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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.

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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.


July 18 Issue

There's a New General in Town

Dr. Jerome Adams was recently nominated as the new U.S. Surgeon General. Here’s what this means for physical activity and healthy lifestyles.

Recognizing Fitness Industry Leaders

We have been celebrating the accomplishments and life-lessons of our fitness industry leaders for more than a year now! Jon Brady from MidTown Athletic Clubs is our latest leader to be featured.

Are You Celebrating National Youth Sports Week?

It’s your play-call, but studies have shown that encouraging children to participate in youth sports can lead to improvements in their health and wellness.


To the 104  members who contributed to the ILC last year. Your generous & unwavering support helps drive our industry into the future!


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Surgeon General Nominee Voices Support for Physical Activity

Last week, President Donald J. Trump announced the nomination of Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams MD, MPH, for the position of U.S. Surgeon General. Dr. Adams is a trained anesthesiologist best known for his work to combat the opioid epidemic in Indiana. He was widely praised for his role in containing a 2015 HIV outbreak by pushing for the legalization of needle-exchange programs in the state.

While his main focus as Indiana’s state health commissioner has been on opioid use, he is also supportive of efforts to make children and adults healthier and more active. He has outlined obesity, physical inactivity, and smoking as three of his top six priorities and has thrown his support behind walking initiatives such as Step It Up! The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communitiescreated by former U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthayand National Walk to School Day. His other high level priorities include infant mortality and smoking cessation.

If confirmed as surgeon general, Adams could prove to be a great ally for both health clubs and the entire health and wellness community. In response to the Surgeon General’s 2015 Call to Action, Adams encouraged all Hoosiers to get moving, stating that, “Regular physical activity like walking can help people of all ages improve their health.”


Do We Really Need a National Youth Sports Week?

Did you play any sports as a kid? Do you remember those experiences you had?

I certainly remember my years playing softball. Years of running drills and learning responsibility, accountability, and teamwork, and years of having fun while being physically active and not even noticing.

Consider the number 60,000,000. More than 60 million registered participants currently take part in organized amateur youth sports programs according to the National Council of Youth Sports. That’s roughly 82 percent of the under 18 population of the U.S. This doesn’t even account for all the adult coaches, parents, volunteers, and supporting organizations that are involved with youth sports.

So, do we really need a week dedicated to this? Of course we do!

That’s why there’s a resolution in Congress recognizing July 16–22 as National Youth Sports Week. The goal? To celebrate youth sports participation and all of the benefits children receive from engaging in sports.

If I haven’t convinced you yet, just look at how youth sports help children beyond the athletic fields.

Academic Performance

Youth sports are linked with increased school attendance, lower school dropout rates, and higher high school graduation. Oh, and did we mention higher grade-point averages?

Physical Health

Youth sports helps prevent obesity. I’m sure that was no surprise, but did you know it also helps prevent a number of chronic diseases, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, many forms of cancer, arthritis, asthma, and many others.

Character Development

Participants are often exposed to positive and strong role models. It also gives children a chance to socialize with peers their own age, learn patience, and how to win and lose.

Psychological Health

There are studies pointing to youth sports contributing to lower instances of substance abuse, higher levels of self-esteem, and being less aggressive than their peers.

It’s for these reasons and more that IHRSA is proud to support the resolution’s efforts to promote physical activity, foster healthy living, improve participant safety, encourage youth development, and make access to physical activity easier.

In fact, IHRSA will be in D.C. on July 18 for the Congressional Briefing on Youth Sports, put on by the National Council of Youth Sports—which is an organization that joins IHRSA as part of the PHIT Coalition, working to pass PHIT as well as the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity.

Promoting kids participation in physical activity, whether in school or out of school, is vital to IHRSA's mission to address the obesity and physical inactivity crisis.


July 5 Issue

Overdue Update on Overtime Rules

Remember all the discussions over the new federal overtime rules in November? We have some new information that you absolutely need to know about.

School's Out and Kids Are at Your Club

The warm weather is here which means there are even more opportunities to help kids get active during their summer vacation. Here are some tips to help kids enjoy a fun, safe workout at your club.

Selling Gift Certificates? 

SoulCycle recently settled a lawsuit over its gift certificate terms. While gift certificates create a great opportunity to boost your club’s revenue, there are some legal details you need to be aware of.


