimer’s Disease

Did you know that November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month? Join us in supporting affected individuals by helping them live happier, healthier lives through exercise.


THANK YOU   &   for supporting . Helping people save 20-30% on  

— @IHRSANov. 2, 2017

Looking to learn more? Subscribe to the IHRSA Advocate and get this information delivered straight to your inbox.


Accommodating Members with Alzheimer's Disease

Worldwide, 47.5 million people suffer from dementia, a condition that leads, inevitably, to a severe decline in mental abilities. In America alone, every 66 seconds, someone is diagnosed with dementia, the most common form of which is Alzheimer's disease. 

Fortunately, people are living with Alzheimer's derive a number of of benefits from physical activity, including increased blood flow to the brain, which improves cognition, encourages healthy sleep patterns, and facilitates improved social interaction. 

At the same time, those who are afflicted often have difficulty navigating the environment around them -- spatially, audibly, intellectually, and socially. And, in a number of countries, laws or regulations require that businesses and public places provide access to people with disabilities like Alzheimer's. In the U.S., the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one such law. 

The question then becomes, how can IHRSA clubs accommodate this population? To answer that question, you'll want to take note of what two Canadian facilities are doing. 

The Wellness Institute at Seven Oaks General Hospital

This certified medical fitness center in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, runs an eight-week program, Minds in Motion, in partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba, for people with mild to moderate dementia. For two hours a week, certified fitness staff lead exercise sessions, and then the staff from the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba facilitates socially stimulating mental activities. To ensure each participant's safety, a buddy system is used: everyone who partakes in the program signs up with a support person, such as a family member or friend. Or, they're matched with a volunteer from the Society. 

Karin Whalen, director of community service at The Wellness Insitute, credits the program's initial and ongoing success to the institute's partnership with the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba, which serves as a resource for instructor training and general advice.

To get started, The Wellness Institute volunteered to be the pilot location for the Minds in Motion program. Likewise, Whalen suggests that you contact an Alzheimer's group in your area to see if you can do something similar.

The Northwood Pauline Potter Fitness Centre

Located at Northwood, a not-for-profit independent living and long-term care facility in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, the Pauline Potter Fitness Centre prides itself on being the first gym in North America designed specifically for people living with dementia. It opened a year ago in partnership with specialists at the University of Stirling in Stirling, Scotland. 

Natasha Handspiker, fitness manager for the center, points to several best practices that ensure both inclusiveness and safety: a strategic layout and a supportive staff, careful member on-boarding, and communication with caretakers. 

With regard to layout, the walls, floor, and equipment all have different colors. The equipment units are arranged in a circle, with a staff person in the middle, and each has a visual aid that members can refer to during a workout. 

Because that staff person has a 360-degree view, they can provide assistance, cues, or reminders, as needed. To make sure that they're knowledgeable and confident when working with these members, they receive in-house education on the challenges of living with dementia.

Before joining the center, all individuals must complete a health information questionnaire, which includes questions about dementia. Those with the condition are given a form that their physician must complete, which asks for the patient's fitness history and a recommendation for an exercise regimen. The form is updated three times each year to monitor progression of the disease. 

Communication with caretakers is key to providing a pleasant environment at the center. Should the member start to exhibit behavioral changes that are disruptive, the center should work with the caretaker to ensure access to physical activity. For example, the member could transition to a long-term care facility with recreational offerings.

In lieu of a formal program, what can you do if you know that a member has Alzheimer's? If it's clear that they find your busy club overwhelming, you may want to suggest one-on-one training or group exercise. 

You could also inquire whether the member would be more comfortable bringing a support person to the club (at no cost). 

Finally, if you're already working with this population, your experience will be valuable to other IHRSA members. To share what you've learned, please take IHRSA's three-minute health promotion survey.


October 24 Issue

Don't Let Scary Automatic Renewal Proposals Keep You Up at Night

This year we saw a rise in the number of proposals to place restrictions on automatic renewal of membership contracts, but the good news is our team took appropriate action to protect health clubs across the country.

Exclusive First Look: Resources for Delivering Wellness to Your Community

These new and improved downloadable resources will provide you with programming ideas for improving the health and wellbeing of your community and bringing new visitors to your club. As an IHRSA Advocate subscriber, you get an exclusive look at these new products. Here is a look at the first health promotion product we’re releasingthe Getting Kids Active in the School and Community e-book.

