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Health & Fitness Industry Urges Both Parties to Adopt Pro-Prevention, Healthy Living Policies

IHRSA Calls for Greater Focus on Preventing Physical Inactivity, Chronic Disease, and Chronic Healthcare Costs

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BOSTON- August 5, 2008- The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) announced today that it has urged the Republican and Democratic national committees to adopt pro-prevention and healthy living language in their official party policy documents when the national party conventions convene in Denver and Minneapolis – Saint Paul.

“We strongly urge both parties to seriously address the culture of physical inactivity in this country that has led to epidemic levels of obesity and chronic disease,” said Joe Moore, president and CEO of IHRSA. “Not only have sedentary lifestyles taken a tragic toll on Americans’ health, but it also has driven up the cost of healthcare to all-time highs. Prevention must be a priority in both party platforms if we are to curb the cost of treating chronic diseases that inevitably arise when too many Americans lead sedentary lives.”

For years, IHRSA has been urging national policy makers—both on the Hill and in the Executive branch—to focus greater attention on increasing levels of physical activity in America, advocating practical, innovative ways to encourage Americans to exercise.

“IHRSA is urging the Democratic and Republican parties to adopt policies that will encourage Americans to be more physically active in order to reduce both the incidence of chronic disease and national healthcare costs,” Moore continued. “These policies should be part of a comprehensive program of preventive healthcare.”

Physical inactivity contributes directly to obesity and ultimately to chronic disease. Diabetes, heart disease, asthma, cancer and other chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States and account for the more than seventy five percent of dollars spent on medical care. They affect the quality of life for 133 million Americans and are responsible for seven out of every ten deaths in the United States. In fact, the U.S. Surgeon General has cited the lack of exercise and poor diet as a leading cause of death in America today, second only to tobacco.

“More than sixty percent of Americans fail to engage in the levels of physical activity that would bring them important health benefits,” said Moore. “If more Americans exercised regularly, we’d have lower levels of chronic disease in this country; we could better management diseases once they do occur; and as a country, we’d benefit from substantial savings in healthcare costs.”

In its letters to both the Democratic and Republican parties, IHRSA cited a study recently released by the Trust for America’s Health that demonstrated that an investment in disease prevention of $10 per person per year could save the United States $16 billion a year in healthcare costs within five years. “Prevention” was defined in the study as improved nutrition, smoking cessation and the promotion of physical activity. This report reinforces the estimate given by the Centers for Disease Control in 2005 that projected savings of $25 billion a year in healthcare costs if every American adult exercised on a regular basis.

Proposals for a More Physically Active America

IHRSA also is encouraging both parties to support two innovative and practical programs that currently are under active consideration in Congress and which have received broad support from numerous business and health promotion organizations throughout the United States:

The Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act

This program will enable employers to provide subsidies to employees to enroll in fitness programs—without that subsidy being taxed as additional income to the employee. In a recent poll, 78 percent of Americans maintained that they would exercise more regularly if their employer offered such a subsidy as part of a worksite wellness program. This legislation is currently pending in Congress and has received wide bi-partisan support.

The Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT)

This legislation—which also has attracted significant attention in Congress, especially in the House Ways and Means Committee—will allow taxpayers to use up to $1000 a year from “pre-tax” accounts (such as flexible spending accounts) to pay for organized individual and team sports, recreation, and other physical activities. It will allow a family to use these accounts to pay for soccer clubs or Little League, for fitness club or YMCA memberships, or for home fitness equipment. Today these accounts are used predominantly for detecting diseases and for the drugs to treat them. The PHIT Act would allow them to be used for prevention. If adopted, this legislation would enable American taxpayers to save significantly on the cost of exercise.


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.