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IHRSA 's Profile

The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association
Washington, DC/Boston
United States

About Me:

Tim Richards, IHRSA BloggerTom is the Senior Manager of Public Policy for IHRSA, a nonprofit trade/advocacy group for fitness centers.  As IHRSA’s Washington staff member, Tom coordinates IHRSA’s outreach to leading organizations and government agencies - such as HHS and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity, the Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, Exercise is Medicine, the Campaign to End Obesity, the National Physical Activity Plan and others - to highlight the importance of physical activity to America’s health.  In 2009 and beyond, Tom looks forward to advancing IHRSA’s support for policies and programs that increase the number of physically active Americans.

Recent Posts by IHRSA

National Indian Health Board Goes the Extra Mile for Physical Activity

by IHRSA October 31, 2012

A thrilling new initiative of the National Indian Health Board (NIHB), "GO the EXTRA MILE with NIHB" greatly expands the reach of the National Physical Activity Plan (NPAP).

NIHB Executive Director, Stacey Bohlen, described GO the EXTRA MILE in a recent letter to tribal representatives.

"The GO the EXTRA MILE initiative is a result of the NIHB signing the CEO pledge, which is part of a national campaign to encourage Executive Directors to commit to supporting and fostering a physically-active workplace. NIHB's GO the EXTRA MILE initiative achieves these goals by creating a workplace that supports physical activity for every member of its staff. Through the GO the EXTRA MILE with NIHB initiative, we will provide 30 staff minutes during the workday to walk one mile each day for a year. We will aggregate these miles and 'virtually' walk to each of the 12 Indian Health Service Areas, either to an Area Indian Health Board or to a Tribal Partner in Areas that do not have a Board."

The letter also invites the tribal representatives to sign the CEO Pledge - originally developed for the NPAP and now championed by the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA) - and take advantage of the GO the Extra Mile website, which will include a toolkit, electronic mapping, and access to information from the Association of American Indian Physicians.

The need for the initiative is urgent. According to NIHB, the age-adjusted incidence of Type 2 diabetes is higher among Amercian Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) than all other US racial and ethnic groups. Furthermore, the adult obesity rate among the AI/AN population is 39%, while the inactivity rate is over 50%.

IHRSA applauds NIHB for elevating the importance of physical activity and creating such an innovative initiative to dovetail with the CEO Pledge. We are hopeful that the leadership of NIHB and others will inspire novel outreach efforts across the country and deep into every segment of the population. Clearly, our national approach to addressing the sedentary criss must be judged, in great part, by its effectiveness in reaching the communities most impacted.

Above: NCPPA Executive Team takes CEO Pledge

About the CEO Pledge

The CEO Pledge is an evidence-based national campaign promoted by NCPPA to encourage every CEO in the United States to recognize physical activity as an important driver of employee health and business performance. Studies of employee wellness programs consistently find that executive leadership is critical to employee engagement. If employees believe that creating a culture of physical activity is an executive priority, employees are more likely to be physically active.

A Youth Fitness Revolution

by IHRSA October 2, 2012

This past month, the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition (PCFSN) unveiled its new Presidential Youth Fitness Program. At first blush, it may seem like simply an update of the youth test familiar to generations of Americans. But that impression would represent a profound misunderstanding of the intent and content of the new test.

In fact, the Presidential Youth Fitness Program marks a fundamental shift in our national discourse on youth fitness.

As described in the PCFSN program materials, "The Presidential Youth Fitness Program places emphasis on the value of living a physically active and healthy lifestyle - in school and beyond."

Furthermore, Dr. Jayne Greenberg, a member of the PCFSN and school district administrator in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, notes that the program will "focus primarily on assessing health versus athleticism for America's youth."

So, basically, the test is no longer a tool for determining which kids won the athletic gene pool lottery. Now it's about assessing and tracking the health of American children. We at IHRSA wholeheartedly, unequivocally, and most enthusiastically applaud this new approach.

