La Plata Medical Society
  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 square dancing.

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 Durango.

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