IHRSA Fly-In Event Promotes to U.S. Policymakers the Value of the Fitness Industry

Sixty-five health club and studio operators, vendors and IHRSA staff members participated in a fly-in event to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on May 10 for meetings with key legislators, according to IHRSA, which coordinated the event along with IHRSA's advocacy arm, the National Health & Fitness Alliance. 

Congressional members targeted for the meetings were those on key committees of jurisdiction including the U.S. House of Representatives Ways & Means, Armed Services, and Appropriations Committees, and The U.S. Senate Finance, Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and Appropriations Committees.

In addition to focusing on the preventative health benefits of physical activity for mental and physical health, the meetings also focused on the need to pass the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act. The PHIT Act was introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives on March 14. If passed, it would allow Americans to use a portion of the money saved in their pre-tax health savings account (HSA) and flexible spending account (FSA) toward qualified sports and fitness purchases, such as gym memberships, fitness equipment, and youth sports league fees.

Another topic of discussion was how the industry can serve as a resource for U.S. military recruitment, retention and readiness. Eighty percent of Army recruits fail the Army Combat Test. A study by the Pentagon's office of personnel and readiness found that 77 percent of Americans between the age of 17 and 24 would not qualify for military service. Eleven percent would not qualify due to being overweight, and seven percent due to medical or physical health. Eight percent would not qualify due to drug abuse.

The day before heading to Capitol Hill, IHRSA provided an advocacy summit for those participating to provide a deeper understanding of the issues and to learn how to best get the attention of their representatives.

Liz Clark, CEO of IHRSA, told All Things Fitness and Wellness that people need to get to know their policymakers before a crisis happens.

“So don’t be intimidated by it, but don’t also think that it’s someone else’s job and that they’re going to do that job for you,” she said. “You need to advocate for yourself just like you would advocate for yourself in any relationship. And this is about a relationship that we’re starting to have with people that make policies that influence our life and influence our business. Invite your mayor, invite your city councilman. They might even be members of your gym. The sky’s the limit. You could be going to your congressmen, your senators, your governor. But start small and don’t be intimidated.”