Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Overcoming the Unwelcome Stigma

A frequent topic of discussion in our meetings is how the industry can learn to better speak to and serve members of their communities that are overweight. No one will deny that this is a struggle for our industry or that is it one that must be overcome.

Right now about 17% of Americans are members at health clubs. Meanwhile, 67% of Americans are either overweight or obese. Clearly, our industry has a tremendous amount to offer the majority of Americans that struggle with their weight, but before we can help them, we must make them feel welcome enough to enter our clubs.

A sad story came across my desk this morning about a woman who was asked not to use the equipment at her new gym because of her weight. At 380 lbs. the management felt it was unsafe for her to use certain equipment that had weight limits. They offered her an alternative fitness plan, but she was not interested and instead took her story to the local television station.

This story is sad for a few reasons. First, it must have been a crushing emotional blow to this woman for whom weight must be a brutal daily struggle. Second, it's sad because the story will become an excuse for others to not step foot in a gym because it will reinforce their perception that gyms are only for skinny people. That means, these people won't reap the health benefits that are out there and waiting for them.

As an industry, we must do a better job of making overweight people feel welcome at clubs. That is not just about how there are treated when they are there, but how we market to them and attract them to our facilities in the first place. Personally, I feel the industry would be better served to cease using all images of ultra thin women in sports bras working out. Now, I've worked out in a lot of clubs in my day and I can honestly tell you, it's a pretty rare site to see. But for those that haven't been to a lot of clubs, it's no wonder they feel that they need to lose weight BEFORE they join a gym because all of the ads make it look like the land of beautiful people!

Let's start showing images that reflect the people that are really in the club. Young, old, and middle-aged. Athletes, average Joe's and Jane's, and yes, people struggling with their weight. The more we do this, the better we will be able to serve everyone and make our country a healthier place. We have the knowledge, we have the passion, we have the equipment for safe and effective weight loss. Now, let's put out the welcome sign for everyone.

Before I sign off, I just want to say that there are some amazing programs out there in our clubs that welcome people struggling with their weight and help them succeed in living a healthy lifestyle and those stories far out-number the stories like the one I came across today.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Governments Eye Healthy Lifestyles for Tax Revenue

As shocking as it may sound, the fitness industry faces attempts by state and sometimes local governments every year that try to tax health club membership dues and services.

We strongly believe that exercise is medicine, so for us that is like taxing a your insurance co-pay for an annual wellness exam with your physician. No one politician would ever suggest that idea. Yet, in state after state they target residents who have taken control of their health and exercise at health clubs.

Currently, Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and members of the Washington DC Council are considering proposals that would extend the sales to certain services, including health clubs. We're rallying fitness professionals and health club members in Pennsylvania and DC to speak out against taxes on their healthy habits. To date the response has been impressive, with thousands of messages sent to legislators.

All of this brings up a bigger question though: why is your health club membership a favorite target of legislators?

There are many possible answers to this question. Most legislators will claim that a shift from a product-based economy to one the centers on the sale of services, necessitates that all services be taxed. Based on your personal beliefs on taxation, you could find merit in that argument. But why is it that the services of physicians, hospitals, and clinics are never included? They too offer services.

Clearly, there is am important need to educate legislators everywhere that exercise is medicine and just as they would never consider taxing diabetes testing supplies, they should also never consider taxing exercise in the safe and supportive communities of health clubs.

- Bre McGahey

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

White House Task Force Releases Childhood Obesity Plan

First lady Michelle Obama, flanked by three cabinet members, released the 124-page report from the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity yesterday. The report made 70 recommendations with the goal of reducing the current childhood obesity rate of about 20 percent back down to 5 percent by 2030.

"For the first time -- this is the key -- we're setting really clear goals and benchmarks and measurable outcomes that will help tackle this challenge one step, one family and one child at a time," Mrs. Obama said.

The plan focuses on five key areas determined by the task force, they include: prenatal care, empowering parents with nutritional information and community support, getting healthier foods into schools, increasing access to healthy foods in neglected urban and rural neighborhoods, and making sure that all kids are physically active.

IHRSA had submitted comments to the Task Force regarding the fitness industry’s potential role in increasing physical activity among the nation’s youth. The comments urged policymakers to seek partnerships with health clubs to expand opportunities for physical activity. IHRSA’s comments are reflected in at least two of the recommendations:

Recommendation 5.15: Local governments should be encouraged to enter into joint use agreements to increase children’s access to community sites for indoor and outdoor recreation.

