Fitness Industry Urges Congress to Support Primary Prevention in Push for a Healthier, More Prosperous America

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Leaders from the fitness industry are gathering on Capitol Hill this week, urging Members of Congress to support cost-saving primary prevention policies and legislation, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) announced today. This 9th Annual Summit for a Healthier America is part of the national movement to promote a healthier, more prosperous America through physical activity and healthy lifestyles.

Primary prevention has got to become a national priority. It’s the key to securing the future health and prosperity of America.

Leaders from the fitness industry are gathering on Capitol Hill this week, urging Members of Congress to support cost-saving primary prevention policies and legislation, the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) announced today. This 9th Annual Summit for a Healthier America is part of the national movement to promote a healthier, more prosperous America through physical activity and healthy lifestyles.

Primary prevention refers to the deterrence of disease before it occurs by engaging in beneficial lifestyle behaviors, such as regular exercise, healthy eating, avoidance of tobacco and other controlled substances, stress management, and routine medical exams.

“The widespread practice of primary prevention is critical to public health and our country’s future economic competitiveness,” says Joe Moore, IHRSA’s President and CEO. “It’s time that our lawmakers fully recognize the valuable and central role that primary prevention can play in creating a healthier America. We are asking them to actively promote public policies and legislation that support primary prevention and personal responsibility—and that remove barriers to healthy lifestyle choices.”

Fitness industry leaders will be discussing specific pieces of legislation with Members of Congress, including the Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act (FIT Kids Act) (S.576/H.R. 1057); the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP); the Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT) (H.R. 2105 in the 111th Congress), which IHRSA expects to be introduced in the 112th Congress; the Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act (H.R. 2106, S. 913 in the 111th Congress), which IHRSA also expects to be introduced in the 112th Congress; and the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Act, which was introduced in the 111th Congress and is expected to be introduced in the 112th.

They also will be discussing the importance of Senate Resolution 97 and their hope that the House of Representatives will introduce a similar resolution affirming the importance of exercise and physical activity as key components of a healthy lifestyle to combat obesity, reduce chronic disease, and lower health care costs.

“The focus of Congressional health care policies must be on preserving our health from the start,” says Moore. “Exercise and healthier lifestyles must become easier choices for all Americans. Primary prevention has got to become a national priority. It’s the key to securing the future health and prosperity of America.”

This 9th Annual Summit for a Healthier America is sponsored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), Chobani Greek Yogurt, MYZONE, the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and SPRI Products, Inc.

The Cost of Inactivity and the Benefits of Regular Exercise
Since the late 1980s, roughly two-thirds of the increase in health care spending in the United States has been due to the increased prevalence of treated chronic disease, according to the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease. Today, about half of all Americans suffer from one or more chronic disease. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), chronic diseases are largely attributable to four controllable health risk behaviors: (1) the lack of physical activity, (2) poor nutrition, (3) tobacco use, and (4) excessive alcohol consumption.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates that 80 percent of heart disease and stroke, 80 percent of type 2 diabetes, and 40 percent of cancer could be prevented if Americans stopped smoking, exercised more, and started eating more healthfully. A full $5.6 billion in heart disease costs could be saved if 10 percent of adults began a regular walking program. And according to a 2008 report by the Trust for America’s Health, an investment of $10 per person per year in proven community-based programs to increase physical activity, improve nutrition, and prevent smoking and other tobacco use, could save the country more than $16 billion annually within five years.

Research shows that physical activity is extremely important to good health. At the proper moderate intensity, regular exercise significantly improves overall health; reduces the risk of heart disease by 40 percent; lowers the risk of stroke by 27 percent; reduces the incidence of high blood pressure by almost 50 percent; reduces the incidence of diabetes by almost 50 percent; can reduce mortality and the risk of recurrent breast cancer by almost 50 percent; can lower the risk of colon cancer by over 60 percent; can reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by one-third; and can decrease depression as effectively as medications or behavioral therapy—according to Exercise is Medicine™, a global initiative supported by the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) calling on physicians to assess and review every patient’s physical activity program at every visit.

