IHRSA Heartily Applauds First Lady’s "Let’s Move" Initiative and Vows Support

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The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) today pledged its support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s "Let’s Move" initiative and praised the First Lady for her leadership in tackling the problem of childhood obesity—a long-standing issue that threatens both the health of America’s children and the future of our country.

"...Mrs. Obama understands that the problem of childhood obesity isn't about statistics. It's about real children and real families in need of workable solutions..."

The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) today pledged its support of First Lady Michelle Obama’s "Let’s Move" initiative and praised the First Lady for her leadership in tackling the problem of childhood obesity—a long-standing issue that threatens both the health of America’s children and the future of our country.

“On behalf of the entire health club industry, IHRSA heartily commends Mrs. Obama for standing up and leading America in a nationwide effort to solve the problem of childhood obesity,” said Joe Moore, IHRSA’s president and CEO. “As a devoted mother of two school-aged children, Mrs. Obama understands that the problem of childhood obesity isn’t about statistics. It’s about real children and real families in need of workable solutions. It’s about real parents struggling to protect the health of their children in a culture and environment that often work against them. Mrs. Obama’s pragmatic, compassionate, and hands-on approach to solving the problem will serve as an inspiring example on which all of us can model our efforts.”

The health and fitness industry believes strongly that regular exercise is a pivotal antidote to the obesity problem. For almost 30 years, the industry has been working to increase physical activity in America, while IHRSA has been speaking out and working tirelessly on the need to incorporate exercise into the health care continuum as part of preventive care.

In a letter to Mrs. Obama, Moore stated: “The health club industry is an important and effective resource for introducing young people to a lifetime of exercise, fitness, and healthy behaviors. We want to make sure that this far-reaching network of community-based fitness centers and professionals is at your disposal in the nation’s fight against childhood obesity and that it is not overlooked…

By educating our youth about exercise and nutrition, by showing them how much fun physical activity can be, by instilling healthy lifestyle habits at an early age, and by maximizing the innovative programming, technologies, and available research within the fitness industry—health clubs can make a meaningful and lasting difference in the lives of children.”

Health clubs play a vital role in keeping Americans of all ages healthy. With more than 30,000 across the country, they can be found in all 50 states, serving cities and towns in both rural and urban areas. Health clubs of all sizes and business models—including thousands of small and medium sized enterprises—are integral to community life. Together, they provide a gateway to healthy living for millions of Americans of all ages and backgrounds.

Historically, health clubs have been successfully engaging children in regular physical activity by drawing upon state-of-the art technologies and behavior research to implement innovative programs within local communities. Today, more than 22 percent of commercial health clubs offer children-specific programming. Almost 20 percent offer a kids-only section of the club. And together, health clubs serve more than 4.8 million members under the age of 18—including 1.13 million between 6 and 12 years old, and 3.11 million between 13 and 17.

What’s more, 33 percent of fitness professionals now teach kids’ classes, and 55 percent offer one-on-one personal training to youth aged 18 or younger. And the number of children using health clubs has increased by 108 percent since 1990. The number of first time health club members under the age of 18 has doubled in ten years.

Each year at IHRSA’s annual convention, health club owners and leaders in the health and fitness industry have the opportunity to see the latest in innovative technologies and exercise equipment designed specifically for youth—and to share ideas on how to best support the efforts of families and children who want to exercise regularly and live healthier lives. This year’s convention will take place in San Diego from March 10 through 13.

“Mrs. Obama has a tremendous and tremendously important task before her,” said Moore. “And she will need cooperation and help from all industries and from both the private and public sectors.”

According to research commissioned by IHRSA, 99 percent of Americans believe that exercise helps preserve good health, but most feel they have to battle current culture to exercise regularly and that the government should do more to promote physical activity. Americans agree at a high rate (79%) that “The current culture in America, including the pressures of work, family and financial demands, makes it hard for people to exercise regularly and maintain healthy lifestyles.” More than three-fifths of Americans (61%) believe the government should do more to promote physical activity.

At the time these survey findings were released in 2007, Moore commented: “[Americans] are losing the struggle to balance the demands of work and family with personal health and need greater support. Americans need access to the tools necessary to live healthier lifestyles.”

“We are extremely grateful that Mrs. Obama has taken on the issue of childhood obesity,” Moore said today. “We want to see her succeed in this initiative and in leading the way to create a national environment that supports health. We encourage all Americans to stand behind Mrs. Obama in her efforts to stop the tide of childhood obesity and to do what they can to help ensure healthy futures for our children and for our country.”


IHRSA is a not-for-profit trade association representing health and fitness facilities, gyms, spas, sports clubs, and suppliers worldwide. The association’s membership includes more than 9,750 clubs in 78 countries, along with over 740 industry suppliers. In the United States, IHRSA has 5,400 member clubs.

IHRSA is a member of the advisory board of the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease (PFCD); an organizational affiliate of the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP); a founding member of the National Coalition to Promote 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 Physical Fitness and Sports; has been a partner with the HHS Office on Women’s Health to promote National Women’s Health Week, National Women’s Check-Up Day, and the WOMAN Challenge (Women and Girls Out Moving Across the Nation), which encourages women to get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week and girls to get at least 1 hour of physical activity each day; partnered with the President’s Council back 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), which provides federal funding to support physical education programs in grades K through 12; and recently introduced the publication, "The Economic Benefits of Regular Exercise."

In addition, 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!"

Current IHRSA-Organized Consumer Health Initiatives

"Get Active America!": As part of the annual "Get Active America!" program started almost six 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 physical activity into their daily routines. This year’s theme, “Take Back Your Health,” fits well with the "Let’s Move" campaign and can help provide a gateway for families looking for support within their own communities for regular exercise and healthy lifestyle choices.

"Teen Fitness Connection": This nationwide community outreach initiative is designed to introduce exercise to teens by offering free summer matinee memberships. The program invites club owners and executives to fight teen obesity and physical inactivity on a local level by reaching out directly to the community. The program offers a complimentary membership to “first time visitor” teens aged 12 to 17 during the summer months. Teen fitness is part of the continuous effort by the health club industry to change the direction of teen fitness and health in the United States.

"I Lost It at the Club!": This fun and collaborative weight loss program focuses on healthy living and is designed to offer the support people need to live healthier lives. The eight-week program helps current and prospective club members fulfill their New Year’s resolutions to lose weight and get fit.


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