Recommendation 5.16: The business sector should be encouraged to consider which resources and physical assets like fields and gyms can be used to increase students’ access to outdoor and indoor recreational venues. Corporations, for example, may have large grounds that they can make available for children in the community to play soccer or engage in other outdoor activities.

More details about the report, including recommendations related to physical activity can be found at

Download the section on physical activity (PDF 927 KB).

View a summary of IHRSA’s recommendations to the Task Force.

- Bre McGahey

Monday, February 15, 2010

IHRSA Heartily Applauds First Lady’s Let’s Move Initiative and Vows Support

IHRSA on Friday, pledged its support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative and praised the First Lady for her leadership in tackling the problem of childhood obesity—a long-standing issue that threatens both the health of America’s children and the future of our country.

“On behalf of the entire health club industry, IHRSA heartily commends Mrs. Obama for standing up and leading America in a nationwide effort to solve the problem of childhood obesity,” said Joe Moore, IHRSA’s president and CEO. “As a devoted mother of two school-aged children, Mrs. Obama understands that the problem of childhood obesity isn’t about statistics. It’s about real children and real families in need of workable solutions. It’s about real parents struggling to protect the health of their children in a culture and environment that often work against them. Mrs. Obama’s pragmatic, compassionate, and hands-on approach to solving the problem will serve as an inspiring example on which all of us can model our efforts.”

The health and fitness industry believes strongly that regular exercise is a pivotal antidote to the obesity problem. For almost 30 years, the industry has been working to increase physical activity in America, while IHRSA has been speaking out and working tirelessly on the need to incorporate exercise into the health care continuum as part of preventive care.

In a letter to Mrs. Obama, Moore stated: “The health club industry is an important and effective resource for introducing young people to a lifetime of exercise, fitness, and healthy behaviors. We want to make sure that this far-reaching network of community-based fitness centers and professionals is at your disposal in the nation’s fight against childhood obesity and that it is not overlooked…

By educating our youth about exercise and nutrition, by showing them how much fun physical activity can be, by instilling healthy lifestyle habits at an early age, and by maximizing the innovative programming, technologies, and available research within the fitness industry—health clubs can make a meaningful and lasting difference in the lives of children.”

Health clubs play a vital role in keeping Americans of all ages healthy. With more than 30,000 across the country, they can be found in all 50 states, serving cities and towns in both rural and urban areas. Health clubs of all sizes and business models—including thousands of small and medium sized enterprises—are integral to community life. Together, they provide a gateway to healthy living for millions of Americans of all ages and backgrounds.

Historically, health clubs have been successfully engaging children in regular physical activity by drawing upon state-of-the art technologies and behavior research to implement innovative programs within local communities. Today, more than 22 percent of commercial health clubs offer children-specific programming. Almost 20 percent offer a kids-only section of the club. And together, health clubs serve more than 4.8 million members under the age of 18—including 1.13 million between 6 and 12 years old, and 3.11 million between 13 and 17.

What’s more, 33 percent of fitness professionals now teach kids’ classes, and 55 percent offer one-on-one personal training to youth aged 18 or younger. And the number of children using health clubs has increased by 108 percent since 1990. The number of first time health club members under the age of 18 has doubled in ten years.

Each year at IHRSA’s annual convention, health club owners and leaders in the health and fitness industry have the opportunity to see the latest in innovative technologies and exercise equipment designed specifically for youth—and to share ideas on how to best support the efforts of families and children who want to exercise regularly and live healthier lives. This year’s convention will take place in San Diego from March 10 through 13.

“Mrs. Obama has a tremendous and tremendously important task before her,” said Moore. “And she will need cooperation and help from all industries and from both the private and public sectors.”

According to research commissioned by IHRSA, 99 percent of Americans believe that exercise helps preserve good health, but most feel they have to battle current culture to exercise regularly and that the government should do more to promote physical activity. Americans agree at a high rate (79%) that “The current culture in America, including the pressures of work, family and financial demands, makes it hard for people to exercise regularly and maintain healthy lifestyles.” More than three-fifths of Americans (61%) believe the government should do more to promote physical activity.

At the time these survey findings were released in 2007, Moore commented: “[Americans] are losing the struggle to balance the demands of work and family with personal health and need greater support. Americans need access to the tools necessary to live healthier lifestyles.”

“We are extremely grateful that Mrs. Obama has taken on the issue of childhood obesity,” Moore said today. “We want to see her succeed in this initiative and in leading the way to create a national environment that supports health. We encourage all Americans to stand behind Mrs. Obama in her efforts to stop the tide of childhood obesity and to do what they can to help ensure healthy futures for our children and for our country.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Health on the Horizon

The American people are currently in the waiting phase regarding health care reform. Congress is currently reviewing the proposals, scoring the legislation, and deciding what will remain in the final version. The health and fitness industry has worked hard to include incentives for exercise, wellness, and prevention in the legislation. It is still not too late to contact your legislators and let them know prevention is critical to reducing health care costs and living a long, healthy life.

The reality of health care reform, when it happens, is that our industry's work has not ended - it is in fact, beginning. A great challenge lies ahead for health clubs, suppliers to the industry, and the millions of people who already enjoy the numerous benefits of exercise. Our roles as advocates for America's health have just begun - our nation's problem with overweight, obesity, and poor nutrition will not end overnight. Regardless of the outcome of health care reform, it remains our job to educate inactive populations on the benefits of exercise, support our communities in efforts to encourage physical activity, and to help friends and family make lifestyle changes. Our industry looks forward to the day when exercise becomes habitual practice for the majority of Americans. Health care reform is part of the answer to reversing our nation's inactivity problem, but a significant portion lies within our industry and the steps we take from here to keep people moving.

-Rosemary Lavery

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Where has all the prevention gone?

This time last year, supporters of healthy lifestyles were buoyed by the stump speeches of of then candidate Barack Obama and Senator John McCain. They spoke of prevention, exercise and healthy eating habits. They didn't agree on much, but they did both speak of the power of healthy lifestyles in reducing health care costs.

Fast forward one year. Despite all the rhetoric from Democrats, Republics, Members of Congress, the Administration and all the cable news pundits, real prevention appears to be the forgotten solution. Now that all the major bills have been introduced, it's clear that the oratorical support for healthy diets and regular exercise have not yet translated into policy initiatives.

This is important for a number of reasons. First and foremost, if the causes of chronic diseases, which account for 75% of health care spending are not adequately addressed, no amount of reforms on paper will bring real costs savings. To put it in medical terms, we're treating the symptoms, not the disease. And at the rate our society is going (and growing), today's kids will be the first generation to have a shorter life-span than their parents. How will this play out if that generation is still struggling to reign in health care costs because no one stepped up to the plate and told Americans it's time to start making some hard decisions.

Our CEO, Joe Moore, often writes about the creation of a culture of wellness. I love this. Not because I work for the health club industry, but because I am someone that tries to do what I can in my daily life to make healthy choices. Once you start to educate yourself about wellness and prevention the truth of what our daily habits are doing to us is shocking. Maybe this was what it was like back in the day when people didn't understand the full extent of the health implications of smoking cigarettes.

A poll out today says that 79% of Americans support health care reform. So how can the people that support healthy lifestyles take this support and get people to support healthy lifestyles? THe first thing everyone can do is speak out to Congress and President Obama. We need to share our stories about how healthy habits translate into less chronic disease, lower health care costs, and more productive and happy employees.

If everyone tells their story, we can start a movement. Look at what the anti-smoking movement did. Maybe this can be the wellness movement. Join the movement for a healthier America and share your story today.

- Breanne McGahey

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

No Time to Rest

As most Americans are aware, the Obama family is vacationing this week on Martha's Vineyard. As summer winds down, it is tempting to sit back, relax, and enjoy the last days of the summer. However, as we have reached a critical point in the health care reform process, it is no time to take a vacation from advocating for prevention. It would be easy to just follow the news on health care reform, its trials and tribulations, and let others decide on the best plan for America. I found one article in particular troubling - Young Obama Backers AWOL from Health Care Fight. As a specific sector with interest in health care reform, the health and fitness industry needs to make sure health, wellness, and prevention are represented in the promised reform. The nation cannot afford to leave prevention out of the health care equation -our collective waistline is expanding every minute. Was your voice heard? Did you tell your story? It is not too late!

Congressional members are still on August recess in their home states, as close and approachable as they will ever be! Now is the time to schedule a meeting with your local Congressional representatives and ask for their support of the WHIP and PHIT Acts. Or, send an email.

Now, take a nap on the beach. You deserve it!

- Rosemary Lavery

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Yesterday’s headlines probably signal the end of the “public option” in the health care plan, a measure championed by liberals and charred by conservatives. The “public option” issue, with its ability to extract vile insults from its protagonists and opposers, is tailor-made for media stories. The legislation, of course, is dreary, but the passion it induces is wonderful theater.

