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5 easy ways to lead a more active life

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When you live in a bustling city like Chicago, it can be tough to find a place to fit fitness into your life. Between work, family, friends and volunteer opportunities, sometimes the last thing on our list is the gym. That's OK because the gym isn't a mandatory part of leading a healthy, active life. By adjusting a few minor details, you can start making healthy habits that will stick.

1. Try at least one new activity every month. It may seem daunting at first, but taking a new fitness class or trying a new form of exercise spices things up and keeps you from getting stuck in a fitness rut. Maybe that means taking up yoga or maybe it means hopping on a bike for a killer spin class. Whatever your choice may be, pledging to sample new active options can mean the difference between a healthy lifestyle and a couch potato.

2. Buy a bike. So it may not be prime biking weather in Chicago at this exact moment, but guess what? That means your odds of finding a great deal on a new set of (two) wheels just went up! Buy a bike now so when spring comes, you can ditch the El for your wheels. Not only will you sneak in a solid workout every day to and from work, but you'll also save cash on a train pass and avoid that crowded commuter rush hour.

3. Buddy up. Working out with a friend is more fun, plain and simple. It's also a good motivational tool. Next time you feel like watching TV instead of going for a jog, check in with your fitness friend. When you hear about their five-mile bike ride, the guilt factor will kick in and you'll be lacing up your sneakers in no time.

4. Get outside. Nothing takes the dull out of working out like some sunshine and fresh air. Get outside of the city for the weekend and go hiking up in Wisconsin. Take a ski trip up north. When it finally warms up again, rollerblade along Lake Shore Trail. Most of the time, when we're fit outside, we're having so much fun that we don't even realize we're breaking a sweat.

5. Sleep more. Seriously. Science shows that a lack of sleep amplifies weight gain by making us crave junk food. So hit the pillow at a reasonable hour and try your best to clock all eight hours every night. Not only will you be happier and eat healthier foods, but you'll also have more energy to devote to staying active!

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