IHRSA Applauds U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Initiative to Develop Physical Activity Guidelines

Joe Moore, President and Chief Executive Officer of The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) today commended the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for its initiative to develop The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which is aimed at helping Americans fit physical activity into their lives.
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Boston, Massachusetts – November 27, 2006 – Joe Moore, President and Chief Executive Officer of The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) today commended the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for its initiative to develop The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which is aimed at helping Americans fit physical activity into their lives. Moore offered the association's support, on behalf of the health and fitness industry, to Michael Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, as the guidelines, which will be issued in 2008 are developed.

“On behalf of IHRSA and its members, I'd like to thank Secretary Leavitt for taking this critical step in creating a culture of wellness through exercise in America, a principle to which our industry has long been committed,” said Moore.

In an address last month, Secretary Leavitt announced that HHS would develop The Physical Activity Guidelines, which will summarize the latest knowledge about activity and health, with depth and flexibility targeting specific population subgroups, such as seniors and children. He underscored the importance of shifting from a treatment-focused society to one that values prevention-based care and emphasized the importance of the four pillars of the HealthierUS initiative, which are physical activity, good diet, healthy choices and preventative screening.

“Our industry is uniquely positioned to offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise,” continued Moore. “For more than a quarter century, the health and fitness industry has worked to provide the facilities, professional staff and support that people need to reshape the way they live and move. And we have witnessed first hand the effectiveness of a balanced, individualized approach to exercise. We hope to have the opportunity to work with HHS as they develop these very important guidelines.”

IHRSA-Organized Consumer Health Initiatives

As part of the annual Get Active America! program started three years ago, a wide variety of health clubs nationwide offer health-focused programs each May and open their doors for free for several days. The goal is to make it easier for Americans to exercise and to help them build regular exercise into their daily routines.

IHRSA supports health promotion legislation to help encourage more active lifestyles, such as the Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act (H.R.1634, S.772). This federal legislation seeks to combat chronic disease and obesity caused by inactivity by allowing for the balanced tax treatment of fitness center memberships as an employee benefit. Specifically, it reaffirms an employer's right to deduct the cost of subsidizing or providing off-site health club benefits to their workers. And it excludes the wellness benefit from being considered additional taxable income for employees. Current law allows employees to use on-site fitness facilities free of any tax implications. But when a business needs to outsource this health benefit, employees who receive off-site fitness center subsidies are required to pay income tax on the benefits. And their employers bear the associated administrative costs of complying with IRS rules. The WHIP Act eliminates this tax on off-site fitness center subsidies, making it easier for all employers to offer important exercise incentives for their workers.

IHRSA also supports the recently introduced Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Bill (H.R. 5479), which takes a giant step toward a healthier America. This legislation will allow for exercise and physical fitness programs and certain exercise equipment to be paid for out of pre-tax dollars by including them in tax deferred medical savings vehicles—such as flexible spending accounts (FSA) and health savings accounts (HSA). IHRSA believes that PHIT will help provide the level of support many Americans need to be able to adopt healthier lifestyles and become more physically active.

About IHRSA
IHRSA is a not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs, and suppliers worldwide. IHRSA is committed to taking a leadership role in advancing physical activity, which is critical to America's health and the battle against obesity and disease. IHRSA supports effective national initiatives to promote more active lifestyles for all Americans and is working to pass laws that will help affect societal changes toward a healthier America.

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