Helen Durkin Bio and Commentaries

Growing up in Springfield, Mass., I lived in a neighborhood that would erupt into spontaneous games of Relievo. From 10 blocks around, there would be dozens of us running, twisting, turning, diving—whatever it took to capture our opponent, or escape.

Now, as an adult working in the health club industry—an industry that recognizes the dangers of physical inactivity and works to promote active, healthy lifestyles—I look back on those days with tremendous appreciation. Jumping over puddles; running across fields; climbing trees. Our minds were clear, our hearts light. We were free to move. It was play. And we loved it.”             

── Helen Durkin, “Dodge Ball on the Hill, Saving Physical Play” as published in Roll Call

As Executive Vice President of Public Policy for the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), the trade association for the health club industry, Helen Durkin is a committed advocate of physical activity, primary prevention, and public policies that advance wellness.

Having worked with health clubs across the United States to promote healthy lifestyles for nearly 30 years, Helen understands full well the challenges people face in becoming and staying physically active in an increasingly sedentary society.

Helen is passionate about the important role exercise plays in the well-being and happiness of all Americans. And she speaks out regularly on the importance of physical activity to America’s business productivity, economic health, global competitiveness, and national security.

Upon joining IHRSA in 1989, Helen developed the health club industry's first government relations and legal service programs. Under her public policy leadership, IHRSA:

  • became a founding member of the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA);
  • co-chaired the Business and Industry Sector of the National Physical Activity Plan and is an Organization Affiliate of the plan;
  • participates on the advisory board of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD);
  • partnered with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in promoting the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines;
  • is a network member of the Exercise is Medicine™ initiative;
  • has worked with the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition on a number of initiatives, including the President Council’s Funny or Die video that is part of its #0to60 campaign, the launch of the Adult Fitness Test, and the IHRSA Joining Forces Network that provides free gym membership at select clubs to the immediate families of our nation’s deployed Reservists and National Guard members; and
  • created The IHRSA Foundation, a 501(c)3 charitable organization aimed at promoting health through exercise.

On the international front, under Helen’s public policy leadership, IHRSA sponsored and participated in the first-ever Forum on Innovation in Health and Well-being, hosted by BIAC (the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) in Paris, France.

IHRSA’s top legislative priorities are the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act and the Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act.

Prior to her role at IHRSA, Helen worked for the labor law firm of Kearns & Associates, and worked in various government positions in Massachusetts and Washington, D.C. She received her law degree in 1986 from Washington College of Law at American University, and received her undergraduate degree in political science at Holy Cross where she was a member of the varsity lacrosse team.

In her off time, Helen lives to ski, dreams of knitting nirvana, is a mom and wife, and makes sure her springer spaniel gets as much exercise as the rest of the family.

Speaking Out

A listing of some of Helen’s published opinion editorials, commentaries and blog posts include: