AN early-hours session on the rowing machine or pumping iron at dawn may not appeal to everyone.
But growing numbers of gym users in Scotland are turning to nighttime workouts to fit exercise in with busy lives or avoid the more intimidating environment in the day.
As the number of 24-hour gyms continues to rise, those already in operation say they have seen a significant jump in people working out past midnight. The key groups behind the increase are those who feel self-conscious about working out on busy gym floors and shift workers fitting exercise around their jobs.
Gym managers said in many cases clients would rather stay up late or get up early to work out than feel embarrassed exercising during more popular times.
Hugh Mullan, who with wife Cathy runs the Anytime Fitness gym in Glasgow’s West End, said they had been surprised at the numbers opting for nighttime workouts when they took up the franchise in December.
“What we find is that a lot of women in particular are self-conscious and the idea of a 24-hour gym where they can come either early morning or late at night when it is quieter is definitely something that appeals to them,” he said.
In the past month, the gym has seen almost 700 visits by users between 10pm and 7am, including around 200 between midnight and 2am. Mullan said the numbers using the gym at these times had steadily increased during the year.
Meanwhile, at PureGym at Edinburgh’s Ocean Terminal, manager Elaine Mitchell said around 40 people were now coming in between midnight and 6am on an average night.
She said those using the gym at these times included police officers, paramedics, entertainers and businessmen who had worked late sealing a deal and wanting to burn off their excess energy. Mitchell added: “There are also clients who are that bit shyer for different reasons, and at the peak times after work every single club across the world will be busy.
“But those who may be shy know that the club is quieter outside of these times and that’s when they can come.”
The Gym Group’s Waterloo Place venue in Edinburgh has also seen growth in out-of-hours users, with between 50 and 200 visiting each night between 11pm and 6am.
General manager Fraser Kennedy said: “The Monday to Friday, 9-5 thing for a lot of people is not standard anymore, so you do find people are training at more irregular hours.
“I think one reason is that people do not find it as intimidating training when it is less busy, particularly if you are new to the gym or slightly self-conscious.”
Among the growing group of people choosing to use the gym at less traditional hours is 62-year-old Kay Boyde.
Since joining Anytime Fitness in Glasgow in December, the retired nurse has lost 20kg, which she puts down to being able to go at 5am.
“I find it is more beneficial for me to go early because it’s quiet and you don’t have a lot of younger people who are super-fit who are there and interacting with each other,” she said.
“You might be older and slightly larger than them. But early in the morning you can get on, do your own thing. It’s more enjoyable and you meet people who are there to train and not to pose.”
Ginny McKenna, a police officer in Edinburgh, attends PureGym at Ocean Terminal after finishing her shifts, often after midnight.
“I can go straight after finishing work, so I could be there at 1, 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning,” the 50-year-old said.
“It is quiet enough at that time so you can get use of all the equipment. It is a nice relaxing atmosphere and it is nice that it’s available.”
McKenna added: “I think more people are now using the gym at night. Since I started training here 18 months ago I have seen an increase in people coming at night, taking advantage of the flexibility of the hours that are offered,” she said.
Kevin Tipton, professor of sport, health and exercise science at Stirling University, said that exercise at any time of the day or night was better than not exercising at all, even if that was at unusual hours.
“There are studies that show that certain people respond better to exercise at certain times of the day,” Tipton said.
“For example, some people are happiest exercising in the morning and they get the most out of it then, but other people can’t and they need to be exercising in the afternoons and will be able to do it better at those times.”
Tipton said people could adjust to exercising at different times based on their schedule. But he said it could be difficult for people whose work shifts meant their exercise schedule changed week by week.