When I was young I naturally had plenty of exercise. It helped that my parents didn't bother to drive me most of the time and there were no buses to my junior high or high school, so I did a lot of walking (high school was well over a mile each way). That included walking through the blinding snow-storms we regularly got in Newfoundland. Even in college and grad school I was mostly car-less; I'd get occasional rides from strangers when they saw me walking home with bags of groceries (in the rain I looked particularly pathetic, I guess), but mostly it was walk, walk walk. Or sometimes take a city bus. I'd occasionally take my bike out for long rides in the hills around Ithaca.
Then my girlfriend acquired a car, and life got a lot easier. Even the bike was forgotten, then stolen. We still had jut one car between us, and in our first year of married life we spent many months in separate towns, so I still did a lot of riding a (new) bike to work and around. But once we were together again that slacked off quickly; down to one bike ride a year or so, then none, and then a couple of years later we acquired a second car. And the inevitable happened - I started gaining weight. Just a few pounds a year, but over almost 20 years that added up. Waist size grew, and occasional extra exertions really tired me out. I was getting old and out of shape!
Then in 2004 Shelly decided we needed to do something about this, and signed us up for a nearby gym as a family. It took me a few months to get going regularly, but I did for a while, mostly doing weights with the various machines. It definitely helped me feel a bit stronger and healthier, but I didn't have that strong internal motivation, and it wasn't long before I was down to once a month visits or less. It was helping to keep me a little stronger and fitter, but I definitely wasn't losing any weight.
Finally, January 2008 I felt inspired to do more, with rather specific feelings that I needed to make my gym visits a regular part of the daily routine. From that conviction I've been able to keep at it over a year now, specifically running at least 3 times a week on the treadmills. At the start in 2008 I couldn't even run 2 miles in 30 minutes, less than a 4-mph average speed. Shelly's father (22 years older than me) has been a regular 3 times/week runner for a long time, and his standard run was 3 miles in about 25 minutes, so that became my goal. By mid-February I was up to 2 and a quarter miles in 30 minutes, and was up to 2.5 miles in March, already making it my longest consistent streak of gym visits.
Six months of the routine got me to my 3 miles goal, finally in mid-July last year. I've been keeping at or improving upon that since then, now I can run close to 3.5 miles in half an hour, with an 8 mph peak speed. It feels good, and I've been starting to lose a little weight. I haven't been tracking that closely, but I'm at least 10 pounds below my highest weight now and some old clothes are feeling a little loose!
What are the benefits? I don't get nearly as tired during the day, I feel energy to do many things now that I didn't before. I get up regularly at a pretty early time so I'm ready for the day, instead of sleeping in. And I can exert myself to a much greater extent in other physical activities when the need arises - like helping to move a friend yesterday.
I think I'll be able to keep at this. I needed that inspirational conviction that I really needed to do this. I needed the gym membership to have a variety of things to do (I can swim if my body doesn't feel up to running or weights once in a while). I needed to make it a regular part of the daily routine, so that even when traveling I still work out pretty much every day. All that probably wouldn't work exactly the same for anybody else, but it was enough for me, and I'm pretty happy with it!