Arvid Johanson, 73, and Dr. David Danzer, 70, perform
their morning walk for several miles through Highland Beach
for exercise. Tim Stepien/The Coastal Star
By Paula Detwiller,
It’s a simple, healthy ritual. Six days a week at about 7:30 a.m., retired firefighter Arvid Johanson, 73, and semi-retired physician Dr. David Danzer, 70, meet at the guard shack of their Highland Beach condominium building and set out for a walk. “Dr. Dave” punches a special app on his iPhone that will track their activity.
“OK, it’s telling me this is our 75th walk,” he tells Arvid, “so we’ve walked about 150 miles in the last three months.” They both nod, pleased.
“The women got us going,” Arvid explains. “My wife told his wife that I walk every morning …”
“I was doing it on occasion,” Dave interjects. “ My wife is a registered nurse who saved my life about nine years ago after my quadruple bypass, and she said this is another way to save my life — to start walking and get healthy again.”
In a 12-year study of 707 retired men in Hawaii, the mortality rate among men who walked less than 1 mile per day was nearly twice that of men who walked more than 2 miles per day.
Dave: “We do either two or three miles, up A1A and back. If we walk without each other, the people we meet on this trek say, ‘where’s your buddy today?’ ”
Arvid: “It makes you get up in the morning, because I don’t want to disappoint Dave and not show up.”
Dave: “Absolutely. We both seem to be motivated by not wanting to let the other one down.”
Arvid: “I do this walk because of my blood pressure problem. When I come down here (from the North), my blood pressure is usually like 145 over 90. And now — I just checked it a couple weeks ago — I’m 125 over 75.”
Numerous studies have shown that regular walking can help lower blood pressure, prevent weight gain and reduce the risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Dave: “I think it’s kept my sugar down a little bit. I’m pretty sure that it also keeps my blood pressure down ... But basically, psychologically, it makes you feel better to have walked each day.”
Arvid: “Not only that, you’re breathing fresh air — and the sun hits you, and it’s the best thing.”
Dave: “I’m not working at the moment, and sometimes one gets the strange feeling that one is withering away to nothing — everything is turning to jelly, including one’s mind. But at least I can say, I walked today. I did something.”
Research has demonstrated that physical activity can be effective in improving the mental health of older adults, including mood, memory and cognitive functioning.
There are “regulars” along their route: the black-and-white-striped fish they look for each day in the Intracoastal. The Highland Beach patrol officer who sees them peering into the water and jokes with them through his bullhorn: “Don’t jump!” The petite French woman who rides her bike to the store every morning, greeting them with a friendly “bon jour” as she passes.
Arvid: “What do we talk about? Everything. Boats, medical stuff, where we went to dinner …”
Dave: “Whether he should get an iPhone or not …”
Arvid: “Maybe by the time we get home I’ll have my wife convinced that I need one.”
Dave: “We’ve solved all the problems of the world many times. But the world’s still screwed up afterward.” He cracks a smile.
Back at their starting point, Dave checks his phone and announces they’ve walked 2.32 miles, in about 45 minutes. They have easily met the federal government’s latest recommendation that older adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per day.
They’ll do it again tomorrow. It’s a simple, healthy ritual.
Paula Detwiller is a freelance writer and lifelong fitness junkie. Find her at www.pdwrites.com.