7 Months into 2021: We’re Amazed at What the Fitness Industry has Done

These last few months haven’t been easy, but the way gyms, industry partners, and fitness professionals came together to accomplish so much has been inspiring.

There isn’t enough space—or time—to go over everything the fitness industry and IHRSA has accomplished in the first seven months of 2021. So, a group of us got together and started a list of a few of our favorite things.

Okay, maybe a bit more than a few. It was tough to narrow it down. So, we decided to share 18 of the ways IHRSA and the fitness industry are fighting back and working to make the next normal the best normal.

1. Industry Unites in Message to Congress, “Pass the GYMS Act. Don’t leave us behind again!”

We’ve sent over 38 thousand letters to Congress asking for their support for relief and recovery for the fitness industry. Because of your help, we now have over 150 members of Congress that support the GYMS Act—the first fitness industry-specific legislation designed to help keep local gyms, clubs, and studios in business and serving their communities.

Now, we need everyone to take the one-click campaign and ask the Senate to include the industry in any future relief package.

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Seriously, I'm impressed. So, I decided to share this picture of me so you can see how truly amazed I am with all of the industry's accomplishments.

2. IHRSA Uses Behavior Science to Get More People Active

Industry stakeholders and marketing professionals from 15 companies provided support and feedback to help IHRSA start an exciting endeavor with ClearView Insights. Together, we are developing an effective, evidence-based, consumer-facing message promoting physical activity and exercise—including in fitness centers.

ClearView uses behavior science to measure what consumers think and feel, identify the emotional rewards that motivate customers, and develop strategies and messaging to inspire positive behavioral change. Sign up here to learn more and help Reconnect the World to Wellbeing.

3. Tools for Expanding Inclusion of People with Intellectual Disabilities in Clubs

The IHRSA Foundation has wrapped up a project to build tools and resources to help fitness centers offer more programs and services for people with intellectual disabilities and raise awareness and engagement. Funding for this project was from CDC (U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention) through the Special Olympics Inclusive Health Innovation Grant.

Special thanks to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the UNESCO Chair in Inclusive Fitness, Sport & Recreation, PE, and Gainesville Health and Fitness, whose efforts helped develop these groundbreaking resources.

4. New Dues Structure Introduced to Engage More Members & Fund Initiatives

Now IHRSA members can choose the level of engagement and benefits that best suit their needs with our new Basic, Standard, and Premium tiered membership structure. In addition, we’re now offering studio and professional memberships. As a result, we hope more clubs, studios, and industry professionals will use their IHRSA membership to become more active with advocacy and expand the industry’s voice.

However, the free benefits, discounts on research, publications, and events that members receive are just icing on the cake. Because each level also contributes a specific portion of dues towards great industry initiatives like the IHRSA Foundation and—for U.S. members—the National Health and Fitness Alliance (NHFA).

5. Global Health & Fitness Alliance Formed

As the need to unite the global fitness industry heightened, IHRSA has been honored to take on the challenge of leading the initiative. After the first Global Health & Fitness Alliance (GHFA) meeting—which included thought leaders from the global fitness industry—a number of working groups set their sights on creating valuable research and other assets. Including the first-ever Global Economic Impact Report, which GHFA Members from around the world are developing and funding for the benefit of the entire global industry.

The GHFA met with many global leaders who shared valuable information, including Deloitte, McKinsey, Credit Suisse, and Harrison CO.

6. U.S. Advocacy Efforts Unite Under the National Health & Fitness Alliance Banner

We created the National Health and Fitness Alliance (NHFA) to unite the advocacy efforts of all health and fitness industry stakeholders.

Gale Landers, current Chairperson of the National Health and Fitness Alliance Advisory Council and former Chair of the IHRSA Board of Directors, said this of the initiative, “What we are doing is building an advocacy powerhouse that really is laser-focused on the U.S. so that we can influence legislation across the country.”

7. Operators Share Best Practice Guidelines for All Fitness Facilities

Some of the best operators have come together to create a reference guide that all fitness facility operators can use—no matter their business model, city, town, or country. These tools will help all clubs sharpen their operations to ensure that all aspects of their operations are meeting or exceeding the best practice guidelines. We will release this vital tool in a number of ways in the coming months, including articles—print and digital—an A to Z Toolkit, and a webinar.

8. IHRSA Foundation Will Receive 1% of all IHRSA Revenues

As of January 1, 2021, 1% of all IHRSA revenues will support the IHRSA Foundation. With this support—along with the donations and some grants—the Foundation has expanded its work.

9. Over 180 Companies Come Together to Reimagine the World’s Largest Fitness Industry Convention & Trade Show

IHRSA changed the date and relocated the 40th Anniversary International Convention & Trade Show (IHRSA 2021) to enable the industry to unite under one roof. With more companies signing on every day—excited to show off their latest equipment, tools, and trends—and over 80 education sessions, IHRSA 2021 will be an event like no other.

We’re all eager to get together in person again, and we hope you’ll join us in Dallas, TX, from October 13-15 at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas to celebrate the industry’s revival.

