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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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Love Your AED: It Can Save a Life

Every year, approximately 300,000 people in the United States experience sudden cardiac arrest, an unexpected life-threatening condition in which the heart stops beating. Sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) is usually a result of ventricular fibrillation, a malfunction in the heart's electrical system. The heart stops pumping blood to the brain and body, leading a person to collapse and lie unresponsive.

While regular physical activity can prevent SCA, the condition can happen at any time, including when a person is exercising. In a 2015 study by Harvard Medical School, researchers reviewed 1,247 cases of SAC in middle-aged men and women over an 11-year period and determined that 63 of the cases occurred while exercising. 

Nine out of ten victims of SCA do not survive, but using an automated external defibrillator (AED) can increase a person's chances of survival. AEDs are portable electronic devices that check the heart's condition anddepending on the device’s diagnosisprompt a bystander to administer shocks to restore an individual's normal heart rhythm. If a bystander, such as a club employee, uses an AED to treat a victim before paramedics arrive, the survival rate increases from ten percent to 38 percent, reports the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation, a Pittsburgh-based nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness of SCA.

To address the public health implications of SCA, many state legislatures now require public places, such as health clubs, large entertainment venues, and public schools to house an AED and ensure its proper use of the device in the case of an emergency.

For example, under California state law, every health club must acquire, maintain, and train personnel how to use the device. The law states that a person rendering treatment is not liable for civil damages resulting from the use or nonuse of an AED, unless injury or death results from gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.

When a state legislature considers a bill that would require health clubs to maintain an AED or considers changing a mandate already in effect, IHRSA works to ensure that there are adequate liability protections for club staff. Most recently, in 2016 IHRSA monitored AED legislation in Connecticut and Massachusetts for inclusion of liability protections (neither advanced into law), and in 2017, IHRSA is tracking a bill in Tennessee. If you have questions on AED requirements in your state, contact IHRSA at


Exercise Is Good for Your Heart, in More Ways Than One

Dating has changed a lot over the past 20 years, but fitness and health are still bringing people together. Whether you meet your swole-mate at the gym, using a fitness-based dating app, or in a way that has nothing to do with working out, there are still many health benefits to hitting the gym with your valentine.

For starters, exercise can help improve energy levels, which means both couples have more time for each other. Physical activity is also known to boost confidence and self-esteem, and research indicates that low self-esteem, in one or both partners, can negatively affect the health of the relationship. Exercise also decreases stress and improves mood, which can reduce the likelihood of getting into unnecessary fights.

In addition, exercise provides an opportunity for couples to have shared experiences. It turns out hitting the gym, tennis court, pool, or yoga studio together can help increase the length of your marriage. According to a study published by the Australian government’s Institute of Family Studies, couples married the longest held up their shared experiences and memories as chief factors in their relationships.

More generally, research shows that people who exercise as part of a group have seen better outcomes than people who go it alone. Working out in a groupor with a partnerfosters accountability and increases motivation.

Some IHRSA clubs have taken this couple's mentality a bit further by getting into the Valentine’s Day spirit. Fitness Formula Clubs, based in Chicago, is offering free "My Sweaty Valentine" Zumba classes at Navy Pier, and Commonwealth Sportsclub in Boston is running a Buddy Week, encouraging members to bring a friendor valentineto a group class with them this week. Read about more clubs getting into the Valentine's spirit over on the blog


IHRSA Discusses Role of Physical Activity in the Future of Health Reform at OECD Meeting

Kilian Fisher, IHRSA International Public Policy Advisor with Catherine Carty, Manager, UNESCO Chair in Inclusive Fitness, Sport & Recreation, PE met with Dermot Nolan, Irish Ambassador to the OECD & UNESCO to discuss how IHRSA, UNESCO Chairs, and the fitness industry contribute to the future of good health.In mid-January, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) hosted a meeting and high-level policy forum on people-centred care, at its headquarters in Paris. Over the course of two days, IHRSA and health ministers from over 35 countries met to discuss the next generation of health reform and the ways in which reform could decrease the prevalence of chronic disease.

Prior to the meeting, IHRSA, as a member of the Business at OECD (BIAC) Health Committee, worked with the committee to develop the BIAC paper—Our Vision and Priorities for the Future of Health—and the OECD Health Ministerial Statement, which formed the basis for two-day discussion.

The BIAC paper identifies four recommendations: integrating care, embracing innovation, promoting balanced nutrition and active lifestyles, and investing in a healthier future. It also highlights how private-public partnerships could inform health policies and analyses.

Kilian Fisher, IHRSA’s International Public Policy Advisor, attended the meeting to ensure that physical activity and the health club industry were discussed and recognized as ways to effectively prevent and manage chronic disease.

“According to IHRSA’s 2016 Global Report, approximately 187,000 clubs serve more than 151 million health club members worldwide. Imagine if we, as an industry, were able to engage even more people just by educating them on the economic and physical benefits of daily exercise,” said IHRSA’s Kilian Fisher.

A report done by the World Economic Forum (WEF) estimates that “over the next 20 years, the cost of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) could more than double—to 30 trillion USD—with the cost of care threatening to push millions of people into poverty.

