Health & Fitness Organizations Send Letter to Congressional Leadership

    What you need to know about the letter health and fitness organizations sent to congressional leadership asking them to pass the GYMS Act.

    On June 17, 2021, IHRSA sent a letter—cosigned by 15 other organizations—to congressional leadership. This letter highlights why the health and fitness industry still needs relief from the economic devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. We’re urging Congress to pass the GYMS Act (H.R.890/S.1613) and create a grant program for health and fitness businesses impacted by the pandemic.

    The letter builds on the GYMS Act's current momentum. Currently, 142 members in the House of Representatives and nine Senators have signed on, with more adding their names and supporting the GYMS Act each week.

    Below, we've outlined three of the letter's arguments about why the health and fitness industry needs relief.

    1. America's Worsening Pre-pandemic Health Crisis

    2. Health & Fitness Facilities Are Part of the Solution to America's Inactivity Crisis and Growing Mental Health Concerns

    3. The U.S. Can't Afford Another 2020

    America's Worsening Pre-pandemic Health Crisis

    Before the COVID-19 pandemic brought daily life to a halt in March of 2020, the United States was already struggling with an inactivity epidemic.

    In the last decade, more than 27% of Americans over six were considered physically inactive. The shutdowns brought on by COVID-19 only made this number larger by forcing people to remain in their homes, many without access to the space needed to exercise safely.

    Physical activity is a proactive way to reduce the risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes, all linked—by the CDC—to an increased hospitalization risk from COVID-19.

    In addition to the worrying decline in physical activity, the pandemic has harmed Americans’ mental health. According to a brief published by Kaiser Permanente, many more Americans reported experiencing anxiety or depressive disorder symptoms—up from 1 in 10 adult Americans in 2019, to 4 in 10 adult Americans during the pandemic. Americans’ mental and physical health was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, and we have a lot of work to do to get the country back on track.

    Health & Fitness Facilities Are Part of the Solution to America's Inactivity Crisis and Growing Mental Health Concerns

    While the state of America’s physical and mental health is bleak as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, physical activity can go a long way to improving people’s physical and psychological health across the country.

    Health Fitness Organizations Send Letter to Congressional Leadership Column Width

    It is no secret that physical and mental health are closely intertwined. Health organizations around the globe—such as the WHO Europe, the CDC, and Australia’s Health Direct—have made clear the positive links between physical activity and mental health. By getting Americans more physically active, we can fight against the mental health crisis as well.

    The more than 40,000 health and fitness facilities in America serve as a vital first line of defense in America’s healthcare ecosystem. By providing programming, equipment, and safe spaces to the more than 70 million Americans that frequent health and fitness facilities, people are empowered to take charge of their health and fitness. By committing to physical activity, these individuals are proactively combatting chronic disease and maintaining their mental health.

    The U.S. Can't Afford Another 2020

    America’s fitness facilities are a vital part of the solution to ensuring the United States never endures another year like 2020. Passage of the GYMS Act would mean America’s health and fitness facilities come out of this crisis strong enough to continue to provide a safe space and programming to improve America’s health.

    Fitness facilities nationwide were among the first businesses ordered to close and the last allowed to reopen. Once they were finally allowed to reopen, they operated under some of the most restrictive guidelines for any industry. The resulting economic devastation forced many of these facilities to shut their doors for good and put their employees out of work. One out of every five fitness facilities has closed permanently as of December 31, 2020, and tens of thousands more are at risk.

    Health and fitness facilities require and deserve special attention from the federal government to continue to act as the first line of defense for Americans’ mental and physical health. These facilities need the relief provided by the GYMS Act, not only due to the economic hardship that they suffered through no fault of their own, but so they can continue to play a vital role in restoring America’s physical and mental health.

    Author avatar

    Jake Landry

    Jake Landry previously served as IHRSA's Public Policy Assistant—a position that focused on monitoring legislation that affects the health club industry at the state and federal levels and writing legislative alerts and articles on issues that affect IHRSA members.