Sask. gym joins call for physical fitness tax deduction from Ottawa
YORKTON -- A local gym owner has teamed up with the Fitness Industry Council (FIC) of Canada to lobby the federal government for tax deductions on physical fitness.
In addition to the tax deduction, FIC is also hoping to see a Prescription to Get Active program roll out nationally. The program would see doctors giving patients a prescription to “get active” and would all gyms to fill the prescription by giving patients limited free access to its facilities.
Jolene de Vries, who is the head of Saskatchewan for the FIC of Canada, said these programs will help improve the health of Canadians.
"We know that when doctors prescribe physical activity…it helps people become healthier and that we can help them make a difference in their lives," said de Vries.
The Anytime Fitness locations co-owned by de Vries in Esterhazy and Yorkton accept fitness prescriptions from some doctors and massage therapists in the area. A prescription translates to a month of free membership and training.
"We know that diet and exercise can actually save lives and that's what we're here to do," she said.
Live Well Exercise Clinic in Regina is also using these prescriptions at their locations – offering a private session and training plans.
Founder and CEO Sara Hodson said the Prescription to Get Active program is about helping a doctor give their patients more resources.
"We know the evidence to show that exercise is medicine,” said Hodson, adding the clinic has seen diabetics cut down on insulin injections and members cut down on anti-depressants.
She said for the FIC, the approach is to have any fitness membership or service considered a medical expense, not just for those with a prescription.
"It's not necessarily that you have to have a chronic condition, it's anybody who's inactive. If you're not meeting the recommended 150 minutes a week of moderate to vigorous physical activity you can really benefit from a program like this," explained FIC president Scott Wildeman.
Hodson presented the initiative to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and has asked the federal government for fitness services to be considered a medical expense.
According to Wildeman, Freeland said the ask was very specific and actionable with the infrastructure already existing.
"[On] our end of it, we have professionals from coast-to-coast-to-coast and we're ready willing and able to help Canadians," continued Wildeman.
The FIC is currently looking to raise awareness for the initiative and is hoping those who agree will show their support and write to their MPs and MLAs.