The theater, however, has crowded out several issues deserving of greater public awareness.

Of particular note, (this is a blog about physical activity, after all) is the lack of any provision in the health care proposals that would incentivize Americans to live healthier lifestyles. No WHIP. No PHIT.

Perhaps a few facts will help muster up enough public outrage to warrant a grainy YouTube video from a townhall meeting...

- Individuals who live unhealthy lifestyles are more likely to develop a chronic disease
- Chronic disease accounts for 75% of health care costs
- Active adults spend less money on health care

Are you outraged? Join the Campaign for a Healthier America and help lead the charge for health reform based on healthy living. Also, make sure the batteries in your video camera are charged.

- Tom Richards

Monday, August 17, 2009

Everyday Leaders Bring Health Reform to Life

Joe Moore, IHRSA's President and CEO appears on the homepage of the Washington Post with a guest column in the "Focus on Leadership." While Congress is busy debating the various health care reform bills, Mr. Moore writes "Leaders must emerge from all industries, sectors, and corners of the country, while existing leaders must make the health of their followers, employees and students a priority." Read the full column.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Health Care Reform, Prevention, Cost-Savings

President Barack Obama will address the nation tonight in a prime time news conference on health care reform. This is the latest event in what has been a full court press by the White House in recent days to try to build awareness and momentum around the debate. At a White House Rose Garden event on Tuesday, Obama said, “We've agreed that our health reform bill will emphasize prevention and wellness by investing in programs that help Americans live healthier lives. We will save money, prevent illness, and increase the competitiveness of our country. “

IHRSA and its partners continue to encourage legislators to use prevention to contain skyrocketing costs. In a statement released Monday, the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD) urged Congress to focus on the number one driver of health care costs- chronic disease. "We must focus on disease prevention and wellness in order to reduce unnecessary - and often preventable - costs and create a sustainable health care system," said Ken Thorpe, Ph.D., PFCD Executive Director. "We hope that as other Senate and House committees continue through mark ups, they will make certain that their bills contain adequate measures to address the economic burden of chronic disease and control costs in order to insure the passage of comprehensive, sustainable health care reform legislation in 2009."

While members of Congress and the Obama administration discuss health care reform, the President continues to call on Congress to move bills out of committee and to vote before the scheduled August recess. Though some in Washington are beginning to call the deadline impossible, committees are working very quickly to mark up the bills as soon as possible making this a crucial time for IHRSA’s Personal Health Investment Today Act and Workplace Health Improvement Program Act.

“Our DC team has been actively engaging with key legislators in both the House and the Senate on including the WHIP and PHIT Acts in health care reform,” said Helen Durkin, executive vice president IHRSA public policy. “But we do not have a million dollars a day to spend like the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies. Our strength is the number of fitness professionals across America that are passionate about creating a culture of wellness in our nation.”

Fitness professionals can do their part by writing an email to Congress asking for their support of exercise as part of prevention in health care reform. All of the details are provided online at Clubs will be speaking out for legislation that not only encourages Americans to lead healthy lives but also provides them tax incentives to do so while promoting health clubs and growing the number of Americans with gym memberships.

- Breanne McGahey

Monday, July 13, 2009

Obama Nominates Surgeon General

Earlier today in a White House Rose Garden ceremony, President Barack Obama nominated Dr. Regina Benjamin to serve as the next Surgeon General of the United States. By all accounts, she is a qualified doctor who is exceptionally dedicated to her patients in Bayou La Batre, Ala. (yes, Forest Gump fans the same shrimping community Bubba was from). But what position will Dr. Benjamin take on exercise, prevention and wellness?

As the fitness industry, we hope that the Surgeon General will make use of the high profile of her office to shed light on the impact that a healthy lifestyle can have on the health of all Americans. Bush's Surgeon General, Dr. Richard Carmona was a proponent of healthy lifestyles, he even spoke at an IHRSA Convention a few years back. Acting Surgeon General Dr. Steven Galson, has also promoted exercise and been a friend to the issue, especially during the release of the Physical Activity Guidelines.

According to Obama's statement today, "[Dr. Benjamin]'s been a relentless promoter of prevention and wellness programs, having treated too many costly and -- diseases and complications that didn't have to happen." This is great, but given her focus on rural health care one has to wonder how will so many important areas of health care be handled by a small staff with a limited budget. Coming from Alabama, Dr. Benjamin must be keenly familiar with the impact of a sedentary lifestyle. The Trust for America's Health reported earlier this month that Alabama has the second highest adult obesity rate in the nation at over 31% of the adult population. That is a shocking statistic.

