Industry Watch

IHRSA Industry Watch provides information and insight on how public policy issues affect not only the health club industry, but your bottom line. You 'll learn about efforts to protect the industry, incentivize exercise participation, and promote health clubs as a major part of the solution to the inactivity epidemic. You’ll also find information on pressing industry issues, industry leaders and leadership opportunities, legislative threats and opportunities, state updates, health promotion opportunities, current events and more. 

For even more timely relevant news about advocacy issues affecting the club industry, subscribe to Capitol Report.

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Victory! Bill to Tax Pennsylvania Health Clubs is Dead for 2014

Legislation that would have imposed Pennsylvania's sales tax on health clubs is dead for 2014. The victory for the industry comes thanks, in large part, to the 115 messages sent from health club operators to lawmakers in Harrisburg.
Last Thursday, Senate Bill 76 (76), which finances property tax reform with an expansion of the sales tax to a number of previously untaxed services - including those provided by health clubs - was officially laid to rest.
IHRSA and our Pennsylvania lobbyist worked with club operators across Pennsylvania to help defeat SB 76. Throughout the session, fitness professionals used IHRSA's online grassroots campaign to connect with their state senator and representative and ask that they oppose SB 76.
While the victory is great news, the celebration will be short-lived. State Senator David Argall, sponsor of SB 76, and other supporters intend to regroup over the coming months and make another push for property tax reform next year in the new two-year session. IHRSA is making its own preparations for a renewed fight on this issue.
IHRSA thanks every industry professional that spoke out for healthy lifestyles in Pennsylvania and against SB 76. Your efforts were essential to protecting our industry. 

IHRSA members are invited to visit The Pennsylvania State page to learn more.


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the HERO Forum

Each year, the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) convenes the HERO Forum for top professionals in the employee health management field.

It’s a rapidly growing conference that buzzes with the excitement of a growing industry. Much like the annual IHRSA convention, the atmosphere is collegial, and both attendees and presenters alike are generous with their expertise. Unlike the IHRSA convention, however, where the nature of the event suggests that workout attire is appropriate, the HERO Forum attendees have traditionally worn business attire.

But this year, a funny thing happened on the way to the HERO Forum.

In the run up to the event, the conference planners sent the following note to all registered attendees:

“Shed the business dress- Wednesday, October 1st is Casual Fitness Day at the HERO Forum. Come casual, dressed for exercise, or just put on your sneakers to show your support for Forum Fitness Day.”

In essence, the good folks at HERO were practicing one of the most tried and true axioms of employee wellness. If you want an employee to engage in a behavior (or, in this case, conference attendees), you must make it clear that they have permission to engage in the behavior. In this case, HERO was making it crystal clear that exercise attire was appropriate on October 1.

Even with clear permission to dress for exercise on Casual Fitness Day, many conference attendees were uneasy the day before. “Are you really wearing exercise clothes tomorrow?” the attendees asked each other.  Understandably, nobody wanted to be the one person wearing Nike, while everyone else wore Ann Taylor or the Brooks Brothers.

But when morning came, and the first session began at 7am, it was clear that “Casual Fitness Day” was a huge hit. At least half of the attendees looked ready for a group exercise class, or at least a brisk walk. The other half looked very jealous. 

So, here’s hoping that conferences around the world adopt a Casual Fitness Day model and give attendees permission to be active and healthy during the event.

In fact, the National Alliance for Nutrition and Activity (NANA) just released a Healthy Meeting Toolkit to help conference planners create healthy options for meeting attendees.

And, if you’re wondering how to create more physical activity opportunities on a daily basis at the workplace, check out the resources IHRSA and the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA) put together relating to the CEO Pledge for Physical Activity. 

Tom Richards

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As IHRSA’s Washington, DC staff member, Tom coordinates IHRSA's outreach to leading organizations and government agencies.

Diabetes in the U.S. is Leveling Off

According to new data released by the CDC, diabetes in the U.S. is leveling off, possibly signaling progress against this very costly and life-threatening disease. The CDC's numbers show the rate of diabetes dropping from 9.3% of the population in 2008 to 7.1% in 2012.
Read more about the study's findings here...
While IHRSA applauds this progress, we know there is still more work to be done, especially by health clubs. Clubs play a vital role in helping Americans prevent, manage, and eliminate Type 2 diabetes by promoting regular exercise and healthy lifestyles. Let's keep up the good work. 


IHRSA's Latest Legislative Report in Slides


Meredith Poppler

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Meredith works daily to grow, protect, and promote the industry by raising awareness of and funding for important public policy issues, while encouraging advocacy, collaboration and leadership within the industry.

The High Cost of Taxing Health Clubs

We are well aware of it in our industry: The nation's health has been in a bad way for some time.