Showing Congressmen, Women, and Staff Members Why It’s Important to Get Active

Earlier this month, IHRSA joined with coalitions, partners, and members to educate lawmakers and their staff about the work health clubs are doing to make Americans more active.


It's a new month with new data and articles to share! Check out the latest Fitness News by the Numbers for details. 

— Oct 19, 2017


IHRSA Sponsors Congressional Policy Fair to Get More Americans Moving

Congressmen, women, and staffers lead busy lives. They are constantly running from meeting to meeting, speaking with constituents, and making key decisions on important policy issues. Because they are so busy, it’s up to us (IHRSA, IHRSA member clubs, and our industry partners) to educate and remind them how important fitness isfor themselves and for their constituents.

On October 11, our policy team joined with coalitions, partners, and members to educate D.C. lawmakers and staff members about the work health clubs are doing to make Americans (including policymakers!) healthier and more active.

The Get Active Policy Fair provided policymakers with an opportunity to talk, test their body composition, speak with health club operators and employees about their programs, discuss initiatives to get kids and adults more physically active, and learn more about how PHIT will help make physical activity more affordable for their constituents. Attendees also wrote their personal reasons for being active on whiteboards, took photos, and shared these photos with their peers on social media via IHRSA’s #WhyGetActive campaign.

Health club operators attended the fair to personally talk to representatives about the reasons they should incorporate exercise into their daily lives and encourage all every citizen to do the same.

"We were delighted to participate in the IHRSA Get Active Policy Fair,” said Linda Mitchell, director of public and government relations at Newtown Athletic Club (NAC). “This initiative was well coordinated and attracted a number of staffers on Capitol Hill to learn about the PHIT bill and the critical role that our industry plays in the lives of the American people to support a healthier lifestyle which in the end will save billions of healthcare dollars. It is critical for us, as health club owners and operators, to reach out today to our own congressmen and ask them to support their constituents by supporting the PHIT bill. This cannot be done without our own grassroots efforts.”

Mitchell met with several congressional offices to gather support for the PHIT Act. The meetings focused on recruiting members of the House of Representatives that are part of the Fitness Caucus but are not signed on as co-sponsors of PHIT.

Additionally, Jim Worthington, also of NAC, met with Representative Jason Smith (R-MO) the lead sponsor of the PHIT Act, to discuss the strategy for advancing the bill.

Please help your members of Congress realize how exercise adds value to their daily routine and encourage them to support measures that increase opportunities to get others moving. If you have not already done so, ask them to support the PHIT Act. Every sponsor that signs on in support of this bill, adds one more voice to our fight to bring physical activity to the forefront during discussions on the nation’s health.


Clubs Caught in the Crossfire: IHRSA Thwarts States Seeking to Restrict Automatic Renewal Contracts

As IHRSA predicted, state legislatures were very active this year and passed a high volume of bills. In 2017, our team saw a rise in the number of bills seeking to place restrictions on automatic renewal of membership contracts. The good news is the majority of bills are not aimed at clubs specifically. The bad news is these bills are broadly written and clubs get pulled in as a result. Fortunately, IHRSA has enjoyed success in 2017, beating back these proposals and securing victories for health clubs in the following states:  


Following a request by IHRSA’s advocacy team, the Minnesota legislature rejected a proposal temporarily inserted into House File 676 that would have required businesses to send stand-alone automatic renewal notification mailings to consumers. Unfortunately, similar proposals are pending in the legislature, and are eligible for consideration when the legislature reconvenes in 2018.


House Bill 227, legislation proposing regulation of automatically renewing contracts, did not advance into law. IHRSA submitted testimony opposing the bill to key leaders in the Senate, who opted not to consider the House proposal. If passed, the bill would have required clubs offering certain contracts to provide written or electronic notification of contract renewal between 30-90 days prior to the cancellation deadline.


House Bill 405 would have required health clubs and other businesses to send written notification to consumers between 30-60 days before contract renewal, provided that the original contract lasted 12 months and was renewing for a specified period of more than one month. The notification would specify the methods by which a consumer may obtain details of the automatic renewal provisions and cancellation procedure. In addition, the bill would have required clubs to disclose automatic renewal terms in the contract. After the bill’s introduction, IHRSA contacted the sponsor and expressed interest in the legislation, which did not receive a committee hearing or advance into law.


