The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.



From educational tools and events to promotional programs and public policy initiatives, IHRSA brings you success... by association!

Join | Renew
Pledge Your Support


Exercise may be the best medicine

It seems so simple and obvious. Why, then, has it not caught on?

The idea is having physicians talking more about physical fitness in the doctor’s office, and for those who need it, prescribing exercise. 

The hope is to cut down on the amount of pills a patient takes, get them to the gym to improve their health and prevent other health issues from occurring, while cutting down on health care costs in the United States.

This is the premise of the educational session by Edward Phillips, M.D., Exercise as Medicine: Tapping the Medical Community. The Health Promotion & Wellness track discussion is Thursday, March 13, 1:30 p.m., during IHRSA 2014 33rd Annual International Convention & Trade Show.

IHRSA is writing about all of the educational session tracks as we near the event in San Diego, March 12-15.

Phillips feels a partnership with local doctors and nearby clubs will benefit all involved: patients will start using exercise as medicine; clubs gain possible members; and more doctors will start prescribing exercise to patients who need it.


“We are getting doctors to prescribe exercise and use that as medicine,” Phillips said. “I’ve worked hard to get doctors to prescribe exercise. T

As this program has rolled out over the last 10 years the question remains: Who will fill the exercise prescription?”

One success story that Phillips cites is longtime IHRSA member ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers, which has four locations in Pennsylvania and Virginia. It offers those referred by doctors a 60-day membership for $60. ACAC then converts 40% of the new clients to members, who stay on an average of 36 months.

”While only 16-18% of the population are members of clubs doctors see the entire population and can prescribe exercise to those who are not members and who have health risks.” said Phillips, assistant professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School. He is also on the Exercise is Medicine advisory board. “We want a safe place for our patients to go.”

“Another way to look at it is, almost 20% of the population have a gym membership, another 20% will never get off couch and another 20% are active (like play on teams and run) but choose not to join a gym. So, the (membership) opportunities for the health club industry is around 40%. Clubs can potentially triple their membership if they work with doctors.”

Phillips believes the day is coming, soon, when exercise as medicine will become the norm. He and his colleagues are currently working on exercise being taught in medical schools. 

He said a few supporters like Phil Wendell at ACAC would certainly help matters. He feels that could happen this year at IHRSA 2014.

“Like any kind of change, it is most helpful if we get a few champions in the industry that jump up and participate,” Phillips added. “The connections through IHRSA have led to some already, and I hope we will get more this year.”

For the entire Health Promotion & Wellness schedule, visit

For more on IHRSA 2014, visit And, be sure to download the free IHRSA App and follow on Twitter at #IHRSA2014.


Reader Comments (1)

At the Newtown Athletic Club we are looking forward to this medical wellness initiative moving forward and will be present at this seminar. We have great admiration for what Phil Wendel has done at the ACAC along with Christine Thalwitz. We have just instituted a partnership with a local hospital group to create a strong medical wellness initiative, the first of its kind, we think, to address this idea. We are interested not only in having doctors understand the issue of exercise as medicine, but also nutrition as medicine as well as providing through this project "ACE", access, consultation and education to our members (free). Would love to connect with any others at IHRSA who may be developing programs along these lines.
February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLinda Mitchell

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
All HTML will be escaped. Hyperlinks will be created for URLs automatically.