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New Year, New IHRSA Initiatives

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IHRSABOSTON, MA - The New Year is often a time for sweeping changes and large steps forward. 2020 has been a challenging year across the globe, especially for the health and fitness club industry. We have all put in countless hours of work to make our industry stronger, better and more resilient. As 2021 gets into full swing, IHRSA has a lot of new developments to share.

Clubs Across the Globe Make the Active & Safe Commitment

In December, IHRSA launched the Active & Safe Commitment, an initiative affirming the industry's commitment to providing a safe and effective space for physical activity. The commitment is based on a checklist of key practices to reduce COVID-19 transmission, adapted from the Key Considerations for Sports, Fitness, Aquatics & Ancillary Facilities and Clubs in the context of COVID-19 and the Four Prong Framework for Health Club Reopening.

As of January 14, 2020, 1,169 health and fitness centers on five continents have joined the Active & Safe Commitment.

"This level of support for the Active & Safe Commitment clearly demonstrates to the community, to consumers and to policymakers and leaders that the health club industry is committed to providing a low-risk environment for people to be physically active," says Brent Darden, IHRSA's Interim President and CEO. "This year has underlined just how important physical activity is for physical, mental and emotional health. If you have not joined the Active & Safe Commitment, I encourage you to join your peers in telling the world our industry is vital and safe."

Industry Partners to Build a Stronger Industry

Moving forward, IHRSA is excited to recognize our current Supplier Members as Industry Partners. Health club operators rely on manufacturers and suppliers for equipment, products and services needed to grow and fuel their business. This name change recognizes the critical role these companies play within the industry and their partnership with IHRSA towards ensuring the industry's growth and prosperity.

IHRSA Launches the Global Health & Fitness Alliance (GHFA)

In mid-November 2020, IHRSA held the inaugural meeting of a high-level volunteer group of strategic thought leaders, CEOs and other C-suite industry stakeholders uniting to create policies and initiatives for the global fitness market. Over 40 club and industry partner companies from all of IHRSA regions across North America, Latin America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific have so far committed to volunteering their expertise and time to this global alliance.

Below is a summation of the goals and objectives agreed on unanimously by the GHFA and what the global fitness community can look forward to in 2021.


  • Position the health and fitness industry as a key contributor in the preventive healthcare continuum.
  • Promote the industry's vital contributions to health, wellbeing and prosperity of societies.
  • Facilitate third party credible evidence-based research on the health benefits and economic contributions of the health and fitness industry.
  • Promote policies, standards and regulations that support health and fitness business operations.

We invite further volunteers who are at CEO level or C-suite nominated by their CEO representing club chains and major industry partner companies to apply to join the GHFA. For more information, email Kilian Fisher at

Strengthen Industry Advocacy with National Health and Fitness Alliance

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced club operators to endure an onslaught of misguided actions and callous choices made by policymakers and public officials. Despite providing services that are widely understood to decrease the potential for harm from COVID-19, health clubs have suffered the indignity and distress of being labeled "non-essential," often categorized with casinos and bars, and ignored when requesting emergency economic relief. In response, IHRSA and industry leaders have resolved to create a sharper, broader and more powerful new force for industry advocacy.

The National Health and Fitness Alliance (NHFA) will unite the advocacy, public policy, stakeholder engagement, fundraising and lobbying efforts of the fitness industry in the United States. As a distinct operating division of IHRSA, the activities of NHFA will be funded in part by revenue generated from IHRSA membership dues and other association activities and also by donations from allied organizations, industry stakeholders and individuals. We are very excited about this new chapter for the club industry and look forward to providing more details soon about how you can join the effort.

A Rallying Cry for the Industry

As part of our relentless efforts to reimagine, reinvigorate and rebuild the health club industry, IHRSA has created a headlight team of marketing experts and owners to create an industry rallying cry in the spirit of the legendary "Got Milk?" campaign. The headlight team will work with Clearview Insights to analyze sophisticated data and analytics and develop a broadly appealing message that reflects all segments of the industry. We plan to launch the campaign within the next few months, as clubs reopen from this current round of COVID-19-related shutdowns.

Please keep an eye out for updates. We are confident that you will share our enthusiasm for this historic industry-wide campaign.

Medical, Allied Health and Public Health Professionals Sign Letter In Support of Clubs

Research and data consistently demonstrate that health clubs are lower risk and are not driving COVID-19 transmission. IHRSA has amplified medical voices speaking up on the importance of exercise and the vital and safe role health and fitness clubs play with proper risk mitigation steps.

As of January 12, 43 experts in the fields of medicine, allied health, and public health have signed on to the Medical Endorsement of Exercise & Lifestyle Medicine letter. The letter underscores three key points:

  1. 1. The U.S. was in the midst of an existing chronic disease epidemic before COVID-19.
  2. 2. COVID-19 restrictions have severely impacted mental health, especially among healthcare workers.
  3. 3. Health and fitness clubs are prepared to operate safely, and evidence suggests they are relatively safe compared to other venues.

View the Letter:

Get Signatures:

Two New Advisory Councils Will Lead the Industry Forward

Industry Partner Advisory Council

IHRSA is excited to introduce the Industry Partner Advisory Council. This newly formed council will advise IHRSA's Executive Staff and Board of Directors and support the Association's mission "to grow, protect, and promote the health and fitness industry, and help ensure the success of its members." The Council is made up of nine dedicated individuals who have demonstrated success and a commitment to the health and fitness industry through their businesses and personally have a passion to serve.

Meet the Council:

  • Daron Allen, CEO, VFPnext;
  • Rickard Blomberg, President, Eleiko Sport Inc;
  • Bill Davis, President and CEO, ABC Fitness Solutions;
  • Laurie McCartney, President, Global Fitness & Wellness, Ascend Learning, National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), Athletics & Fitness Association of America (AFAA) and ClubConnect;
  • Petra Robinson, President, and Zumba Fitness Industry Liaison/and Trade Shows/Events, petra robinson inc and representing Zumba;
  • Al Rousseau, Sr. Director – Strategic Accounts, Precor;
  • Alastair Watson, Vice President, Keiser Corporation;
  • Dan Wille, Global VP of Marketing, Product & Strategy, Life Fitness;
  • Emmett Williams, CEO (Asia-Pacific) & Founding Partner, Myzone.

The IHRSA Medical, Science and Health Advisory Council

The IHRSA Medical, Science and Health Advisory Council will advise IHRSA's Executive Staff and Board of Directors on current research and science to advance the health and fitness industry and protect public safety while improving population health and individual health risks.

Council members include experts in medicine, public health, exercise science, exercise physiology, medical fitness, fitness, nutrition and behavior change. The first six members will join the council this month, for a two-year term, and bring a diverse range of experience in a number of specialties including public health, physical therapy and recovery, lifestyle medicine, emergency medicine, mental health and research.

Meet the Council:

  • Tyler Cooper, M.D., President and CEO, Cooper Aerobics and Preventive Medicine Physician, Cooper Clinic;
  • Maria Borodina, M.D., Head, Emergency Medicine Educational Department of Academy of Postgraduate Education;
  • Lori Deemer, M.D., Family Physician, Medical Director of Hancock Wellness Centers;
  • Jason Beck, M.D., Founding and Managing Partner, Arkansas Specialty Radiology;
  • Mark Panigutti, M.D., Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon, Southwest General Medical Center;
  • Lee Johnson, M.D., Emergency Medicine Physician and Medical Director of the ED, Sparks Regional Medical Center, Arkansas State Representative for District 75.

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