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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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January 17 Issue

Allow Us to Introduce Ourselves

Before the holidays, we started introducing you to our public policy team. Last time, you met Suzanne Trainor. This week we would like to introduce you to Amy Bantham, IHRSA’s Vice President of Health Promotion and Health Policy.

PHITness for Your Bottom Line

If your members could save 20-30% on health club memberships, how would that benefit your business? The answer is: more ways than you think

Introducing the IHRSA Foundation's ACCESS Health Initiatives

We are proud to announce the launch of the IHRSA Foundation's ACCESS Health Initiative to give those with chronic conditions access to wellness programs that help them improve and manage their health. 

...In Case You Missed Our Commentaries is a list of our most recent pieces that demonstrate how health clubs are helping make the world healthier through regular exercise.

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Meet Team IHRSA: Amy Bantham, Vice President of Health Promotion and Health Policy

Allow us to introduce ourselves. We are the IHRSA public policy team, and we hope that this series will help you get to know us a little better. 

Amy Bantham
Vice President of Health Promotion and Health Policy 


Explain your role at IHRSA. What do you do? What is the best part of your job? 

I oversee health promotion and health policy at IHRSA. That includes all the work that we do to increase the number of people who are physically active, as well as all the work that we do to make health club services more affordable and accessible. The best part of my job is working with people who are passionate about helping others live longer, healthier, and more active lives.   

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

A nurse or a lawyer. My mother was a nurse and my father was a lawyer. That clearly shows that either I lacked imagination or (as I prefer to think) I emulated my parents and wanted to be just like them.

What drew you to work for an organization that supports the health club industry? 

I have been a fitness professional working in the health club industry since the 1990s. I worked as a management consultant in the agri-food industry for years, teaching aerobics during my lunch hour, and then decided that I wanted to work full-time in an industry I was truly passionate about.

Tell us about your fitness routine. How do you stay active?

I still teach step aerobics. I also take Zumba, muscle conditioning, and tabata classes. My husband and I run a half-marathon together at least once a year.

What do you do for fun in your spare time? 

I have three children under seven. What is this thing called “spare time” that you speak of?

Share a random fact about yourself.

I turned down a job to work at the CIA. The only time I regret it is when I watch Homeland.


Get PHIT—Your Business and Your Members Will Thank You

When you think about your business, think about some of the biggest issues that you face every day. Chances are, most of the questions you ask yourself day-in and day-out have to do with meeting member needs and showcasing how valuable your club is to the people it serves.  

With that said, picture what would happen if your members could save 20-30 percent on their health club membership or personal training services? How would that affect your business and your members?

These types of annual savings could encourage more prospects to become members, help retain current members, and allow more members to take advantage of training services or sports-training programs. Sounds good, right?

Passing the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act would help accomplish all of the above, but we need your help to spread the message about the importance of PHIT’s provisions.

So whether you have heard of PHIT or not, it’s time to get acquainted or reacquainted with the reasons why passing this bill would be beneficial for the health of your business and your members. Here’s a short summary of everything you need to know:

What is PHIT?

PHIT is a piece of federal legislation that, if passed, would make physical activity expenses more affordable by allowing Americans to use pre-tax accounts, like health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible savings accounts (FSAs) to pay for fitness expenses—like exercise equipment, youth sports league fees, and health club memberships.

Who would benefit from PHIT’s passage?


  • Your members would save 20-30 percent on their annual fitness expenses—including health club memberships, which means…

  • ...there is an increased opportunity for you to grow your membership through affordable fitness opportunities presented by PHIT, and more generally…

  • ...if physical activity was made more accessible and cost-effective, more non-exercisers might be more inclined to participate in physical activity.

When will it be enacted?

This answer depends largely on Congress, lawmakers, and the actions you take to help advance the bill.

Why do my actions matter? Why should I care?

Simply put, if PHIT is passed, it is likely that your club would see an increase in profitability. Giving members and prospects access to a variety of fitness options at more affordable costs creates added opportunities for business success.

How can I help pass PHIT?

If you’d like to take action and be part of history by passing PHIT in the 115th Congress, please:

If you are looking for more information on PHIT, please visit, and if you’d like to speak with a member of the IHRSA public policy team, please contact us at


IHRSA Foundation Launches ACCESS Health Initiative

The IHRSA Foundation was founded to help people achieve good health through exercise. And now, the 501(c)3 charitable organization is proud to announce the launch of its ACCESS Health Initiative, which addresses the needs of those with chronic conditions by giving them access to participant-focused, multi-dimensional wellness programs that help them improve and manage their health.

The idea for the ACCESS Health Initiative originally came from examining the Augmenting Cancer Care through Exercise Strategies for Survivors project—focused on giving cancer survivors necessary resources to take control of their health through making positive lifestyle choices related to physical activity and nutrition and based on Radka Willson’s Back to Life program.