House Bill 2430 would have prohibited a business from charging a consumer for an automatically renewing contract unless the business first obtained affirmative consent from the consumer, among other restrictions. After the bill’s introduction, IHRSA contacted the sponsor, who agreed to exempt health clubs on the basis that the Virginia Health Club Act already regulates renewal of contracts for health club services. The sponsor re-drafted the bill to exclude health clubs ahead of a committee vote, and ultimately, the committee voted not to advance the legislation.

Even though these threats have been neutralized, it is common for harmful policy proposals to spread across state lines. IHRSA will continue to monitor proposals that could hurt clubs in D.C., New York, and Vermont and will continue to protect all club businesses from harm in the coming year.

If you have specific questions or want more information on how you can get involved in IHRSA’s advocacy efforts, contact the public policy team.


October 10 Issue

IHRSA Board Members Meet with Speaker Paul Ryan

On September 26, Jim Worthington and Ray O'Connor attended a fundraising dinner and presented the case for PHIT to Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (R-WI). This was a great opportunity to reinforce the case for PHIT that Jim Zupancic, another Board Member, made to Speaker Ryan earlier in the month. 

Why Talk to Politicians Who May Know Nothing About How Your Business Works?

They know nothing about how your business works, and yet, they’re making big decisions that can affect it. Here’s how you can take action to change that.

Five Reasons Exercise Is Great for Women

In four minutes or less, IHRSA’s Alex Black, will give you five entertaining reasons why any woman’s “embrace of fitness is smart.”

Pennsylvania Recognizes Active Aging Week

Pennsylvania recently passed a resolution recognizing the benefits of exercise for older adults. If you are interested in getting a similar resolution introduced in your state, IHRSA can help.


 has 97 sponsors! Thank you to these sponsors for supporting physical activity and healthy lifestyles. 

— Oct 10, 2017


5 Actions You Can Take to Ignite Change in the Fitness Industry

Nelson Mandela once said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” We tend to agree. That’s why we created the following two-minute video explaining how each of us can advocate for the fitness industry.


If you're looking for more information, check out our list of five actions you can take to endorse the benefits of physical activity and health club membership in future conversations with your legislators.

1. Compose a sincere email to build trust

Start by sending an email to your lawmaker, introducing yourself, and if applicable, explaining your civic involvement, or charitable work. Keep in mind that, even though you may be sharing these efforts via social media, your elected officials may not be aware of them. It is important to include examples of your work in your email because they tell your brand’s story, illustrate your commitment to members, and highlight your company’s values.

2. Request a meeting

If possible, it’s best to put a face to a name by getting acquainted in person. First, find out if any of your members are lawmakers. In the case that some are, take advantage of the opportunity to introduce yourself, and, engage in a conversation about pertinent issues. If none of your members are lawmakers, that’s okay too. Then you can do some research on local politicians and invite them to your facility for a brief visit, open house, a charity fundraiser, a blood drive, or another scheduled event.  You can also invite your legislator to have coffee or you can stop by when they’re holding office hours to meet with their constituents. When you meet, ask questions you’d ask anyone during a first introduction. For example, what’s their background? Why did they enter politics? Do they have a family? What do they do for fun? You want to understand where your legislators’ interests lie. If you’d like, you can also attend political fundraisers or volunteer for reelection campaigns. Any elected representative will be pleased to have your support, in any form.

3. Join with other clubs

As an IHRSA member, you have a built-in support network of fellow club operators who have experience with taking action on behalf of the industry. In particular, members of the Industry Leadership Council, fitness industry leaders who fund IHRSA’s public policy efforts, will gladly share their advice and experience.

4. Deliver the data

Clubs that have achieved legislative victories have highlighted how long they’ve been in business, the number of people they employ, the number of members they serve, the number of pounds lost in a weight loss challenge, or the amount they’ve raised for charity. Legislators enjoy responding to proven results like these.

5. Make your intentions clear

Each time you interact with a lawmaker, pose questions that facilitate deeper engagement. They can be policy-driven (“Will you oppose efforts to tax gym membership?”) or social (“What’s the best way to stay in touch with your office?”What social media account should I follow?”) Legislators are invested in seeing people become happier, healthier, and more productive. They want healthcare to improve, while costs decline. As a wellness expert, employer, citizen, and voter, your thoughts and opinions matter.


Pennsylvania Recognizes Active Aging Week

The earlier in life you start being active the better, but it’s never too late to start. As we discussed in last month’s Health Chat Live, in some cases, starting late doesn't put you behind at all. Pennsylvania lawmakers decided to formally recognize the benefits of exercise for older adults by enacting House Resolution 493, which designated September 24-28 as the state’s “Active Aging Week.” IHRSA submitted testimony to the sponsor in support of the bill.

