ABBA booms from the CD player and many are donning new runners, like Christine Rowden.

"We've never had anything like this before and it's very exciting," she said.

Women in Norway House, Man., are getting into shape, building relationships and more at the first gym for women on a northern Manitoba First Nation.

The facility opened in the fall on the Norway House Cree Nation, thanks to a Winnipeg gym owner who donated equipment.

It offers everything from weights to yoga to Zumba classes for a $10 monthly fee — $20 for working women.

"We're all working together to get fit," said Rowden, who has lost 10 pounds to date.

"It made me feel better — like I can jump around, run a little bit. You know, before I couldn't even do that," said Emily Albert, another member.

"I love it. It's given me a lot of energy."

Caretakers of the community

Debra Vanderkhove, who owns a Curve's fitness centre in Winnipeg, slowly collected old equipment, refurbished everything and sent it by semi-trailer to the community.

She says she wanted to do something more for the women she has met while heading up the Norway House Animal Rescue, particularly band Coun. Florence Duncan.

April Anderson

Norway House resident April Anderson, who was recently diagnosed with diabetes, says a new gym for women that opened this past fall has helped her tremendously. (Jill Coubrough/CBC)

"One of the things that you find in a remote community is that the caretakers of the community not only look after their own children they look after their husbands … their elders … siblings, children," she said.

"So I felt it was really important to find a way for them to get away from everything, where they can do something just for themselves."

Amid reports of higher obesity and diabetes rates among aboriginal women, women at the new gym say it's offering them hope as well as exercise.

"It's important to me, starting to be healthy at my age," said April Anderson, 46, who was recently diagnosed with diabetes.

"I want to be a role model, too, for my daughter and my granddaughter, and so it's helped me tremendously."

Duncan said the new fitness centre is also building community.

"It's making a difference," she said. "It's a large population of women in Norway House, [and we've] begun to become friends."

Anderson agrees: "It's such a positive space for us…. It brings us together," she said.

Gym members say they hope similar facilities will open at other northern Manitoba First Nations.