About the Legislation

  •     Fitness Integrated with Teaching Kids Act (FIT Kids Act) S.576/H.R. 1057

FIT Kids amends the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act to increase children’s physical activity throughout the school day. The bill requires all schools, districts and states to report on the quantity and quality of physical education; amends existing school programs to integrate physical activity and wellness throughout the day; and supports professional development for health and physical education teachers and principals so they can increase their students’ ability to learn and help promote healthy lifestyles and physical activity. The bill also funds a study to examine the impact of health and physical activity on student achievement and find effective ways to increase physical activity during the school day.

  •     Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP)

PEP provides the only Federal funding dedicated to physical education. PEP allows America’s schools to use contemporary equipment and technology based products to engage students in innovative physical education. PEP is a highly competitive grant program managed by the Department of Education. Through 2010, PEP has distributed more than $600 million in funding to schools and community-based organizations to implement and expand quality physical education programs for children in kindergarten through high school.

  •     Personal Health Investment Today Act (PHIT)

(H.R. 2105 in the 111th Congress)
The PHIT Act would eliminate a federal policy barrier and create a financial incentive for Americans to engage in physical fitness and exercise. Americans could utilize up to $1,000 annually from their tax-favored accounts (such as FSAs) to make expenditures related to organized individual and team sports, fitness and exercise, recreation and other physical activities. The PHIT Act would not increase the total contribution limits to those pre-tax accounts.

  •     Workforce Health Improvement Program (WHIP) Act

(H.R. 2106, S. 913 in the 111th Congress)
Under current tax law, businesses are permitted to deduct the cost of on-site exercise facilities and employees are not taxed on the benefit. However, if an employer provides this same benefit at an off-site facility, employees who take advantage of the benefit must pay income tax on the value of the subsidy. The WHIP Act would eliminate this inequity, reaffirming employers’ right to deduct the cost of providing off-site health club or gym benefits and preventing this wellness benefit from being considered additional income for employees.

  •     Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Act

In 2008, the federal government issued its first-ever Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines were a tremendous example of how policy makers can help create a culture of wellness in America that focuses on prevention first. Since that time, a substantial body of new research has enhanced and focused the scientific community’s understanding of the benefits of physical activity.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Act would harness the strength of America’s scientific community, and emphasize the importance of wellness, by directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services to publish a report, at least every 5 years, that would educate Americans about the latest scientific and medical research relating to physical activity, and provide updated activity guidelines.

  •     Senate Resolution 97

On March 9, 2011, the United States Senate unanimously agreed to a Resolution “affirming the importance of exercise and physical activity as key components of a healthy lifestyle, including in combating obesity, reducing chronic disease, and lowering health care cost;” and encouraging “the development of incentives, including responsible economic incentives, to promote exercise and a more physically active and healthy United States.”

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.

IHRSA is a co-chair of the Business & Industry Sector of the National Physical Activity Plan; a member of the advisory board of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD); a founding member of the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA); a partner with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in promoting the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines; a network member of the Exercise is Medicine™ initiative; was a primary participant in the launch of the Adult Fitness Test introduced by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition; has helped the HHS Office on Women’s Health in promoting National Women’s Health Week, National Women’s Check-Up Day, and the Woman Challenge; partnered with the President’s Council in 1995 on the three-year “Get Up, Get Out” public awareness campaign focusing on youth fitness; was one of the earliest proponents of the PEP legislation (Carol M. White Physical Education Program); and recently introduced the publication, “The Economic Benefits of Regular Exercise.” Through its member clubs, IHRSA has offered community outreach and health promotion programs since 1986, including Commit to Get Fit, Families Involved Together, Teen Fitness Connection, I Lost It at the Club!, and Get Active America!

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