Dr. Vonda Wright

From orthopedic surgeon to fitness expert, Dr. Vonda Wright keeps fitness on track for the over-40 crowd.



Photo courtesy of Amacom Books

So the years are tacking on, and you’re thinking of all the wrinkles, grays and “Ah! My hip!” moments that lie ahead…. But one local author is asking all you 40-plus-ers to get over being over the hill.

“You are not merely a bad sequel of your 20-year-old self,” says Dr. Vonda Wright, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and author of the book Fitness After 40: How to Stay Strong at Any Age. A 41-year-old runner herself, she tells readers that the real enemy isn’t aging—it’s inactivity.

With step-by-step instructions for complete workouts for the home and gym and when you’re on the go, Fitness After 40 walks readers through a six-week plan while offering strategies for overcoming common obstacles such as obesity and arthritis. The goal goes beyond a better bod to a healthier aging process that drastically reduces risks of heart disease, diabetes, certain types of cancer and other harmful illnesses. Wright points out that only 30 percent of the effects of aging are controlled by genetics, with 70 percent determined by lifestyle.

“You are never too old and never too unfit to start,” says Wright, who also offers plenty of advice to those who say they don’t have time for fitness. (You can always take 30 minutes out of that lunch hour to go for a walk.)
As the director of the Performance and Research Initiative for Masters Athletes (PRIMA) at UPMC, Wright is an expert in aiding athletes ranging in age from 30- to 70-something. She started her research here in Pittsburgh about a decade ago, and has been running with it ever since. Putting practice into play, she recently joined her father, age 69, in their third Chicago marathon. Now that’s what we call overcoming the hill.

Visit your local bookstore or Vonda Wright’s website, seniorsportsandfitness.com, to pick up your own copy of Fitness After 40: How to Stay Strong at Any Age.

PM: What is your favorite part of a run?
My favorite part of any run is when I know I am less than a mile from home. That’s when I turn up the intensity and kick it on in—it makes me feel so strong.

PM: Do you have a favorite sport to watch?
It’s all about where I am watching it from—football from the field, basketball courtside, hockey near the ice, track from the infield—I would love to watch a NASCAR race from the pit and the Kentucky Derby from Millionaire’s Row.

PM: Favorite sports team?
Of course I love the Pitt Panthers football team.

PM: Favorite athlete?
Laird Hamilton [40-something-year-old amazing surfer] and my 69-year-old father, Gene—who just keeps on running.

PM: Any tips on a favorite healthy snack?
Believe it or not, 73 percent dark chocolate is a healthy snack—and I love it.

PM: Any “must haves”?

Lots of time with my baby girl and laughter with good friends.

PM: Any splurges lately?
At the Sun Bowl, I bought an amazing pair of handmade Lucchese cowboy boots. They are almost too incredible to wear.

PM: Read anything good lately?
I am fascinated by Malcolm Gladwell’s work and read his new book, Outliers: The Story of Success, while on a plane last week.

PM: You’re a surgeon. Do you watch any of those hospital shows we see on TV?
I don't watch much TV, but I certainly click right past the doctor shows.

PM: Best part of your job?
I love when people come to see me after surgery and feel great!

PM: Your definition of success?
I realize that part of my success is, as author Malcolm Gladwell says, an amazing series of opportunities. Success is working hard to use the opportunities given to me and doing so in a way that helps my family, patients and friends when they need help.

PM: Famous last words?
No. 1: God is faithful. No. 2: It is a privilege to be a surgeon and to care for people in their most vulnerable moments. I never lose sight of that.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Review: Salt of the Earth

Review: Salt of the Earth

Brandon Fisher is the latest chef behind Salt of the Earth’s modern-American dishes.
2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

Sharing the DNA of the father of children’s television, the Fred Rogers Company reinvigorates a beloved legacy while creating new hit characters and content that help children to grow, giggle and learn.
Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Jamie and Ali McMutrie were PM's 2010 Pittsburghers of the Year after airlifting 54 youngsters to safety. Now, they have forged a relationship with a major global player to continue their work to prevent struggling Haitian families from surrendering children to orphanages.
PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

Four ways to make the city even better in 2015.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Destined to be a Classic: Pittsburgh Penguins 'Christmas Vacation' Parody Video

Destined to be a Classic: Pittsburgh Penguins 'Christmas Vacation' Parody Video

Evegeni Malkin is priceless at the end.
This Weekend: Chris Jamison & the Steelers, Pens & Ugly Sweaters, Mayor Undercover

This Weekend: Chris Jamison & the Steelers, Pens & Ugly Sweaters, Mayor Undercover

Some cool things to watch out for this weekend in the ’Burgh.
#Oops — Or, About that Headline . . .

#Oops — Or, About that Headline . . .

Once in a while, no good deed goes unpunished.
Now Online: Two New Cameras to Keep an Eye on Pittsburgh’s Bald Eagles

Now Online: Two New Cameras to Keep an Eye on Pittsburgh’s Bald Eagles

A Murrysville security company has installed the new cameras, which provide sharper images of the Hays eagles.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Review: Salt of the Earth

Review: Salt of the Earth

Brandon Fisher is the latest chef behind Salt of the Earth’s modern-American dishes.
2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

Sharing the DNA of the father of children’s television, the Fred Rogers Company reinvigorates a beloved legacy while creating new hit characters and content that help children to grow, giggle and learn.
Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Jamie and Ali McMutrie were PM's 2010 Pittsburghers of the Year after airlifting 54 youngsters to safety. Now, they have forged a relationship with a major global player to continue their work to prevent struggling Haitian families from surrendering children to orphanages.
PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

Four ways to make the city even better in 2015.
Penguins Profile: The Fearless Patric Hornqvist

Penguins Profile: The Fearless Patric Hornqvist

The Penguin winger fits in easily with the team, thanks to his infectious personality and his mad dedication to confounding opposing goaltenders.
Rev It Up: This South Side Pittsburgh Loft is Unique and Unusual

Rev It Up: This South Side Pittsburgh Loft is Unique and Unusual

This three-story home melds all of the comforts of home with the sleek look and efficiency of industrial design.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags