BOSTONApril 25, 2007Health club membership in the United States increased by more than three percent last year, from 41.3 million members (over the age of six) in 2005 to 42.7 million in 2006, while the total number of Americans who visited or belonged to a health club increased by more than six percent from 64.9 million people (over the age of six) in 2005 to 69.3 million in 2006, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).  This growth in health club membership represents an increase of more than twenty-five percent in just five years, while growth in health club patronage represents an increase of nearly twenty percent.

IHRSA, a not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs, and suppliers worldwide, cites an increase in public awareness about the dangers of physical inactivity and the health and fitness industrys sustained commitment to making exercise more accessible to Americans of all ages and fitness levels as contributing factors to this growth.

While we are very pleased to see growth in membership, we understand that there is still a lot of work to be done, said Joe Moore, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of IHRSA.  Its been a little more than a decade since the first Surgeon Generals Report on Physical Activity and Health.  And while health club membership has grown by 63 percent since then, the number of Americans who exercise regularly represent just a fraction of the total population.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who participate in moderate-intensity or vigorous-intensity physical activity on a regular basis lower their risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes mellitus, high blood pressure, and colon cancer.  Yet, more than 50 percent of American adults dont get enough physical activity to provide health benefits.  And a startling 30 percentmore than 60 million people 20 years and olderare obese.

The health and fitness industry is committed to reshaping the way Americans live and move, and health clubs are uniquely suited to help Americans of all ages, shapes, sizes, and fitness levels to achieve their long-term health goals.  In fact, in 2006, more than twenty percent of all health club members were over the age of 55, and more than ten percent were under 18.

Research has shown that a perceived lack of personal time, which is often limited by commitments to family and work, in addition to financial and geographical constraints, is one of the most commonly cited reasons that people choose not to exercise, continued Moore.  By working to remove the barriers to exercise and increase the personal and financial incentives to exercise, we hope to encourage even greater growth in health club membership in the years to come.

For its part, the US health and fitness industry is working to make exercise more accessible to the entire family by coordinating a number of consumer health initiatives, including its 4th Annual Get Active America! initiativea month-long program in May 2007 to help all Americans reduce their risk of chronic disease by building exercise into their daily routines.  Participating health clubs will open their doorsfree of charge from May 14-20.

IHRSA-Organized Consumer Health Initiatives

As part of the annual Get Active America! program started four 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.  As part of its 2007 program, participating member health clubs and HHS Office on Womens Health (OWH) will kick off the WOMAN Challengean eight-week physical fitness challenge that encourages women to get 10,000 steps or 30 minutes of exercise each day.

IHRSA supports health promotion legislation to help encourage more active lifestyles, such as the Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act (H.R.1748, S.1038).  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 employers 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. 245), 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 vehiclessuch 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 more fit America.

 


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For more information, visit www.IHRSA.org .  For a listing of health clubs with programs for seniors, families, and people with special health concerns, contact IHRSA at healthprograms@ihrsa.org.


 

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