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Fit in fitness without stepping a foot in the gym

It's the same thing year after year - a new year rolls around and many people will dust off their athletic shoes, pull out their wallet and fork over a wad of cash for a gym membership.

This year I'm going to stick to it, drop some weight and shape myself into a healthier, better looking person, they say.

It sounds like a great plan but let's face it, January, February and soon March pass by and gradually the treadmills become easier and easier to find open for those remaining gym goers.

Now you're back in the same position you were in originally, except one thing has changed. Spring is here and how will you fit into that bathing suit?

Carving out the time to devote to the gym can be difficult, even for those with the best of intentions. After all, a structured workout is not always the answer for everyone.

If you fit in this category, it may be time to take a look at other options.

There are some simple ways you can fit fitness into your life without ever stepping a foot in the gym. Keep in mind that small changes to your habits can result in big changes to your health, if you stick with them over time.

Try these healthy habits:

Exercise your body's large muscle groups. Take the stairs when possible. In today's newer buildings the elevator is often front and center. It may take a bit more effort to locate the stairs. Once you do, it'll be worth your while. Exercising large muscle groups, like those in your legs, will help you burn more calories.

Don't sit. Stand. If you are on the computer a lot, find a surface high enough to let you work on your feet. Again, you will be using your calorie-burning muscle mass; in addition you will be using the little stabilizing muscles that assist with balance.

Walk the dog, walk your toddler, walk with friends. Walk the mall. Just steer clear of unhealthy food sources along the way, which will only sabotage your efforts.

So, you've won the employee of the month award and get to park in the reserved space close to the door. Turn it down. Park at the far end of the parking lot. This will require you to walk just a little bit more.

If your destination is just down the street or around the corner, don't drive but walk instead. You will not only burn calories and improve your fitness level, you will also see people and things you would miss otherwise.

Make these small steps a habit and you'll be better off health-wise in 2010. Because the body gets used to daily habits involving exercise, be sure to mix it up. No one knows, or can change, your daily routine more than you.