The halfway point in the “Congressman Jim Moran Community Health Challenge” has been reached. For those of you who don’t know, in an effort to promote healthy living, I teamed up with Falls Church’s own Vantage Fitness back in May to hold a community health event challenging Northern Virginians to get in shape. For anyone who loses more weight than me between May 5th and November 4th, I will donate $1 per pound to the Greater Falls Church Chamber of Commerce.
In a report from the frontlines, I’m happy to note that since May, I’ve lost a little over 20 pounds. In addition to cutting down on my caloric intake, I, like most people, rely on exercise to get trim. Unlike many Americans, my workplace, the U.S. House of Representatives, has an exercise facility readily available for early-morning, late-evening or lunch-time workouts.
From first-hand experience, I can attest to the value of being able to workout in the workplace. Your energy level increases, mental acuity is stronger and stress is decreased. For employers, promoting fitness increases worker output and makes for a better functioning office environment.
In an effort to promote fitness in the workforce, I have cosponsored legislation, the “Workforce Health Improvement Program Act” (WHIP Act, H.R. 1634) which would make the cost of fitness center memberships a tax exempt benefit for all employees, whether the exercise facility is in-house or located off-site. The bill would also affirm an employer’s existing right to deduct the cost of subsidizing or providing fitness center benefits for its employees. This legislation would exclude the benefit from being considered income for employees, making employer contributions to the cost of fitness center fees exempt from an employee’s income tax.
Current tax law requires employees to pay income tax on any fitness center fringe benefit an employer provides unless the fitness center is located at their work site. The employees of firms unable to provide a fitness center in-house face a tax code that hinders their ability to benefit from these fitness center subsidies. The WHIP Act would correct this inequity.
Giving more American workers access and incentive to hit the gym carries many personal and collective economic benefits, not the least being healthcare savings stemming from the fact that fit, healthier individuals go to the doctor less and are less susceptible to chronic illness. To all of you who are participating in the community challenge, keep eating right, getting regular exercise, and I’ll see you at the scales in November.