IHRSA’s Letter to Congress
Dear Speaker McCarthy, and Leaders Schumer, McConnell, and Jeffries:
On behalf of IHRSA, the Global Health & Fitness Association, our 3.2 million employees and 74 million American consumers, thank you for your commitment to supporting policy that improves lives and communities.
The start of the new 118th Congress provides a fresh opportunity to improve individual and public health by encouraging physical activity because its benefits immediately and measurably improve physical and mental health. IHRSA is committed to working with you across the aisle in that pursuit, and to serve as a resource on this important topic. While our industry is still working to climb past the lingering impacts of pandemic-related closures and restrictions, there is positive news from the health and fitness industry.
IHRSA believes a look at four key policy areas demonstrates the proven benefits that individual and structured exercise produces for the betterment of overall public physical and mental health.
Consumers Choose Fitness Because it Works
Health and fitness facilities are as diverse as the communities they serve, from small studios and individual practitioners to traditional large gyms serving consumers at every price point.
According to the 2022 IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report, we know that industry consumers participate in fitness activities reflective of the overall population diversity and customer diversity matches the makeup of a country as a whole. We have seen marked growth among Hispanic consumers, and overall, Americans aged 55-64 visit more frequently than all other segments—some 88 times per year.
This is because these consumers, like so many scientific and medical experts, confirm the immediate and measurable benefits from physical activity on individual and public physical and mental health. And, as you know, the same could be said of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, each of whose members actively and in large proportion, use each chamber’s respective fitness programs and facilities to support their health as they perform hectic and stressful jobs.
Physical Activity Benefits Mental Health
Study after study demonstrates that regardless of age, ability, or experience, physical activity immediately and sustainably benefits mental health.
As federal and state officials, nonprofit, and community leaders continue to address mental health needs, it is essential that policymakers ensure that physical activity and exercise is promoted alongside other traditional efforts because the results are irrefutable. IHRSA looks forward to working further with your staff to spotlight these findings and collaborate on constructive policy actions to support improved mental health.
Physical Health Strengthens the U.S. Economy
The health and fitness industry, largely community oriented small businesses, is a strong contributor to the U.S. economy. With more that 40,000 health clubs across the nation, the industry pays upwards of $13 billion in employee wages annually.
Regularly active individuals have been proven to take 27% fewer sick days and between 14-25% fewer disability days. It is estimated the U.S. could save $116 billion a year simply by making modest changes in healthy behavior, including increasing physical activity.
Physical activity and exercise programs must be considered and implemented alongside other traditional medical, prescription drug, education, and public health programs.
Physical Activity Fortifies our National Defense
Recent defense and academic reviews have documented that some 77% of young Americans do not qualify for military service because of being overweight and other physical and mental health issues. As the armed services continue to face recruitment shortfalls, it is essential for our readiness that we examine and address these health-related challenges. Exercise and physical activity are proven tools to help policymakers and military officials stem this rapidly advancing threat.
In the days ahead, we look forward to connecting directly with your staff and colleagues about the opportunity to co-sponsor legislation to allow health savings accounts (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA) for physical activity expenses, and further explore in-depth policy proposals that will make improved physical and mental health a reality for more Americans.
Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact IHRSA’s Vice President of Government Affairs Mike Goscinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IHRSA President & CEO