TWO friends who have seen the real benefits of exercise have launched their own family friendly fitness centre in Blackwood.

Wales’ first ‘Us Girls’ Hub, which encourages women of all ages to take part in physical activity, opened its doors on Monday, February 10.

The centre is the brainchild of Mel Gill, 39, of Oakdale, and Claire Williams, 40, of Blackwood, who saw a gap in the exercise market three years ago when they launched Diva Sport.

Ms Gill said: “We were both single parents who found it hard to exercise when we worked full time because we felt guilty leaving the children.”

After discussions, both women set up classes where people were encouraged to bring along their children so they could play together. As well as holding Zumba, kettlebell and Bokwa sessions, Diva Sport also runs classes for the whole family.

Many of their clients have taken inspiration from Ms Gill and Ms Williams, with the latter having lost nearly five stone in weight and coming off antidepressants after beginning the venture.

Ms Williams, who has gone from a size 24 to a size 16 since launching Diva Sport, said: “We understand how hard it is to take that first step into a class to start your exercise journey, we have been there.

“We know you worry about what clothes to wear, the fear that everyone else in the class will be fitter than you, and will know what they are doing, that you won’t be able keep up and everything else that goes through your mind with self-doubt. We know because that is us.”

Both have been supported by the sport charity Streetgames, which encourages youngsters from disadvantaged communities to participate in sport.

Caro Wild, the charity’s manager in Wales, said: “We’re always excited when we work with the Diva Sport girls as they’re experts in getting young women, from some of the most deprived communities in Wales, active and playing sport. The fact Claire and Mel have also taken the brave decision to start and then grow their own business is a real inspiration.”