IHRSA Offers Free Toolkit to Help Clubs Create Mental Health Initiatives

The fitness industry is working to normalize mental health and recognize it as another element of overall wellness that needs to be exercised and cared for, according to IHRSA. To help that effort, IHRSA Foundation is offering a free toolkit to help health clubs provide consumers with mental health programming and initiatives that fit their individual needs, the association announced.

Health clubs and studios can provide a safe, supportive environment for consumers to improve mental health and physical well-being, combat loneliness, reduce stress or be part of a positive community.

The IHRSA Foundation's toolkit, Supporting Mental Health & Well-Being: A Toolkit for Health & Fitness Centers, makes it possible for fitness facilities to create programs and initiatives to address mental health and well-being for all members and consumers.

"We've had a serious mental health crisis on our hands for a while, and the pandemic has elevated it in an even more concerning way,” said IHRSA President and CEO Liz Clark. “The health and fitness industry has a crucial role to play in reversing this public health crisis. With these free resources from the IHRSA Foundation, fitness facilities are able to better assist members and consumers who are struggling with anxiety, depression and loneliness or who just want to improve their mental wellness.”

One in five U.S. adults and one in six European adults suffer from a mental health issue. With the current rates of stress, anxiety, depression and other behavioral health issues, some people suggest that the next global pandemic may be poor mental health.

According to a United Nations policy statement, “This historic underinvestment in mental health needs to be redressed without delay to reduce immense suffering among hundreds of millions of people and mitigate long-term social and economic costs to society.”

The health and fitness industry can combat mental health issues by providing a safe, supportive place to improve mental health. Physical activity is linked to a number of positive mental health and well-being outcomes—e.g., better mood, happiness, and quality of life.

Along with a list of opportunities for the fitness industry to address mental health and well-being, the toolkit gives club operators evidence on the benefits of exercise for general mental health and well-being and clinical and subclinical mental health conditions, as well as examples of fitness industry leaders addressing mental health in their facilities with advice for other operators.

The IHRSA Foundation toolkits were made possible thanks to a grant from the John W. Brick Mental Health Foundation. For more information and free downloadable resources, visit ihrsafoundation.org.

The IHRSA Foundation, founded in 2012, focuses on four key areas to support and promote physical activity, wellness, and health promotion: programs, research, education, and engagement.