10. New International Strategy Aims to Engage More International Members

The IHRSA Board and staff have developed a new and reinvigorated International Strategy. The new strategy includes a translation plan to increase IHRSA’s global presence and grow deeper in key markets.

Efforts here include a dedicated IHRSA representative in Mexico supported by MAS, a new partnership agreed in June 2021 with ChinaFit to expand membership in China, the creation of the GHFA, and increased engagement with national federations and partners worldwide.

11. Fitness Industry Enhances Collaboration with the World Health Organization

Over the years, IHRSA has worked with three different divisions of the World Health Organization (WHO), and in the last seven months, this collaboration has expanded. We could dedicate a whole article—or three—to the importance of our work with the WHO and what it means for the fitness industry, but for this article, we'll try and keep it short.

One of the most exciting things is our work with the WHO's Physical Activity Unit. In fact, in June 2021, we collaborated with the WHO on a webinar and Dr. Fiona Bull, Head of the WHO PHysical Activity Unit, was a key speaker at our June United We Rise: Stronger Than Ever event.

12. 2021 Global Report Released

With the help of industry partners, the IHRSA research team put together the most comprehensive overview of health club markets worldwide. The 2021 Global Report is a must-have resource for industry insiders, club operators, investors, market analysts, and other fitness industry professionals.

13. Caritate Life Enhancement Foundation and Victory Outreach Reno Team Up with IHRSA to Help Latin American and Hispanic Communities

This project aims to help church leaders in predominantly Latin American and Hispanic communities guide and support their congregations in making healthy lifestyle changes.

The survey results will inform future tools and resources to support these leaders in improving the health and well-being of their communities through diet, exercise, and wellness.

14. Increasing Mental Health Education and Awareness, supported by the John W. Brick Foundation

IHRSA Foundation has been awarded a grant from the John W. Brick Foundation for a project that aims to assess and address awareness around the mental health benefits of exercise. As well as the role the fitness industry and industry professionals can play in improving mental health and well-being.

During the project, IHRSA Foundation will conduct an assessment and follow-up survey of fitness industry professionals, provide education and resources, and launch an awareness campaign.

15. Four Fitness Industry Leaders Volunteer & Share Their Expertise with Hundreds Each Month

This month, Talks & Takes celebrated its seventh episode. Each month, the hosts discuss what is trending and important to the industry and answer questions submitted by the audience.

Hosts include:

  • Bill McBride, Co-founder, President, and CEO, Active Wellness​,

  • Sara Kooperman, J.D., CEO, SCW and WATERinMOTION,

  • Blair McHaney, CEO, MXM and Owner of Worx Health Clubs, and

  • Brent Darden, Former Interim President & CEO, IHRSA and Chair, REX Roundtables

16. The PHIT Act Introduced in the House and Senate

The GYMS Act isn’t the only legislation we’re working to pass. IHRSA and the PHIT Coalition are lobbying Congress to create financial incentives making it easier for Americans to get back in gyms and kids in sports through the use of tax-deferred accounts—like HSAs and FSAs.

The PHIT (Personal Health Investment Today) ActH.R. 3109/S. 844—already has over 30 House sponsors and support from 12 Senators. Contact your legislators to gain support for the PHIT Act.

17. Production of a Free Educational Video to Help Health Club Operators

Chris Stevenson and Marisa Hoff of The Empower Group volunteered their time and resources to create a free educational video on good customer service practices after COVID. Chris and Marisa have a combined 30 years of experience and are full of fantastic industry knowledge. Stay tuned for more on where you can access this video.

18. Industry Partners and Health and Medical Professionals Aim to Help the Fitness Industry Everywhere

We are lucky to have the 21 dedicated individuals committed to the health and fitness industry that came together to help move the industry forward as part of IHRSA’s Industry Partner Advisory Council and first-ever Medical, Science, and Health Advisory Council.

The nine passionate people on the Industry Partner Advisory Council will advise IHRSA’s executive staff and Board of Directors in support of our mission “to grow, protect, and promote the health and fitness industry, and help ensure the success of its members.”

The 12 diverse members of IHRSA’s Medical, Science, and Health Advisory Council are from various medical, science, and public health communities. These individuals will guide IHRSA’s executive staff and board of directors on current research and science that advances the health and fitness industry and protects public safety while improving individual and population health.

Thank you.

Whether you volunteered your time, participated in research, sent Congress a letter, made a donation, or renewed your membership—every single action has made a difference and helped get all these amazing accomplishments off the ground.

We know it’s easy to feel like our actions won’t move the needle, but we’re counting on you to stay engaged and informed. That’s how we keep the fitness industry going strong.

So, from all of us here at IHRSA, thank you. Thank you for all you’ve already accomplished in 2021, everything yet to come, and all we will achieve together.

Author avatar

Kaitee Anderson Fernandez

Kaitee Anderson Fernandez previously served as IHRSA's Director of Creative Content—a position that created digital, print, and video content to help tell the story behind IHRSA's advocacy and public policy efforts.