Navy to keep base gyms open 24/7

by Vern Evans

Sailors will soon be able to work out at on-base fitness centers any time they want.

The Navy is instructing installation commanders to draft plans for keeping Morale, Welfare and Recreation, or MWR, fitness facilities open 24/7 so sailors can stay in top shape – regardless of their work schedule.

Since some sailors must stand duty at odd hours or work night shifts, the Navy said the change aims to allow all sailors to use the gyms and not have to seek off-base options.

“If we require our Sailors to be physically fit and healthy so they can fulfill the Navy mission and deploy at a moment’s notice, then we must provide the facilities and resources for them to do so,” Vice Adm. Scott Gray, commander of Navy Installations Command, said in a Navy news release. “Not only does this make sense, it is the right thing to do for the quality of life of our Sailors and other service members.”

Gray signed a memo on March 8 ordering installations at all 70 U.S. Navy bases around the world to go ahead with plans to accommodate the new hours.

The instruction allows fitness centers to remain staffed or unstaffed outside of normal business hours, but offers several rules to ensure patron safety when unstaffed. Such rules include barring guest access to the facilities, as well as closing off saunas, steam rooms, whirlpools, and aquatic spaces during unstaffed hours.

“Maximizing access to fitness facilities makes it more convenient for our Sailors,” Gray said. “We all know that exercise benefits one’s physical health, but it also reinforces mental, emotional, and social health, which are important for our Sailors’ overall wellbeing.”

While the facilities won’t implement the change immediately, the instruction outlines various steps such as conducting an operational risk assessment that commanding officers will take to get the ball rolling.

“When the fitness centers do open 24-7, authorized patrons will be asked to register and participate in a safety brief,” Navy Installations Command spokeswoman Coleen San Nicolas-Perez said in an email to Navy Times. “Some gyms will ask patrons to sign in while other centers will have Command Access Card (CAC) readers for patrons to enter.”

“We are currently reviewing and taking a hard look at all our policies that pertain to our base quality of life programs, and finding ways where we can do better for the benefit of our Sailors,” she said. “In other words, this is just the start.”

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