America is suffering from catastrophic rates of physical inactivity, obesity, and chronic disease. Healthcare costs are soaring, and more children are developing diseases that generally only occur in adults, such as heart disease, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes.

If we remain on our present course, the U.S. is in serious jeopardy. Steps must be taken to invest in our future—the most important being promoting physical activity.

Read the full article.

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Fitness Tax Proposal Advances in PA Senate

Legislative Alert: With the clock ticking on the Pennsylvania legislature's 2014 session, state lawmakers continue to give serious consideration to imposing a sales tax on health club services. 
Yesterday, the Pennsylvania Senate Finance Committee voted to advance Senate Bill 76 (SB 76), which finances an elimination of the state's property tax, in part, by expanding the list of services subject to the sales tax. The amended version of that list includes services provided by "fitness and recreational sports centers."
The bill still must pass a full vote in the Senate before being considered in the House (where an identical proposal has previously failed to gain support). And while there is limited time remaining for SB 76 to clear the remaining legislative hurdles, our industry must continue to speak loudly against the bill while it advances toward enactment.
IHRSA is working with its lobbyist in Harrisburg to voice the industry's opposition to the tax and educate legislators on the harmful impact that taxing fitness would have on the physical and fiscal health of the commonwealth. The industry's lobbying efforts will be significantly strengthened by the involvement of health club owners and operators located throughout Pennsylvania.

IHRSA Members should be on the lookout for another Legislative Alert prompting you to take action.


IHRSA to Host Conference Call on D.C. Sales Tax

IHRSA is hosting a conference call for our Washington, D.C. members to discuss the district's new tax on health club services, and we would like to invite you to participate. The call will help clubs understand what lead to the enactment of the tax, what is now expected of clubs and the current prospects for altering or repealing the requirements of the tax. Enacted as part of the district's budget earlier this summer, the 5.75 percent tax will go into effect on October 1, 2014. IHRSA fought to oppose the tax after it was added to the budget with less than 24-hours before the council's vote on the package, working with fitness professionals and exercise enthusiasts to generate thousands of messages to the city council in opposition to the tax. Those efforts were unsuccessful, however, the campaign helped generate positive press and recruit important allies for our industry's cause. This call is the next step in the industry's renewed efforts to fight against the district's taxation of healthy lifestyles:

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Blog Post: The Power of Wearables

To showcase the contributions that IHRSA members make to America's health to policymakers and other "activity-minded" organizations, IHRSA regularly blogs on "Be Active Your Way", the official blog of the Health and Human Services Department. 

The blog is designed to encourage healthy, active lifestyles for all Americans, and IHRSA, of course, serves as the voice of health clubs in this effort.

This month, IHRSA explores the power of wearable technology and it's potential to use social behavior to turn the tide against the populations' sedentary nature.

See the blog post on the "Be Active Your Way" blog, and see prior blog posts and other compelling IHRSA Commentaries.


EU Says More Docs Should be Prescribing Exercise

Doctor-recommended physical activity is gaining greater visibility on the world stage.

At conference held last week on behalf of HEPA, the EU body in charge of promoting health-enhancing physical activity, attendees concluded that, "physical activity must be promoted more in health care settings."

In the WHO European Region alone, one million deaths per year (about 10% of the total) are estimated to be attributable to physical inactivity. Health care solutions include education reform and active workplace support for health care professionals; guided prescriptions of physical activity for patients, and the design of health care facilities to have both indoor and outdoor healing environments.

These were among the conclusions drawn at the 10th Annual Meeting and 5th Conference of HEPA Europe, the European Network for the promotion of Health-Enhancing Physical Activity, held in Zurich, Switzerland.

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Advocacy: If We Don’t Do It, Who Will?

Advocacy is one of the most important activities that you and other health club operators can possibly engage in. There's a tremendous need to demonstrate that clubs have a positive impact on the nation's health, and should be protected from punitive legislation.

In June, for example, the city council in Washington, D.C., approved a 5.75% sales tax on health clubs, yoga studios, and a mumber of other service providers to raise revenue, while reducing income tax rates (see “Washington, D.C., Council,” September 2014 CBI pg. 20).

IHRSA and a number of its member clubs were on the front lines, opposing the tax, but, despite their concerted campaign, the bill was approved by a vote of 9 to 4.

While the industry’s advocates won’t always win, it’s important for us to remain vigilant and to keep up the effort, and when we lose, we should fight even harder.

Still, many club operators don’t participate in industry advocacy for a variety of reasons. They may feel that they’re too busy, or think that the issues involved don’t really affect them. In reality, however, advocacy is definitely something they should make time for.

Read full article

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