Almost 15 years ago, the International Council on Active Aging started a campaign focused on promoting healthy lifestyles and increasing physical activity levels among older adults. The weeklong campaign became known as “Active Aging Week” and is annually celebrated during the last week in September.

“Active Aging Week” challenges the idea that physical ability declines with age. The observance serves as a reminder that older adults can live a full, happy, and healthy life simply by making physical activity a daily habit.

Let the statistics speak for themselves. Physical activity in middle and older age has been shown to improve blood glucose and prevent prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, reduce risk of heart disease, stroke, breast and colon cancer, and delay cognitive decline. For older adults with an existing chronic disease, physical activity can even sharpen mental and physical functioning and add life to years.

Unfortunately, obesity and physical inactivity are still prominent issues in the United States. Less than half of U.S. adults are physically active (participating in at least 30 minutes of moderate activity three times a week), a number that decreases to about a third after age 65. As this inactivity epidemic continues to spread, more and more citizens are at an increased risk for developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, and some cancers.

In Pennsylvania alone, nearly a third of residents are considered obese based on body mass index. This has to change.

It’s important for other states to follow Pennsylvania’s lead and acknowledge the positive effects physical activity has on health and quality of life. If you are interested in getting a similar resolution introduced in your state, we can help. Contact IHRSA's public policy team.


September 26 Issue

Who Has the Power to Pass PHIT?

Now, more than ever, the House Ways and Means Committee is is steering the conversation on PHIT. Learn how you can help them see the importance in supporting increased opportunities to be physically active.

Preventing Harrassment in Your Club

The issue of harassment in your club can affect member and employee retention, damage your club’s reputation, and create unnecessary legal complications, if not handled properly. That’s why IHRSA has legal briefing papers that give you health club specific legal information you need to make informed business decisions. Here’s an exclusive first look at the Preventing Harassment Briefing Paper—the first in the employment law series.

Your Input Needed: ANSI Standards

The IHRSA Board is considering adding The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accreditation to the approved list of accrediting organizations for personal training certification programs. Tell us what you think.


What's the most important thing  /  owners (AND members) can do? TAKE ACTION on . Be sure to also check out the full IHRSA 2017 PHIT video.

- @IHRSA_Advocate (Sept. 21, 2017)


How Members of House Ways and Means Committee Can Help Pass PHIT

The Committee on Ways and Means is the chief tax-writing committee in the House of Representatives, and as such, it oversees many domestic revenue issues. Because the outline of tax reform legislation is expected to be released soon, the influential decisions made by this committee are more important than ever before.

Why is that, you ask? The Committee on Ways and Means has a great deal of influence over whether or not the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Actlegislation that would allow Americans to use FSAs and HSAs to pay for fitness-related expensespasses.

Left to Right: Claire Kinsey, Cooper Institute, Kevin McHugh, Atlantic Club, Brian Zehetner, Planet Fitness, Rep. Erik Paulson, Erik Lindseth, Life Time Fitness, Linda Mitchell, Newtown Athletic Club (NAC), and Jim Worthington, NAC.

Eleven of the members of the Committee on Ways and Means have already voiced their support for physical activity by sponsoring PHIT. 

HW&M Members:

That leaves the question of what to do about the representatives who have not yet signed on in support of increasing access to healthy lifestyles. What can you do to convince them to support PHIT?

If you already have a relationship with your member of Congress, call them and ask them to sign on as a PHIT sponsor. Call him or her this week. If you are just developing a relationship with your member, that is okay too.

You can start by reaching out to your member of Congress and scheduling a time to meet with them. Members of Congress divide weeks between spending time in their home district and working in D.C., so scheduling a meeting will not be as challenging as you think. Take a look at this Congressional Schedule for opportunities to invite them to your club. When you speak with your representative, remember to emphasize why passing PHIT is beneficial for the health, happiness, and financial prosperity of every individual and family in their district.

Fortunately, your member of Congress also happens to be your connection to the Ways and Means Committee. If your congressman or congresswoman supports PHIT, kindly ask them to ask their friends on the Ways and Means Committee to sponsor PHIT.

As an industry, our ultimate goal is build a healthier and brighter future for all through physical activitygrowing the list of PHIT sponsors and seeing this legislation through to passage is a vital step toward that envisioned future.