I am curious to learn if Dr. Benjamin led efforts in her community to increase physical activity and improve eating habits. If so, she could very well become a powerful role model for the changes that need to occur in our communities that are hardest hit by the obesity epidemic. Only time will tell.

Dr. Benjamin said during her statement that she wants to become America's family physician. I hope that she and all family physicians across America start to better advise their patients on the importance of regular exercise and healthy diets.

- Breanne McGahey

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Twists and Turns Create Urgency and Road Blocks for Health Care Reform

The health care reform debate is fast becoming a thrilling political drama with non-stop action. As Democrats in Congress and the White House push for passage of reform legislation by the end of the year, some by August, the breakneck pace is hitting some significant roadblocks.

As reported in last week’s issue of Capitol Report, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the initial bill proposed by Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s (D-MA) Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee would cost over $1 trillion, and leave more than 37 million Americans uninsured after ten years. Since that report, the Senate Committee on Finance has delayed the release of its bipartisan bill in an effort to trim the costs of the plan before it is made public. The White House has been working very closely with Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and the Finance Committee, as many observers believe that it is the best chance to produce bi-partisan support.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and White House health reform director Nancy-Ann DeParle meet on Tuesday with Democratic Senators, from both committees to discuss the issue. Later today, President Obama will host a town hall meeting on health care at the White House after holding a meeting with five governors that hosted regional health care forums.

Meanwhile, the House held numerous hearings on health care reform this week. Introduced last Friday, the House legislation is the work of three House Committees. The bill lacks funding sources and has not yet been reviewed by the CBO.

- Breanne McGahey

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Teen Fitness Connection - Empower a Teen This Summer

As the nation waits this summer for long-anticipated health care reform and for prevention to play a critical role, you may be asking what more you can do to have your voice heard and how to play a part in keeping Americans healthy this summer. You should, of course, write or call your Congressional representative and ask for their support of Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act and the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act. If you submitted a video for IHRSA’s Campaign for a Healthier America, we thank you and encourge you to invite your staff to do the same. If you are looking for a program to make a difference in a young person’s life this summer, I would ask you to consider running the Teen Fitness Connection (TFC) in your club.

The TFC is a nationwide initiative designed to introduce exercise to teens by offering free summer matinee memberships. Now in its second year as an IHRSA program, it is designed as a community outreach initiative that invites club owners and operators to fight teen obesity and physical inactivity on a local level. Geoff Dyer, Founder of Lifestyle Family Fitness health clubs and the TFC, began the program three years ago with the intent to provide an outlet for teenagers to raise their self-esteem, get in control of their physical health, and to fight teenage obesity.

Adopting a healthy lifestyle begins at an early age, and needs to be reinforced in order to become habit. The TFC gives teens a fun activity to engage in during the summer months and to explore the offerings and support health clubs give. Clubs can modify and adjust the program as they see fit.

The program takes place at IHRSA clubs across the country from July 1 - August 31, 2009. Please visit for more information and enrollment.
I urge you to consider implementing this program in your club and join in empowering teens with fitness this summer!

- Rosemary Lavery

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Costs, Including Prevention, Come Under Fire in Health Care Debate

The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) held its first meeting yesterday on proposed health care reform legislation. The meeting, led by Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) in Chairman Edward Kennedy’s (D-MA) absence due to illness, comes amid increasing talk of costs and implications on the federal deficit.

Earlier this week the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reviewed the HELP bill in response to inquiries from Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Judd Gregg (R-NH). The CBO estimated the plan currently being considered by the Committee would leave 37 million Americans uninsured and cost more than $1 trillion over ten years.

One of the areas addressed in the report is the cost for preventative care and wellness in health care reform. Overall, the report concludes that increasing access to preventative services and wellness could decrease costs by making people healthier but may not materialize savings because long-term empirical evidence is lacking for the broad array of services considered under this category, including programs to decrease obesity. One scenario presented is that while reducing chronic disease through healthy lifestyles would help people live longer, it could cost the government more in Social Security benefits.

In April, IHRSA along with the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease called on House leadership to update how the CBO produces estimates for health care bills. It made several recommendations for how the CBO can accurately estimate the fiscal impact of prevention legislation, such as including the deteriorating health of the population its estimated impact in the future, scoring beyond ten years to capture the long-term value of prevention, and incorporating broader economic impact, such as worker productivity. "The inability of the CBO to accurately account for savings created by prevention and wellness further demonstrates the lack of historical support for wellness initiatives in Washington," says Helen Durkin, J.D. IHRSA Executive Vice President of Global Public Policy. "With Congress and the White House calling on prevention as a key component of reform, the CBO needs to reevaluate its outdated modeling."