The need for this new test is urgent. While we celebrate the launch of the test, policymakers must also grapple with the "F as in Fat Report" released this month by the Trust for America's Health, which suggests that adult obesity rates could reach 60% in 13 states by 2030. All 50 states, according to the report, could experience obesity rates over 44% within 20 years.

We know that the causes of sedentary, unhealthy behaviors are varied and highly individualized, but surely the stigmatization of being labeled "unathletic" at an early age lingers destructively for many older Americans. In this new era of the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, young Americans will learn that physical activity is more than just a pull-up test or rope climb. They will learn that it's a gateway to a happier, healthier, and more productive life, regardless of one's ability to complete 60 sit-ups in one minute.

At IHRSA, we are committed to elevating and celebrating the best health club-based youth programs.

In a recent segment of IHRSA's "Ask an Industry Leader" series, we asked, "In a time when childhood obesity is at the forefront, what are good strategies for children/teen programming to get youth in my community more active and engaged in the club?"

Bill Parisi, Founder and CEO of Parisi Speed School, responded:

Youth fitness is all about motivation and engagement. Kids are noth thinking health and longevity, they want to have fun, be competitive, and most importantly, be accepted by their peers." [I also encourage clubs to] make your program inviting to the non-athlete by hiring staff who truly loves kids. The program itself does not have to be overly complicated, but it should be professional. You should have a respected youth performance brand, credible staff, and an environment that is motivating and professional.

What are some other successful strategies for creating effective youth programming?

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Childhood Obesity | Schools

Microtrends and Underappreciated Niches For Fitness Marketers & Programmers

by IHRSA August 29, 2012

In his book, Microtrends, famed pollster Mark Penn concludes, “The power of individual choice has never been greater, and the reasons and patterns for those choices never harder to understand and analyze. The skill of microtargeting—identifying small, intense subgroups and communicating with them about their individual needs and wants—has never been more critical in marketing or in political campaigns.”


Penn identifies these subgroups as “microtrends,” which he describes as “an intense identity group, that is growing, which has needs and wants unmet by the current crop of companies, marketers, policymakers, and others who would influence society’s behavior.”


The concept of microtrends naturally makes me wonder: Are there microtrends in America that could, if fully appreciated by fitness marketers and programmers, decrease the high rates of leisure-time inactivity of Americans? Below, I’ve created a list of three possible microtrends that may be under leveraged by fitness advocates. The list is surely not exhaustive and each subgroup is already the target of some form of outreach, but my sense is that more could be done for these groups. 


What do you think? Can more be done to target these subgroups? What are some other microtrends that could impact physical activity levels of Americans?

Primary Care Physicians Prescribing Exercise

In nearly every community in America, primary care physicians serve on the front lines in the battle against obesity, inactivity, and chronic disease management. And their influence is growing. Health system experts suggest that changes to the American health care system will require the hiring of 30,000 additional primary care physicians by 2015. Concurrently, influential health system thought leaders, such as Dr. Edward Phillips of the Institute of Lifestyle Medicine, have arranged events such as “White Coats, White Sneakers” to encourage more physicians to lead healthier lives. “The idea is to let the heath care providers set the pace,” says Dr. Phillips, “and let us encourage not just by asking or pointing or cajoling, but by saying ‘I’m making a change, follow me.’” These developments suggest that investing in the recruitment of a primary care physician to become more physically active may have wide benefits for the community.


Active Grandparents

I would argue that despite all the attention around “senior fitness,” individuals over 65 are still vastly under appreciated as a market, but here I am suggesting specifically “grandparents.” The vast majority of grandparents seem to perceive their grandchildren as deep and profound inspirations for vitality. Creative programming for this subgroup could focus, for example, on the physical capabilities necessary to keep up with a toddler, splash around with a preschooler, and/or cradle a newborn while standing or walking.


Individuals Diagnosed With Depression

According to Mental Health America, more than 19 million Americans suffer from depression each year and research indicates that exercise eases the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Sadly, many sufferers feel compelled to keep their condition private, which may prevent them from obtaining the necessary help.  Clearly, however, there is a greater need for outreach to Americans diagnosed or suffering from depression.


What are some other microtrends that could impact the physical activity rates of Americans?

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