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IHRSA Foundation Mid-Year Updates

Posted: October 20, 2021 in IHRSA

The IHRSA FoundationThe IHRSA Foundation

BOSTON, MA – The IHRSA Foundation was established in 2012 with a core mission: to promote health through exercise. The importance of “health through exercise,” has never been more apparent than in the last 18 months.

As a global pandemic took its toll, the importance of physical activity for physical health, mental health and even protection against more severe COVID-19 outcomes became more evident, so too has the need to create inclusive, equitable access to opportunities to be physically active for people of all ages and abilities.

The IHRSA Foundation shared many exciting updates in our 2020 Annual Report including:

  • IHRSA’s commitment to the IHRSA Foundation’s financial future, dedicating 1% of all revenues to the IHRSA Foundation starting January 2021,
  • Ongoing projects, including the Special Olympics Inclusive Health Innovation Grant,
  • The launch of consumer research in collaboration with ABC and ClubIntel, and
  • Ongoing consumer messaging campaign developing with ClearView Insights.

What’s New Since June?

Completed the “Building Capacity to Expand Inclusion of People with Intellectual Disability in Mainstream Fitness” Project

Through 2020 and 2021 IHRSA Foundation worked with support from the Special Olympics Inclusive Health Innovation Grant, supported by the CDC, on a project to raise awareness and develop educational resources to help health clubs include more people with intellectual disabilities (ID) in the mainstream fitness experience.

The project was completed on June 30, 2021, and resulted in:

  • Reporting of survey data providing insights from participants with ID and their experiences using health and fitness clubs,
  • Insights and considerations from health and fitness operators around disability inclusion,
  • A comprehensive toolkit on expanding inclusion of people with ID in mainstream fitness, and
  • Compiled page of resources from Special Olympics, IHRSA Foundation, and American Council on Exercise on the inclusion of people with ID in fitness.

These resources are available on

Finished Testing the ReConnect Campaign Messaging in Consumers

The IHRSA Foundation—with support from industry stakeholders—engaged ClearView Insights to develop an effective, evidence-based, consumer-facing message promoting physical activity and exercise, including fitness centers.

ClearView has tested messaging with the 80% of consumers who do not exercise at clubs or studios via paid social media advertising. Additionally, Headlight Group Members, select IHRSA Board Members, and a few long-time IHRSA members helped test various messages with existing gym members through clearly defined posts on company social media channels with ClearView monitoring the resulting engagement levels.

ClearView concluded that the messaging about fitness positively impacting mental well-being resonated with existing gym members and non-members. In particular, consumers recognize exercise provides a form of instant gratification via mood improvement.

The aim at the start was to create a rallying cry; what emerged instead was a rationale or a theme—a blue ocean of how the industry can effectively message where there are no competitors. Moving forward, IHRSA and the IHRSA Foundation will promote the concepts from this campaign to industry leaders and will also develop a toolkit with tools for any company that wants turn-key resources.

The outcomes of this research were shared throughout IHRSA 2021. Keep an eye out for:

  • An interview with Daniel Krieglstein, Ph.D., Executive Director of Behavioral Design for ClearView Insights, in the October 2021 issue of CBI, available to all attendees, and,
  • Discussion of campaign concepts during IHRSA 2021 Global Think Tank.

Completed a Survey of Faith Leaders on Modeling and Facilitating Healthy Behavior Change

Early in 2021, the IHRSA Foundation teamed up with the Caritate Life Enhancement Foundation and Victory Outreach Reno on a project aiming to help church leaders in predominantly Latin American and Hispanic communities guide and support their congregations in making healthy lifestyle changes. The survey was completed and findings and recommendations were shared with stakeholders in August.

Published the “Next Fitness Consumer: 10 Key Findings” Report

The IHRSA Foundation—in collaboration with ABC Fitness Solutions—conducted a consumer study to understand the underlying motivations and barriers related to physical activity. The study, conducted by ClubIntel, was based on survey results of a nationwide sample of 2,000 Americans ages 18 and older.

The results are compiled in the report “The Next Fitness Consumer: 10 Key Findings” available on The findings were also presented in an August webinar and will also be shared in a virtual session “Preparing for the Next Fitness Consumer – How to Be Successful for 2022 and Beyond” on Wednesday at 4:15 PM. That recording will also be available until December.

Launched a Project, Supported by the John W. Brick Foundation, to Promote Mental Health Education and Awareness for Fitness Professionals

In June 2021, IHRSA Foundation received funding from the John W. Brick Foundation for a project that will assess knowledge, confidence, capacity, and current practice around addressing mental health in the fitness setting and provide resources for fitness industry professionals to address mental health in their facilities.

Outcomes of this project will include a survey report, educational resources, and an awareness campaign.

New and Improved Look

In June of 2021, the IHRSA Foundation debuted a new website to increase awareness and education about the Foundation’s ongoing work and important initiatives. Outcomes produced from projects will be available on this page.

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