What’s your Fungevity? “Wait, what is fungevity?”
While we were both speaking at an event, I had a conversation with Tony Horton – creator of P90X – and without realizing it, he dropped a bombshell on me. We were discussing the common reasons people say they exercise. One of which is to live longer – to have greater longevity. “Forget survival,” Tony said to me, “that’s a form of quiet desperation.” I mentioned that I train to have joy, happiness, purpose, and an ability to go do stuff I love to do when I want without worrying about my body. Tony mentioned how when he exercises and eats well, it makes him curious in life. I was right on track with him as I feel similarly about the secondary benefits of an active lifestyle. And then the bombshell.
He mentioned that he had just turned 56 years old. My insides flipped out. My father Wellington died at age 56, weighing 424 pounds/192 kilograms. Same age; vastly different bodies, mindset, and lives lived. It was such a vivid and striking example of something I’ve known and felt is true deep down. Longevity is important, but it’s not as important to me as “Fungevity,” a term I came up with a few years back.
Fungevity is how long you can enjoy your life and have fun. Longevity is how long you live. You could live to 90 and spend the last 30 years unhealthy, miserable, and sick. No thank you. How can you make your fungevity nearly as long as your longevity?
For many of you, fitness, exercise, and physical activity bring up thoughts of “Ugh” and a sense of obligation and drudgery. This will destroy fungevity and have 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 details on this concept, see this blog: “Exercise Works Better if You Believe It Will”)
To maximize fungevity, you need to do things involving movement that put 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.) It just needs to feature your body in motion while you are happy. It 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. It just needs 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 to get you started. Take a cooking class, get back into gardening – maybe just an herb garden to make it easy to get started. Take a hike or brief nature walk. Bounce a ball while you walk in your neighborhood. Get a dog, or borrow a neighbor’s. Explore a little. Move out in the world somewhere you’ve not been yet – walk an unfamiliar path near where you live. Play with your kids – in the basement or in a park, not on video games. Get back on that bike you’ve been meaning to start riding again. Sign up for drum lessons. Tony highlighted a key element of how to get this right in our conversation – stay curious in life.
I often think about the “age 56” dichotomy I was struck by in that conversation. That weekend while we were at the Telluride WOW Festival, I saw Tony doing handstands and leading a great workout. I didn’t keep count, but growing up I feel like my father must have set the record for eating honey-dipped doughnuts and longest uninterrupted stretch of sitting in a recliner. As you can guess, his last 10-15 years were terrible – for him and for his family. In a way, he stopped living by age 40, but died at age 56. His fungevity was only about 40 years – maybe. He was in the United States Marine Corps and was a fit man in his late teens. It didn’t have to end that way for him.
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 little seemingly innocuous choices have a powerful impact when we add enough time. The more things fall apart, the less you can enjoy things, the less you can truly live. Four days off from exercise will always beat three days on.
Your body builds itself out of whatever your habits are.
Whatever you’re consistently doing determines the body you’re creating and the future you are shaping. It’s a fun world out there – join it. Participate in life. Enhance your fungevity and the chances are your longevity will want to come along for the ride.