To address the needs of the more than 20% of the U.S. population that has a disability, the IHRSA Foundation expanded the ACCESS project to allow greater coverage of a number of chronic diseases and put an increased emphasis on targeting each one through more specialized programming options. Currently, additional ACCESS program options include:  

  • ACCESS Health Cancer Wellness
  • ACCESS Health Diabetes
  • ACCESS Health Chronic Conditions
  • ACCESS Health Inclusive Fitness

With the expansion of the work to include these initiatives, the IHRSA Foundation hopes to serve individuals and larger groups of people by working with them to promote the benefits of physical activity and demonstrate the impact it has on chronic disease prevention and management.

If you’d like to partner on a pilot program, please contact Amy Bantham at  For more information, please visit the new website at

In addition, if you’d like to support the IHRSA Foundation: 


Communicating the Value of Physical Activity

One of IHRSA's missions is to promote the benefits of exercise and communicate the value that health clubs play in making communitiesand the worldmore active. 

In case you missed some of our recent opinion pieces, we have you covered. Here is a list of commentaries written by IHRSA's Executive Vice President of Public Policy, Helen Durkin, that recently appeared in PsychCentral, Morning Consult, Medical Economics, the Hill, and Disruptive Women in Healthcare.


January 3 Issue

Say hello to 2017. 

We hope you had a relaxing holiday spent with family and friends. Now it's time to think about what lies ahead this year—resolutioners, new legislative opportunities, and legal issues to address...oh my! But don't worry, we have you covered. So go ahead and leap into the new year knowing IHRSA has your best interests in mind.

Results Are In...Here's Your Legislative Forecast for 2017 

IHRSA has been hard at work preparing for all the issues we anticipate your club could see this yearHere's what you need to know about PHIT, updates to the new overtime regulations, and state legislation that could impact health clubs.

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2017 is Comin’ in Hot: Here’s Your Legislative Intelligence Briefing

2017 has arrived.

While you’ve been busy signing up ‘resolutioners’, taking care of current members, optimizing your group-X schedule, selling training packages, etc., you can rest assured that IHRSA has been just as busy surveying the legislative landscape and prepping for the year ahead. Here’s what you need to know about the most prominent issues and opportunities we anticipate this year.

1. Passing PHIT in the 115th Congress

2017 presents the perfect opportunity for individuals and communities to join the movement to “Get PHIT.”

The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act would directly benefit your membership roster and revenues by allowing your members to save 20-30% on their fitness expenses—such fitness equipment, youth sports league fees, and health club memberships and services.

This year in particular, there are a few unique circumstances that could serve as added momentum to propel support for and passage of the bill forward.

The first opportunity comes in the form of proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With the help of Congress, the Trump administration plans to repeal and replace the ACA, therefore creating more opportunities to expand the use of private health savings accounts (HSAs). And, an increased emphasis on tax reform creates the second opportunity to pass the legislation.

However, regardless of the political landscape, IHRSA needs help from you—club owners and operators—to communicate all the reasons why Congress should pass PHIT. We, as an industry, need you to educate your members about the importance of passing this legislation and encourage them to spread the word about the value that daily exercise provides for both the health of the American people and the stability of the economy. So download the Get PHIT Toolkit and begin rallying your members by explaining how they’ll benefit from PHIT’s passage.

2. Keeping a Watchful Eye on the New Overtime Regulations

On December 1, new FSLA overtime regulations were scheduled to go into effect which would have extended overtime eligibility to an additional 4.2 million workers, exponentially raising payroll costs to businesses, including health clubs.

Even though a November 22nd ruling prevented the December implementation of the new rules as a result of a preliminary injunction, the fight to prevent implementation of the rules is far from over. The preliminary injunction upholds the current overtime regulations, but does not constitute a final ruling.

The opportunity for Congressional review of the new rules is still in play for 2017. Right now, the federal government has appealed the preliminary injunction to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and this motion has been granted. Under this appeal, final opposing briefs will be due on January 31st with oral arguments to follow. Therefore, it is not anticipated that any changes in the regulations will be seen until February or later.

Regardless of the Congressional review, a decision will have to be made by the new administration on whether or not to continue with the appeal or let the injunction stand.

IHRSA will continue to provide you with additional updates as more information becomes available.

3. Monitoring State Legislation for Issues Impacting Health Clubs  

While federal legislation (like PHIT and Federal Overtime Law) may receive the most media attention, it is important to note that ‘all politics is local.’ And while federal legislation usually moves at a glacial pace, legislation at the state level moves so quickly that it can often hit without warning. That is, unless you’re an IHRSA member, because our team acts as your early warning system.

You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘do-nothing Congress,’ but recently the state of Colorado passed 63% of the bills proposed. And, in terms of the volume of bills introduced, New York (an average of 12,389 bills per session), Illinois (6,002) and Massachusetts (3,973) introduce the most. And, because of this high volume of introduced bills, it can be difficult to stay on top of breaking legislative developments while keeping up with the daily responsibilities of running your business.

In 2017, the IHRSA team anticipates seeing and fighting against a number of issues at the state level which include but are not limited to sales tax proposals, locker room privacy & security issues, and consumer protection laws impacting health clubs.

