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An Open letter from Chris Clawson, Life Fitness President 

Dear Life Fitness Partner, 

I’m writing to you today to address a critical issue that affects both the well-being of America’s future and the health industry: the Inactivity Pandemic. We’re addressing this problem at a crucial time in history, and I’m encouraging you to take part and help make a change.

For the past several years, I have been on the Board of Directors for the Sports Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) and, as of earlier this year, I began my new role as the Chairman, replacing my good friend Bob Puccini, President of Mizuno USA. SFIA was founded in 1906 as the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association and its purpose has continuously evolved to include all forms of sporting activities, fitness and industry research. The SFIA mission is “To Promote Sports and Fitness Participation and Industry Vitality.” 

With its history as a backdrop, SFIA embarked on changing the landscape in the United States more than fifteen years ago as a leading advocate for the Carol M. White Physical Education Program (PEP), which provides the only federal funding for physical education for schools K – 12.  

Administered by the Department of Education in the form of school district grants, PEP is aimed at overcoming inactivity and preventing obesity. When considering that 48% of all high schools have no physical education program and the average yearly school budget for physical education is only $764 for the entire school, you can see how dire this effort has become. 

Life Fitness and our parent company, Brunswick, are active participants on Capitol Hill during each year’s National Health Through Fitness Day, which takes place in March and includes sports and fitness industry leaders, sports celebrities, and major sporting league officials – plus folks that just want to be part of the dramatic shifts that are required to get America moving toward a healthier horizon. The SFIA also brings in experts who share our passion from education, medicine and other industry associations, to make the most compelling argument we can to our elected officials. 

We recently expanded our ambitious goals to include passing the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act, which aligns well with our philosophy and prior initiatives. In 2006, SFIA teamed up with our friends at the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) to promote tax incentives aimed at easing the financial burden for individuals and families looking to improve their well-being. The PHIT Act expands the Internal Revenue Service’s definition of qualified medical expenses to include physical activity as a form of prevention, allowing consumers to use money in pre-tax medical accounts (HSAs, FSAs, etc.) to pay for fitness equipment, health and fitness club memberships, personal training, sports equipment, as well as league and race entry fees. This is a game changer for our country, our citizens and—most importantly—for our future. The PHIT Act will give Americans an incentive to be active and healthy.

To this end, SFIA has partnered with PHIT America, a non-profit organization and campaign, to promote the benefits of exercise as we address the Inactivity Pandemic that is upon us today. After more than a decade, we are on the precipice of seeing the PHIT Act legislation pass with balanced, bi-partisan support in both the House of Representatives and the Senate with momentum building around the cause.  

This is where you come in. In my 30+ years in the sports and fitness industry, this is the most important time for us to pull together and help in every way we can. This help begins with understanding what we’re trying to do today to improve tomorrow. I encourage each of you to click on the links and get familiar with the progress we are making. You are all able to support the cause in many ways, including attending the National Health Through Fitness Day or by contacting our local congress person to push for the passage of the PHIT Act. We can also support this initiative by understanding how this major shift in the definition of qualified medical expenses would not only change the country, but our respective businesses. Ultimately, all club memberships, personal and group training classes, as well as fitness equipment and gear would be recognized as key factors in a creating and maintaining healthy lifestyle. Thus, they would fall under pre-tax medical account coverage.

We are also working with PHIT America and Kids in the Game to supply GO! Grants for school based programs. In 2015, GO! Grants helped 50,000 kids get off the couch and active. 

Embrace this opportunity and be part of the solution to support the future and our businesses. We don’t want to lose traction in 2016 and risk ‘business as usual’ in Washington, so please don’t be a bystander just hoping for the best. Make a difference and make this a priority! 

If you want more information on all the things we are doing, please contact Jim Baugh (jim@phitamerica.org), Founder of PHIT America, former President of Wilson and Sports Industry Hall of Fame inductee. He is working with Life Fitness and other brands to help create a more active, fit and healthy America. 

Healthy regards,  
Chris Clawson 
President 
Life Fitness

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