Senator Kevin Hertel: Movement is Medicine

Kevin Hertel, Democratic Senator from Michigan 12th District & Chair Senate Health Policy Committee, joins Michigan Moves Coalition president Michael Stack to discuss his perspective on Movement as Mental Health Medicine.

Movement as Mental Health Medicine

Numerous studies show a clear correlation between higher levels of physical activity and improved mental health. Furthermore, the American Psychological Association recognizes physical activity and exercise as a viable complimentary therapeutic intervention, to be used in conjunction with talk therapy. A large, and growing, body of evidence suggests physical activity is as, if not more, effective as some drug therapies for treating depression and anxiety.

Despite the promising role physical activity and exercise can play in improving mental health it remains underutilized. A 2022 survey of mental health providers in the State of Michigan, conducted by the Michigan Fitness Club Association, found that the vast majority of providers viewed physical activity/exercise as an important intervention to utilize, but few actually implemented in their practice. Many providers cited a lack of competence in effectively prescribing a physical activity or exercise regime for a patient.

Given the current mental health crisis facing America, all solutions must be on the table to combat the growing rates of mental illness at all ages. This webinar will bring together experts from mental health, public health, medicine, and physical activity as well as lawmakers who are supportive of advancing policy to encourage physical activity to improve mental health. The discussion will focus on the following areas:

  • Current mental health trends
  • The role of physical activity & exercise in mental health: review of research & mechanisms
  • Interventions currently underway to use physical activity to improve mental health
  • Opportunities to expand the use of physical activity and exercise in mental health treatment Intended Audience: mental health providers, public health professionals, healthcare providers, fitness/exercise professionals and anyone looking to improve the mental health of their community


  • Ashley Bradshaw, MPH: Michigan Department of Health & Human Services – Physical Activity and Nutrition Unit
  • Dr. Rebecca Hasson, PhD: Associate Professor of Movement Science University of Michigan
  • Dr Patricia Deldin, PhD: Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry University of Michigan

Moderator: Michael Stack, Chair – Michigan Moves

Using Movement as Mental Health Medicine

Current scientific evidence suggests that physical activity and exercise are cost-effective, efficacious, and low-risk treatment modalities for improving mental health. Despite this widely held view in the peer-reviewed literature, other research suggests that physical activity and exercise are underutilized treatment modalities. Recent data from the Medical/Science Advisory Board of the Michigan Fitness Club Association (MFCA) supports these broader findings.

In August of 2022, the MFCA conducted a survey of mental health professionals, in the State of Michigan, on the role physical activity and exercise interventions play in treatment of mental illness, and improvement of mental health. While many of these professionals surveyed view exercise and physical activity as viable treatments, few stated they used them often. The most common reasons given for the limited use were lack of knowledge, education, time, and resources on the use of these interventions.

Based on the findings from this survey, as well as the broader evidence, the MFCA is hosting a webinar to address the knowledge, education, and resource gap mental health providers cited in the survey. This webinar will explore:

  • The emerging research on the role physical activity and exercise interventions play in the treatment of mental illness
  • Evidence-based recommendations for physical activity and exercise interventions for common mental health disorders
  • Referral pathways to connect mental health providers with qualified community resources in the health/fitness sector
  • Q/A segment where attendees can ask questions of our expert panel


  • Dr. John Evans, PH.D: Director of Mental Conditioning for BLND Health. He works with clients as a Certified Mental Performance Consultant using mindfulness and the Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) framework.
  • Dr. Tom Rifai, MD: Nationally renowned medical expert in metabolic health, wellbeing and weight management. He now serves as Medical and Wellness Director for Magna International, as well being the CEO of Reality Meets Science Inc., a health tech company.
  • Marissa Chabai, LPC: Licensed Professional Counselor for BLND Health. She has specialized in several mental health arenas including trauma/complex PTSD, domestic violence, anxiety/depression, personality disorders, interpersonal relationship conflict, body image, and overall health and wellness.
  • Michael Stack, ACSM-EP: Faculty Lecturer for the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology. Host of the Wellness Paradox Podcast. Founder/CEO of Applied Fitness Solutions. Board Member Michigan Fitness Clubs Association.
Using SBAM Benefits to Attract & Retain Fitness Club Employees

The labor climate is incredibly challenging right now in all industries. The fitness industry faces particular challenges given so many of our employees left the industry during COVID. As we struggle to staff our clubs as members come back, many club owners and operators are looking for solutions.

Fortunately the MFA has partnered with the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) to provide these very solutions for our member clubs.

During this webinar Sherry Bryan, SBAM Director of Strategic Partnerships will join MFA board member Michael Stack for interview-based conversation on how to get the most out of SBAM member benefits, specifically related to attracting and retaining employees (keep in mind all MFA member clubs receive a free SBAM membership).

The webinar if free for any health and fitness club owner/operator in the State of Michigan. You do not need to be an MFCA member club to attend. The webinar will also include an interactive Q & A segment.

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn about accessing resources to assist your club in attracting and retaining the employees that make you facility the hub for health and wellbeing in your community.

The Fitness Industry Punches Back: Governmental Advocacy for a Stronger Future

Being told we, as the fitness industry, we not essential to health during a health crisis was a gut punch many of us could barely take. Being lumped in with bars, restaurants, and casinos was a punch square to the jaw. Although we were staggered by this one-two punch, it wasn’t a knockout blow. If anything, this seems to represent a turning point for our industry, a “never again” moment that is a true inflection point.

The COVID-19 pandemic, indeed, reshaped all industries, however maybe none in a more galvanizing way than the fitness and health club industry. This might seem like an odd statement considering it is estimated that nearly one-third of health clubs and fitness center may close permanently by the end of 2021. As dire, and truly sad, as that statistic is it doesn’t reveal what has happened “behind the scenes” in our industry. Gym owner/operators came together, in many cases for the first time ever, to form ad hoc state alliances to advocate for the industry in the face closures and restrictions. Nationally, IHRSA (the trade association for the industry) restructured and reorganized, bringing in an interim CEO, who along with many industry advocates across the country, attempted to shepherd the industry through this existential crisis. Coming out the other side of the pandemic the momentum hasn’t slowed, if anything it’s accelerating at a rapid pace.

IHRSA has hired a new, long-term, CEO in Liz Clark who brings a wealth of lobbying and political experience to the organization from her years in Washington DC. State alliances in some states (like Michigan) are honing their focus and strategizing for the future. Other states are forming their alliance’s seeing the importance of state level advocacy. Coming off the heels of the first IHRSA tradeshow since the pandemic, there is a very palpable sense that dramatic change is afoot. Not just change to ensure we are never shutdown again, but the change to make us part of the healthcare delivery system.

In order to achieve such a lofty goal, the industry needs more than ideas and passion. We need organization and execution. How state alliances collaborate with IHRSA on a national level and how IHRSA disseminates information to the state alliances is absolutely critical infrastructure that must be built.

The purpose of this webinar is to provide education on initiatives at the state and national to respond to current legislative and policy threats and opportunities. Likewise, this webinar will layout the ongoing work to develop a coordinator infrastructure between state alliances and IHRSA at a national level.


  • Alyssa Tushman: Owner, Burn Fitness, Vice-Chair Michigan Fitness Association
  • Bryan Rief: CEO PF Michigan Group, Chair Michigan Fitness Association
  • Tom Richards: Principal at The Activist In Motion (representing IHRSA)
  • Jeff Perkins: Vice President of Government Relations at IHRSA

Moderator: Michael Stack, CEO Applied Fitness Solutions Board Member Michigan Fitness Association