About Business at OECD (BIAC)

BIAC speaks for business at the OECD. Established in 1962, BIAC stands for policies that enable businesses of all sizes to contribute to growth, economic development, and prosperity. Through BIAC, national business and employers federations and their members provide expertise to the OECD and governments for competitive economies, better business, and better lives. IHRSA is a  member of BIAC and is represented on the Health Committee as well as the OECD Experts  Group on Prevention and IHRSA representative Kilian Fisher has regularly attended meetings with the OECD and presented to the OECD Health Committee, representing BIAC.

For more information, contact Kilian Fisher, International Public Policy Advisor


January 31 Issue

Need Workplace Wellness Challenge Ideas?

In June, we wrote a blog post for on easy ways to start wellness challenges at work. In January, this same post got over 4,300 views. Help your employees start the year off right. Ready, set, plank-off.

ACA Guidelines You Didn't Know You Still Had to Follow

Make sure you understand what is required of you during this transitional period.

Allow Us to Introduce Ourselves

We’re not done yet. We still have four members of our team to introduce you to. Last issue, you met Amy Bantham. Today, get to know our Communications and Public Relations Coordinator, Shannon Vogler.

What’s Next for PHIT?

Under the current administration, there are three possible opportunities to pass PHIT. Which scenario do you think is most likely?

Are You a Leader? Are You Attending IHRSA 2017? 

If 'yes,' please consider this your invitiation to the ILC Experience. 

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Meet Team IHRSA: Shannon Vogler, Communications and Public 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.

Shannon Vogler Communications and Public Relations Coordinator

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

My role at IHRSA involves communicating with our members and members of the industry about policy issues that could impact business operations at health clubs. In addition, I also speak with media and press contacts about the benefits of regular exercise and the work that health clubs do to increase the physically active population.

The best part of my job is knowing that my communication efforts serve a larger purpose. It's incredible to witness how the work IHRSA does benefits the lives of others, and I'm glad that I can play a role in shaping a healthier future for everyone.

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

As a kid, I had big dreams of being an artist, which were promptly crushed after I was told my stick figure drawings were only mediocre at best. With that in mind, I decided it was time to investigate other career options.

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

The simple answer is that being active has always been important to me. Growing up, I participated in a number of organized sports—softball, basketball, and field hockey being only a few. 

I knew I wanted to work for a company that prioritized health and wellness and that is how I ultimately ended up at IHRSA. 

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

I run regularly. I ran two half marathons last year and am currently signed up for another three this year. It's pretty funny to compare my running routine now with how I felt about running when I was younger. My mom and I now laugh about how much I used to dread running the annual mile for my middle school gym class...

I also enjoy practicing yoga. There is a local studio near the IHRSA office that offers aerial yoga classes on Wednesday evenings, which have become a fun and challenging alternative to my everyday fitness routine.

What do you do for fun in your spare time?

I love to travel. I spent a semester abroad in Rome, and since then I’ve made it my personal mission to visit as many different cities and countries as possible.

I'm eagerly awaiting my next European adventure in March. If you have recommendations for things to see and do in London, send them my way!

Share a random fact about yourself.

I was a baton twirler for most of my life and was fortunate to have the opportunity to march in the 2013 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with the UMass Minuteman Marching Band. Despite the freezing cold and the 4 a.m. dress rehearsal, that Thanksgiving is still one of my favorites to date. 


ACA Is Still Alive and You Should Abide!

Donald Trump has been sworn-in as the 45th President of the United States and Congress has begun to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but that doesn’t mean you can ignore the filing deadlines for the ACA. To help clarify what your legal requirements are under the ACA during this time of transition, we have reviewed the ACA requirements and provided you with a primer on what you still need to do.

There are a number of rapidly approaching ACA-imposed deadlines employers must be aware of. The first deadline is for employers with 50 or more full time employees (including full time equivalents). These employers must provide employees with 2016 Form 1095-C (Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage) or 2016 Form 1095-B (Health Coverage). The good news is that the IRS has extended the deadline for doing so, from January 31 to March 2.    

Meanwhile, employers must file 2016 Form 1094-B (Transmittal of Health Coverage Information Returns) and Form 1094-C (Transmittal of Employer-Provided Health Insurance Offer and Coverage Information Returns) with the IRS. Employers should include copies of the forms they provided to individual employees (Form 1095-C and Form 1095-B) along with these filings. While the deadline for providing forms to employees was extended, the deadline for filing Form 1094-B and Form 1094-C with the IRS has not been extended. These forms are due February 28, if filing by paper or March 31, if filing electronically.

While the repeal of the ACA seems fairly certain, what will replace it remains unclear. During this uncertain transition period, the best way to protect your business is to comply with the existing law, rather than anticipating the coming change. If you have questions or comments, please send them to   


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.

The Health Club Industry Owns January 

We have great news. Even though 2016 has come and gone, it was a year of memorable and positive media coverage for the health club industry. 

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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.

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 spending 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, 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 have more questions about PHIT or would like to speak with a member of the IHRSA public policy team, contact us at


IHRSA Foundation Launches ACCESS Health Initiative

The IHRSA Foundation was created to help people achieve good health through exercise. 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 and is 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 place 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.

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

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