Last week, I
spoke with Arvo Matis at the Durango Community Recreation Center and
recommitted myself to my own thrice-weekly physical exercise
program. Arvo will be 97 years old this summer and is a well-known
inspiration at the rec center. He exercises there at least three
times a week. What a wonderful inspiration he is!
Arvo was born in Telluride in 1907, "before everything cost so
much." His father worked in the mines to support his family, and
later they moved to Rico. In 1921, Arvo moved to Durango.
I have been hearing about Arvo for years, and wanted to meet with
him to discover what he did to so successfully and healthfully
prolong his longevity. His answer was motivation. He told me,
"Know you must be active every day."
His parents lived into their 80s, so we know he started out with
good genes, but that is not the entire answer. He never smoked
cigarettes, which has most definitely increased his lifespan. He
drinks no coffee or "soda drinks" and alcohol only very rarely. For
the past four or five years, he has taken medication for mild
hypertension and takes "a baby aspirin a day."
When Arvo outlined his history of physical activity, I was
amazed. He has always been extremely active, both at work and at
play. Most of his work has been at lumberyards. His last job was at
Boker Lumber, "but just a desk job," he apologized.
When he talked about what he does for fun, I got exhausted just
sitting there listening to him. In addition to his workouts at the
rec center, he skied Purgatory up until last year with another
famous Durango elder, Bob Beers, as his ski partner.
Swimming several times a week keeps him limber, and he really
likes the new pools at the rec center. In his "younger" years he
loved to ice skate and "skated on every pond in Durango." He said
that dancing was always a favorite activity, both ballroom and
Arvo complains of some pain in his feet now, which caused him to
give up playing tennis three years ago, at age 93.
In evaluating Arvo's longevity I must give his daily activity
most of the credit. He inherited great genes from his long-lived
parents, but he could have negated them with smoking and inactivity.
He chooses to exercise, watch his diet and stay connected with his
community - everybody at the rec center knows who he is.
When I asked him if I could write a story about him for my
column, he paused and then replied, "If only one person will get
motivated to exercise every day, it will be worth it." Will you be
that one person? You go, Arvo!
Dr. John N. Withers is a practicing general surgeon in