Did you know that lack of physical activity contributes to some 300,000 deaths each year in the United States from heart disease, stroke, diabetes and other conditions? According to the National Center for Health Statistics, less than 3 in 10 Americans exercise regularly─despite the proven health benefits. Fitness is an essential key to vibrant energy, a positive outlook, reaching/maintaining a healthy weight, and disease prevention across the board.

Once you get into the exercise groove, it won’t take long to notice how much better you feel, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally too. A healthy, strong body truly is your natural state─go claim it! Even the busiest among us can do so. If you’re not an exercise buff yet, here are a few ideas to work fitness into your free time:

Play with your kids

While it’s easy to get caught up in housework, taking time to play with kids is a win for everyone. Not only will they be thrilled, but you’ll burn calories and have fun too. Get out and kick a soccer ball, throw a Frisbee, jog along while they bike/skate, walk the dog, push tots in a stroller, or do squats/lunges/planks on the grass while kids swing and slide. You’ll be amazed at the results you get from casual efforts if they’re consistent, especially if you seek out hills for walks and hikes and use wrist weights.

Take up gardening

Depending on where you live, you can garden much of the year. Whether it’s flowers, veggies, fruit or simple landscaping, helping things grow is terrific therapy and can be quite a decent workout too. Garden work utilizes all the major muscle groups─legs, glutes, arms, shoulders, back and abs─helping you increase flexibility, build strength and burn calories. In fact, the National Institute of Health lists gardening for 30-45 minutes among its recommended fitness activities to combat obesity.

Walk while you chat

Next time you’re planning a coffee date with a friend, consider a walk or hike together instead. You can still chat one-on-one, and you’ll both get your daily fitness in as well. If you like talking socially on the phone, designate that as your walking time. An earpiece will leave hands free for arm exercises with your wrist weights. Why not maximize your calorie burn while also toning arms and shoulders for that halter dress or tank top?

Revamp your TV time

Considering that that the average American watches approximately 153 hours of TV every month,1 it makes sense to re-think lounge time. It’s as easy as a mat on the floor and a can-do spirit. Yoga stretches, planks, push-ups, squats, lunges, or arm exercises with your hand weights as you enjoy your show will make a measurable difference over time. Need more motivation? You’ll be setting a superb example for your family! Kids emulate what parents do far more than what they say.

If you want to track your progress, take some measurements now─arms, stomach, thighs, and hips─and re-measure in a month. If you’re already a gym habitué, incorporate these actions too and you’ll really see some upgraded definition. These tips should get you started, in any case. So, are you in?

1 http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/americans-watching-more-tv-than-ever/