Sailors Will Now Get 24/7 Access to All Base Gyms Under Navy's New Policy

Navy sailor bench presses weights
Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 3rd Class Jack Hawkins, assigned to the Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 3 on Naval Air Station North Island, bench presses weights during the 2013 Bench Press Competition at the Sports Warehouse Gym. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Katarzyna Kobiljak)

Navy gyms will soon be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to a press release from Navy Installations Command.

The commander of Navy Installations Command, Vice Adm. Scott Gray, signed a memorandum authorizing the change March 8. Installation commanding officers were given permission to immediately begin implementing the change across all 70 Navy bases around the globe.

"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," Gray said in the press 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."

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Navy Installations Command did not return a request for comment on whether there was a deadline for commanders to open the gyms around the clock.

The change stems from the desire to help sailors who were working outside of regular hours, such as those on night shifts, and were forced to find sometimes costly alternatives. The benefit that physical fitness also has on the individual well-being of a sailor, including their mental and social health, was a motivation for the change, Gray said.

According to the press release, the fitness centers do not have to be staffed outside of regular business hours, which were not specified in the release. While a gym is unstaffed, the statement said, guests will not be allowed, and all pools, saunas and steam rooms will be off-limits.

The Navy has shifted many of its physical fitness policies over the last few years to reflect a focus on retention and the post-COVID 19 well-being of its sailors. In November, the Navy nixed its requirement for a postpartum fitness test within a year of sailors giving birth.

In an administrative memo released denoting the change, the Navy said that "sailors should [instead] participate in a progressive and appropriate exercise program, as soon as medically authorized." The Navy was the only branch that had the requirement and canceled it after receiving feedback from sailors and the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery's Office of Women's Health.

In an effort to help with the sea service's retention and recruitment issues, the Navy also wiped sailors' slates clean early last year of any failed fitness tests. Previously, a failed physical readiness test, or PRT, the Navy's annual required fitness assessment, would affect a sailor's ability to reenlist. But the February 2023 change would help sailors "when considering authority to reenlist, advance, promote, or execute other career continuation transitions such as extensions and duty station transfers," the branch said in the memo.

According to the Navy's standing rules, a sailor's first failure during a physical fitness assessment, which combines both a sailor's PRT scores and their body composition, results in them being placed in their command's mandatory fitness program, as well as some restrictions on advancement. A second consecutive failure means a sailor's time in the Navy is effectively over. They cannot advance, and they are ineligible for reenlistment.

The 2023 memo didn't change those requirements, but it reflected what Rear Adm. James Waters, director of the Navy's Personnel Plans and Policy Division, said at the time was "a recognition that we don't want to punish sailors because gyms were closed during the pandemic. We don't want to disadvantage sailors."

In the press release highlighting the expanded availability of Navy fitness centers, Gray echoed that sentiment.

"Maximizing access to fitness facilities makes it more convenient for our sailors," he said, regardless of when they're standing duty.

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