The Joining Forces initiative, launched by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden to mobilize support for our service members and their families, calls attention to a critical wellness need in our country.
"The stress of war, multiple deployments, and frequent moves can affect the wellness of military families," notes the Joining Forces website. "Children and spouses can experience anxiety, changes in relationships with family and friends, isolation or emotional challenges in dealing with deployments, illness or injury, and high mobility."
To help meet the wellness needs of our military families, the International Health, Racquet, & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) President/CEO Joe Moore joined Mrs. Obama on the South Lawn of the White House on May 9th to announce the launch of the IHRSA Joining Forces Network - an affiliation of health clubs throughout the country that will offer free memberships to immediate family members of actively deployed reservists and National Guard members. The announcement took place at a health and wellness event for military families hosted by Mrs. Obama; the event combined the Joining Forces and Let's Move initiatives.
"The freedoms that each of us enjoys every day are possible because of the sacrifices that our nation's military families bear," said Joe Moore, IHRSA's President and CEO. "Joining Forces offers us an opportunity to provide these families with the support they are due."
The IHRSA Joining Forces Network hopes to offer at least 100,000 free health club memberships throughout the country - the equivalent of more than 18 million days of free access to health clubs and an estimated value of more than $30 million.
Participating clubs also may provide additional benefits, such as childcare, children's programming, group classes, discounts for veterans, and discounts for active duty families.
"Rooted in communities all across America, IHRSA health clubs stand ready to serve our nation's military families," said Moore. "We are here to offer them safe, supportive environments where they can exercise and find encouragement in their efforts to stay well through healthy lifestyle choices. We are deeply honored to be part of the Joining Forces and Let's Move initiatives."
Beginning June 1st, eligible military families can find participating clubs in their area online at www.healthclubs.com. The website also offers a free digital subscription to Get Active! Magazine, a consumer resource dedicated to promoting the benefits of safe and effective exercise, and offers useful advice on making healthy lifestyle choices.
We know, of course, that a free membership can't fully mitigate the stress of family life during a time of deployment, but we are confident that every offer of support matters. What are some other ways that physical activity organizations can support the troops? We'd love to hear what other organizations are doing.