If you find it hard to exercise during normal hours, it isn’t so difficult these days to find a fitness centre that’s always open.

And providing fitness clients with 24-hour access doesn’t have to be hugely expensive or difficult. The technology is more accessible than ever.

Twenty-four hour fitness centres are a relatively new phenomenon that took off five to eight years ago, says Ian Wilcock, business manager at Gladstone Health & Leisure, which supplies leisure management software in Australia and New Zealand.

The rising popularity of these centres meant a shift in technology, with providers like Gladstone adding functionality to existing software products.

Gladstone’s Plus2 leisure management software, for example, already facilitated membership management, financial transactions and other aspects of day-to-day operations for clients. The software now has added functionality that allows clients to manage 24 hour access for their members, Mr Wilcock says.

“The main issue is after hours access. The rules are stricter,” he says.

“Typically, clients only needed to access internal doors, as access to the building would be open, given they would enter during the day. And the facility was always staffed during those hours.”

“With 24-hour access, there are other considerations. If a health centre is inside a building, then the software needs to allow for access through the building doors. ”

The optimal way the software works is to integrate with the building’s security systems, he says.

Twenty-four hour access appeals to people who work non-traditional hours. There are also people who prefer to work out when there are few others around them. Working out at 3 a.m. may seem like a tough proposition, but may feel like the next best thing to working out in a home gym.

The ability to access the gym at any time of day or night may only appeal to a relatively small number of gym goers. But fitness centres like to be able to offer the option to their clients.

“Having the capacity to open 24 hours is not so much about high demand as it is about making sure our club services the needs of all members. If one of our members can’t access our centre at 2 a.m., then they’ll have to join another centre that allows them to do it,” says fitness manager Neil Locke.

Mr Locke is regional manager of South Pacific Health Clubs, which operates six fitness facilities across Melbourne. About a year ago, the company made 24-hour access possible at one of its clubs. Now there are three that offer this added service.

“There are no staff during those hours. The way it works is that there are surveillance cameras in the club, except in the changing rooms. There are also panic buttons around the place. The club works with a surveillance company. When someone hits the panic button, this prompts the surveillance company to send someone to inspect,” Mr Locke says.

South Pacific Health Clubs offers its clients off-street access to the centres.
Mr Locke expects that at some point most of the company’s Melbourne gyms will offer 24-hour access to members.

“We’ll eventually offer it across our clubs, but it does depend on their location. In some residential areas, the local council might not approve the move because it believes this might be disruptive for residents. The fact is very few visitors turn up between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m. and they tend to be single visitors rather than groups. They’re unlikely to cause a disturbance.”

Mr Locke says the cost of setting up 24-hour access is manageable. South Pacific Health Clubs spent $AUD 40,000 on the upgrade per club, which includes enhanced software, as well as video surveillance, signage and sensor alarms.

“With an increase in membership sales, the cost is acceptable. It’s worth the investment if you’re thinking long term,” he says.

Some centres choose to charge their clients for 24-hour access, but that’s not a choice South Pacific Health Clubs considered, Mr Locke says.

People who use the gym after hours tend to do so in the hours immediately following closure.

“Most clubs tend to close at 9 p.m. and what we’re finding is that a lot of people come in between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. We might get a handful of people between 11.30 and 4.30, mostly shift workers like chefs and taxi drivers.”

The 24-hour gym isn’t for everyone, but fitness centres that want to stay in the game see it as a must, which means demand for the added software functionality is still there, Mr Wilcock says.

“Twenty-four hour access is where the added functionality of our Plus2 leisure management software has found its niche,” Mr Wilcock says. “It’s unclear what the future holds, but for the moment, there’s a market for it.”