To view a more detailed summary of the issues we predict will be seen in your state this year, look for IHRSA’s 2016 Advocacy Impact Report which will be released in the coming weeks. In the meantime, be sure to monitor the latest updates in your state, and if you have not already done so, sign up to receive IHRSA’s legislative alerts by emailing


December 20 Issue 

May your days be merry and bright. Whether you're "walking in a winter wonderland" or "soaking up the sun" on a tropical island getaway this year, the IHRSA team would like to wish you a happy, healthy holiday season. See you in 2017.

Selling Gift Cards this Holiday Season? Read This

The holiday season means gift certificate season. Before your next sale, please make a list of the gift certificate laws in your state and then check it twice!

Allow Us to Introduce Ourselves

In our last edition of the IHRSA Advocate, we introduced you to the newest member of the public policy teamJeff Perkins. This week we would like you to meet our government relations coordinator, Suzanne Trainor. 

Calling All Leaders: Here's a Lesson in Branding 101

Consider all the traits that are required of you as a leader. Is personal branding included on your list? If not, it should be. Attend the 2017 ILC Experience to discover how to develop and manage your personal brand. 

2017 Is Practically Here

Are you ready for the New Year's resolution crowd?

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Meet Team IHRSA: Suzanne Trainor, Government Relations Coordinator

Allow us to introduce ourselves. We are the IHRSA public policy team, and we hope that this series will help you get to know us a little better. 

Suzanne Trainor
Government Relations Coordinator


Explain your role at IHRSA. What do you do? What is the best part of your job? 

I am IHRSA’s Government Relations Coordinator. Day-to-day, I analyze legislation impacting the the health club industry in the 50 states, support our state and federal lobbying teams, write testimony, and author legislative alerts to IHRSA member clubs. My job also entails connecting IHRSA members with their elected officials on issues they care about. It is hard to choose, but the best part of my job is being able to activate the voice each one of has in the political process. It is truly incredible how much influence a quick outreach to your elected official elevates the industry and builds a healthier future.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Growing up, I wanted to be a singer because in the board game “Life” they had the best attire. Later on, I had a fantastic high school government teacher who sparked my interest in politics. The class was particularly interesting due to the intrigue of guessing his political viewpoint; he would not disclose whether he identified as a Democrat, Independent, or Republican. We also held a mock campaign in which I was publically smeared for being out of touch with the average American on the basis of pictures posted in the hallways of me sailing in the summer. In my defense, I will just add that I was working as a sailing instructor at the time.

What drew you to work for an organization that supports the health club industry? 

Fitness is important to me on the basis of its multiple health benefits and I have a background in politics -- opposition research for campaigns and advocacy groups, then grassroots organizing in the most recent New Hampshire Presidential Primary – and so the opportunity to combine both passions drew me to IHRSA.

Tell us about your fitness routine. How do you stay active?

I stay active by taking spinning and yoga classes. I also enjoy joining IHRSA colleagues on runs around Boston and plank challenges.

What do you do for fun in your spare time?

I have the two best older sisters living in Massachusetts as well. I have fun catching up with them in my free time.

Share a random fact about yourself.

I was studying in Morocco just after the Arab Spring erupted in nearby Tunisia. It was exciting to witness the changing political tone, albeit challenging with only a basic knowledge of Arabic and French. They also have excellent food.


'Tis the Season for Gift Certificates...Beware!

According the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend $27.5 billion on gift certificates this holiday season, making them the second most popular gift after clothing and accessories. Gift certificates are frequently used to sell everything from clothes and electronics to personal training sessions and classes. While gift certificates may be a great opportunity for health clubs to boost end-of-year revenue, there are traps for the unwary.

SoulCycle, Inc., the spin company, has become embroiled in a potential class-action lawsuitCody, et al v. SoulCycle, Inc.over its handling of classes sold in packages ranging from one class to 50. The cycling packages come with different expiration dates depending on the number of classes purchased. A single cycle class expires after 30 days, while 50 class packages are good for 12 months.

SoulCycle Washington D.C. (Picture P. Bedford)

The customers suing SoulCycle claim that the class packages are actually gift certificates and the short expiration dates result in lost money for consumers and unjust gain for SoulCyclein violation of state and federal law. Federal law prohibits the sale of gift certificates that expire in less than five years, while California Civil Code prohibits the sale of gift certificates with any expiration at all.

SoulCycle filed a motion to dismiss the case arguing that their class packages could not be applied toward the purchase of a more expensive good or service and therefore should not be treated as gift certificates. U.S. District Court Judge George King granted SoulCycle’s motion to dismiss the claim of a state law violation but denied the motion to dismiss the federal claim, meaning the class-action lawsuit will advance.  

While the ultimate outcome of the SoulCycle case will not be know for some time, it serves as a good reminder that if you sell gift certificates or are considering doing so, that while there may be no better time of year to sell them, make sure you know the rules of the road when doing so.  For instance, some states mandate that merchants provide cash back when the gift certificate balance is low. In California, gift certificates with a cash value of less than $10 are redeemable in cash. It is important to be aware of the gift certificate laws where you operate. If you have questions or comments, please send them to