Meanwhile, the Senate Finance Committee and House Democrats are preparing to introduce their own reform bills shortly. Early estimates on the not yet public Finance Committee bill are $1.6 trillion over ten years. It is unclear how many Americans would be covered under the plan. Reportedly Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) wants the bill under $1 trillion. One thing that does seem apparent is that all options remain on the table. Despite some partisan banter, both sides seem willing to address health care reform. Costs and impact on the deficit will likely remain major points of contention throughout the debate.

- Breanne McGahey

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Personal Health Investment Today Act (H.R. 2105)

The following is detailed information on the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act (H.R. 2105). This bill is currently before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways & Means. If you would like to support this bill, join the virtual march on Washington by visiting

The PHIT Act (H.R. 2105) would eliminate a federal policy barrier and create a financial incentive for Americans to engage in physical fitness and exercise.

Americans could utilize up to $1,000 annually from their tax-favored accounts (such as FSAs and MSAs) to make expenditures related to organized individual and team sports, fitness and exercise, recreation and other physical activities. The PHIT Act would not increase the total contribution limits to those pre-tax accounts.

  • 64% of American adults and 34% of American children suffer from overweight, obesity, and physical inactivity. These rising rates of obesity and Americans’ proclivity for inactivity are resulting in double digit annual increases in healthcare costs to the government and business.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that healthcare costs directly associated with inactivity were $76.6 billion in 2000; roughly one-third of those costs ($25 billion) fall directly on U.S. taxpayers since approximately one in three Americans is covered by a taxpayer-funded health plan.
  • The PHIT Act would help to reverse the trend of increasing physical inactivity and obesity by eliminating a federal policy barrier and providing an important tax incentive to promote exercise.
  • Public health experts agree that regular physical activity substantially reduces the risk and symptoms of numerous chronic diseases and medical conditions, resulting in fewer hospitalizations, physician visits, medications and lower health care costs.
  • The PHIT Act would change the types of expenditures that could be payable out of tax-favored investment accounts: flexible spending accounts (FSAs), medical savings accounts (MSAs) and/or medical reimbursement arrangements.
  • Under the current set-up, Americans predominantly use pre-tax accounts to pay for treatment and detection of illnesses: prescription drugs, doctor visits, examinations and screenings.
  • The PHIT Act would allow consumers to to pay with pre-tax dollars for prevention in the form of increased physical activity, including:
  • fitness center dues
  • group exercise classes
  • youth sports league fees
  • some exercise equipment
  • other fees associated with physical activity programs
  • Depending upon their income tax bracket, the PHIT Act could help Americans save 20-30% on the cost of physical activities, exercise programs and related expenses.
  • The PHIT Act tax incentive represents an important tangible benefit that the federal government can provide to promote healthier lifestyles and reverse the rising costs of treating obesity-related chronic diseases.
  • Fitness-related tax savings would provide a great incentive for Americans to take an important first step toward reversing their sedentary lifestyles and lowering healthcare costs.

Why is the PHIT Act necessary?
The PHIT Act would eliminate a federal policy barrier and create a financial incentive to engage in physical fitness and exercise.

What will the PHIT Act do?
The PHIT Act would change the types of expenditures that could be payable out of tax-favored investment accounts (such as FSAs and MSAs). Under the current set-up, Americans predominantly use pre-tax accounts to pay for treatment and detection of illnesses: prescription drugs, doctor visits, examinations and screenings.

The PHIT Act would allow consumers to set aside up to $1,000 ($2,000 per family) annually from their tax-favored accounts to make expenditures related to prevention in the form of increased physical activity, allowing fitness center dues, payments for some exercise equipment, and other fees associated with physical activity programs to be paid with pre-tax dollars.

What will the PHIT Act cost?
IHRSA has met with the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation and has requested an immediate “score” for the PHIT Act, which will determine the total cost of implementing the bill over a ten year period.

Who is supporting the PHIT Act?
IHRSA has gathered broad support for the PHIT Act during previous sessions of Congress. The PHIT Act was re-introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on April 27, 2009 by Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) and referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means. Co-sponsors, at the time of introduction, include Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Kevin Brady (R-TX), and Zach Wamp (R-TN). (Full co-sponsor list.)