An Open Letter to our Government: “Help us help Canadians”

An Open Letter to our Government: “Help us help Canadians”
By Fitness Industry Council of Canada

By Fitness Industry Council of Canada

We are writing on behalf of every Canadian who owns a fitness facility, of every Canadian who needs the support and guidance to start a physical activity habit, and every person who lacks energy because they live in a sedentary body, who feels stuck and needs a solution.

 

We need physical activity more than ever.

 

Exercise is proven to be one of the most effective and underprescribed medications for the prevention and treatment of chronic health diseases. A recent study revealed exercise is more effective than medication for treating depression, and must be considered as a front-line treatment. As we mark three years of the pandemic, we now know physical inactivity is directly correlated with higher rates of hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

 

Given that physical activity has such a profound impact on our lives shouldn’t we inspire and incentivize Canadians to get active? Shouldn’t exercise be considered medicine?

 

Last month, Liberal MP Adam Van Koerverden, in a media interview said: “The more we invest in health, the less we need to invest in health care.” And yet, government health ministers reached an historic 10-year $196.1 billion dollar health funding deal that same week for the provinces and territories – none of which is specifically targeted to health promotion.

 

We treat illness – we do not prevent it.

 

Senator Marty Deacon echoed Van Koerverden: “Healthy living is going to result in healthier people in an aging population, We need to make sure we are promoting health, which involves physical activity, mental health, social health.”

 

This is what happens inside Canadian fitness facilities.

 

We improve the health of Canadians daily. We reduce rates of chronic health conditions, anxiety and depression; our members come to relieve stress, to manage their heart disease, to fight cancer to improve their immune system and stay healthy.. When we were shut down in the pandemic, members reported significant declines in physical and mental health. Our facilities are staffed by trained professionals – from qualified exercise professionals to university-educated kinesiologists – whose priority is improving health.

 

Given what we know about the power of physical activity, why will the government not allow Canadians to claim their gym membership as a medical expense on their taxes? Why are we not providing an incentive for Canadians to get healthier? Why are we not rewarding Canadians who engage in physical activity?

 

In 2021 and 2022, Fitness Industry Council of Canada submitted a proposal to the government to allow gym memberships to be considered as a medical expense, revising line 33099 – a tax line that already exists. In both years, this budget request was declined. There were hundreds of other priorities that took precedence.

 

With all due respect, what is a greater priority than our health?

 

At what stage are we going to acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that physical activity is the number one thing Canadians can do to lower their risk of chronic illness and improve their mental health? Many Canadians have no idea where to begin – which is one of the reasons they are sedentary. They are afraid of hurting themselves. They need the help of trained professionals.

 

Gyms are not luxury items: We are a necessity.

 

The Fitness Industry Council of Canada has once again submitted a budget proposal to revise Line 33099 and allow Canadians to include gym memberships as a medical expense on their taxes. In July 2021, the Province of Newfoundland introduced a Physical Activity Tax Credit to incentivize their population to embrace an active lifestyle. A 2021 survey showed that 59% of inactive Canadians join a gym if they could claim it as a medical expense.

 

We can no longer ignore the science, nor the data. In November 2022, the World Health Organization issued a directive to world leaders – improve levels of physical activity, or face the consequences. Physical inactivity costs the Canadian healthcare system $5.2 billion dollars, of which $3.6 is borne by the public health system. Productivity loss from lack of sufficient activity is estimated at $10.5 billion dollars.

 

Are we going to wait for a pandemic of inactivity to cripple us?

 

Canadians need the fitness industry.

 

Help us help Canadians.

 

Help us to help you.

 

Revise Line 33099.

 

Sincerely,

Sara Hodson, President of FItness Industry Council of Canada

Gabriel Hardy, Executive Director of Fitness Industry Council of Canada

Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC) is the not-for profit trade association that represents the voice of fitness facility operators across Canada. Representing more than 6,000 facilities with more than six-million members nationwide, FIC pursues a legislative agenda in the hope of bettering the fitness industry for both consumers and operators. FIC aims to work with both industry and government to improve the health and physical activity levels of Canadians.

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