U.S. Health Club Membership Reaches 42.7 Million in 2006
Health 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).
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BOSTON-April 25, 2007-Health 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 industry’s 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. “It’s been a little more than a
decade since the first Surgeon General’s 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 don’t get enough
physical activity to provide health benefits. And a startling 30
percent-more than 60 million people 20 years and older-are 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!
initiative-a 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 doors-free 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 Women’s Health (OWH) will kick off the
WOMAN Challenge-an 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 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. 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 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.
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.