Are you a leader? 200+ years later, @IHRSA's @HADIHRSA asks what you would do if it were your turn? #independenceday

— IHRSA Advocate (@IHRSA_Advocate) July 4, 2017

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Supporting Children: the Future of Our Industry

Summertime. The word brings to mind pleasant images of children outside, running, playing, riding their bikes or going to summer camps, as they enjoy the warm weather and their freedom. Right?

Unfortunately, today, in many cases, that's a fantasy. 

In fact, two recent studies have shown that kid's physical activity actually drops off during the summer months, producing some negative health consequences. 

Researchers at the School of Medicine and Public Health at the University of Madison in Wisconsin discovered that overweight children in a lifestyle-based, physical-education class improved on several key measures of fitness during the school year. But, by the end of the summer break, they'd become more obese, and had higher fasting-insulin levels and lower maximum oxygen consumption. 

A similar study by the UKActive Research Institute, based in London, which followed 400 children from schools in Canada and Islington, came to a similar conclusion: British school-children's fitness levels dropped by 80% during their summer vacation. 

So the question is, how can health clubs provide a solution for parents and children seeking fitness opportunities year-round?

According to IHRSA data, currently only 7% of clubs across the globe, report that they offer kids' programming. 

Clearly, there's a tremendous opportunity for IHRSA operators to provide parents with fun activities for their children, allowing them to remaina active and engaged, no matter the season. 

"Clubs must play a role in encouraging kids' physical activity," urges Derek Gallup, the executive vice president of fitness for New Evolution Ventures, LLC (NeV), based in Lafayette, California, and incoming chairperson of IHRSA's board of directors. "A true love of fitness starts at a young age," he explains. "That passion can be developed through specific children's programming in the club, or in a kid's space that offers enjoyable activities that keep them moving. You want to inspire youngsters to ask Mom and Dad to bring them to your cub regularly because it's such a blast."

Programs that work

Experience has shown that kids love to visit clubs that promote physical activity by offering programs and special spaces that appreciate and cater to the fun, creative, carefree way that they interact with the world around them.

For example, the Rochester Athletic Club (RAC) in Rochester, Minnesota, provides children ages seven to 12 with an age-appropriate, activity-based play space called "The Neighborhood."

Built in 2006, one part of the area has been constructed to represent a mini city, with mock buildings and murals of skyscrapers in the background. The middle of the space is a street with an adjacent "park," with room for sports and games. The Neighborhood also includes a cushioned basketball court, which kids use for pickleball in the morning and adults use for soccer at lunchtime. After school, kids take advantage of the space for basketball and other games. Once they reach 13, they're introduced to the rest of the club. 

Likewise, the Claremont Club, in Claremont, California, offers a fitness-based recreation and socialization program, which inspires them to get active to music; organized activities such as sand play, relays, and obstacle courses; and use of the Junior Fitness Room, where children ages seven to 13 can circuit-train, use the cardio equipment, and can compete in challengesall with careful supervision.

A law that would help

The good news is, in addition to providing onsite programming as these clubs are doing, there are other ways you can promote physical activity among youth and adults, alike. You can support positive industry-wide initiatives. 

One prime example is the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, a bill supporting active lifestyles through tax incentives that was introduced in the 115th Congress. Recently, at IHRSA 2017 in Los Angeles, support for PHIT was widespread and very vocal. That's not surprising. If passed, the bill would make fitness available to millions more Americans, young and old. 

"If access to sports programming and coaching was more affordable, every member of the family could experience the well-documented benefits of exercise," says Gallup. "They include reducing the risk of the many lifestyle-related illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, dementia, arthritis, and some types of cancer. In addition, exercise can enhance mood and overall mental health, and it can improve an individual's chances of living a longer life. 

"But, in my mind, the best benefit is enabling kids and their families to share healthy and positive common experiences, which create fantastic memories they'll long remember as one of the best parts of life."

Clearly, creating and supporting children's programming makes sense, as it eventually benefits entire communities, and ultimately, the nations in which they live. 

Investing in kids also bodes well for the future. If they learn to love physical activity, they're more likely to become club members themselvesor even tomorrow's industry leaders. 

When kids are healthy, happy, and activeeverybody wins!

For more ideas on children's programming, you can download a free e-book, Active Kids in the School and Community. Or you can request a copy of "The Kids in Your Club Briefing Paper," at