More than 140 health and fitness industry leaders from 26 states gathered last week in Washington, DC, at the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association's 6th Annual Legislative Summit in a coordinated effort to remove federal barriers to exercise and focus legislators' attention on the need to transform our current health care system from one that focuses on "sick" care to one that focuses on prevention and wellness. During the two-day Summit (May 21-22), fitness advocates, scheduled for 133 meetings with their members of Congress, encouraged support of two health promotion bills: The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act (H.R. 245) and The Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act (H.R. 1748 and S. 1038).


"The unchecked increase in America's waistline comes at a high a price," says Joe Moore, IHRSA President and CEO. "Not only does it compromise the health of individuals, but it increases the nation's health care costs and lowers our overall productivity. The government can play a life-saving role by passing legislation that supports Americans' own personal efforts to preserve their health."


The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act (H.R. 245) would allow people to pay for exercise and physical fitness programs, certain exercise equipment and children's sports league fees with pre-tax dollars through their Flexible Spending Account (FSA), Medical Savings Account (MSA) or Health Savings Account (HSA). That means Americans could save 20-30% a year on their fitness-related costs because they wouldn't be paid for with taxable income.


"We all know the research on the benefits of exercise is piled high," says Jonathan Ross, American Council on Exercise's (ACE) Personal Trainer of the Year and spokesperson, Exercise TV's 2008 Best Personal Trainer, Discovery Health's 2008 National Body Challenge Fitness Expert, one of Men's Journal magazine's Top 100 Trainers in America, and a leading fitness advocate who is making his voice heard as a participant at the IHRSA Summit. "What we need to do and what this legislation does is take measures to make it easier for people to stay active in their lives."


The Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act (H.R. 1748 and S. 1038) promotes wellness in the workforce by balancing current law and allowing for off-site fitness center memberships as a tax-free benefit 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.


According to a national public opinion poll commissioned by IHRSA, seven in 10 Americans say they'd encourage their Member of Congress to pass PHIT, and three-quarters of Americans say they'd encourage WHIP. Concerned Americans can exercise their rights and encourage Members of Congress to pass PHIT and WHIP by visiting and clicking on "Take Action!" under "Exercise Your Rights!"


"Regular exercise, a healthy diet and smart lifestyle choices are the most effective preventive health care practices that anyone can follow," says Moore. "If we are to improve America's health and control the costs of obesity and chronic disease, we need a federal environment that supports exercise and other forms of preventive care."


IHRSA's 6th Annual Legislative Summit was sponsored this year by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), CheckFree now part of Fiserv, CYBEX, FiTOUR, GOJO, HyperStrike, IdeaCast, International Fitness Club Network (IFCN), Matrix Fitness Systems, SPRI and STOTT PILATES.


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 fitter America. Visit for more information.


How much of your time would you estimate you spend growing your business?