Not too long ago, I had a conversation with Tony Horton, creator of P90X. Without realizing it, Tony dropped a bombshell on me while we were discussing the common reasons people say they exercise, including a desire to live longer.
“Forget survival,” Tony said to me, “that’s a form of quiet desperation.”
I told him that I train to have joy, happiness, purpose and the ability to go do the things I love to do without having to worry about my body. Tony also cited secondary benefits of an active lifestyle as a prime motivator, stating that exercising and eating well makes him feel more curious in life. And then he dropped the bombshell.
He told me that he had just turned 56 years old—and that’s when my insides flipped out. My father Wellington died at age 56, weighing 424 pounds/192 kilograms. Two men of the same age, but with vastly different bodies, mindsets and lives lived. It was such a vivid and striking example of something I’ve known and felt to be true: Longevity is important, but it’s not as important to me as “fungevity.”
Longevity is how long you live, but fungevity is how long you can enjoy your life and have fun. You could live 90 years and spend the last 20 being unhealthy, miserable and sick. No thank you. S the question becomes: How can you make your fungevity last nearly as long as your longevity?
For many people, fitness, exercise and physical activity trigger a negative response—a sense of obligation and drudgery. This destroys fungevity and has a negligible effect on longevity. As it turns out, exercise does less good for you if you dislike it and don’t believe it’s working. (For more info on this phenomenon, check out: Exercise Works Better if You Believe It Will.)
To maximize fungevity, you need to do things involving movement that puts a smile on your face. It doesn’t mean you need to wear a wing suit and jump off a mountain (something known to seriously decrease longevity in many cases.) You just need to put your body in motion in such a way that makes you feel happy. This can be done alone or with others, depending on your preference. It can be a new activity you’ve always wanted to try or it can be a return to something you’ve done in the past that you love to do. You just need to create a sense of openness and opportunity in you while you do it.
And here’s the best part: It doesn’t have to overly vigorous. Tony highlighted a key element of how to get this right in our conversation: Stay curious in life—and that could mean just about anything. For example, you could take a cooking class or get back into gardening—start with just an herb garden to make it easy. Take a hike or brief nature walk. Bounce a ball while you walk in your neighborhood. Get a dog or borrow a neighbor’s and go exploring. Move about in the world to somewhere you’ve never been—walk an unfamiliar path near where you live. Play with your kids in the basement or in a park (but not on video games). Get back on that bike you’ve been meaning to start riding again. Sign up for drum lessons.
Skipping workouts, not doing physical things that put a smile on your face, and consuming terrible foods is a choice to speed up the aging process. It is a choice to accelerate the deterioration of your body. This is not to make you feel bad, but to be clear about how our seemingly innocuous choices have a powerful impact when we add enough time. The more things fall apart, the less you are able to enjoy things and the less you can truly live.
You can choose the “way of Tony” or the “way of Wellington” (my father). Your body builds itself from your habits. Whatever you’re consistently doing determines the body you’re creating and the future you are shaping. It’s a fun world out there—don’t miss out on it. Participate in life. Enhance your fungevity and chances are good that your longevity will want to come along for the ride.