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

Pittsburgh's Best Restaurants 2015

Pittsburgh's Best Restaurants 2015

Which 33 establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
The Right Recipe: Spy Inside 5 Killer Kitchens

The Right Recipe: Spy Inside 5 Killer Kitchens

Executive chefs often are given much of the credit for their restaurants’ success, but that praise would be hard to bestow if each did not lead an outstanding kitchen brigade.
The Beginner's Garden: How to Easily Create a Summer Eden

The Beginner's Garden: How to Easily Create a Summer Eden

From ferns to forsythia, there are ample growth opportunities for creating a gorgeous, low-maintenance garden this year in your own backyard.
PittGirl Believes She is Totally Right about the Pittsburgh Left

PittGirl Believes She is Totally Right about the Pittsburgh Left

In this case, as in most others, it's better to give than take.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Day-Long Tailgating Trashed for Chesney Concert

Day-Long Tailgating Trashed for Chesney Concert

Mayor Bill Peduto is determined not to have a repeat of the country music star’s last visit to Pittsburgh two years ago.
Hines Ward ‘Swapping Wives’ — Just for a Week

Hines Ward ‘Swapping Wives’ — Just for a Week

The Super Bowl MVP will jump into the always fascinating (?) world of summer session reality TV.
By the Numbers: Pittsburgh's New Bike-Share Program

By the Numbers: Pittsburgh's New Bike-Share Program

Healthy Ride will officially launch in Market Square with a mass ride to Lawrenceville.
Looking for a Job? Pittsburgh is the Place to Find It

Looking for a Job? Pittsburgh is the Place to Find It

Plus, see how city planners are using a slick, 3-D imaging tool to imagine the next version of the 'Burgh.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Pittsburgh's Best Restaurants 2015

Pittsburgh's Best Restaurants 2015

Which 33 establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
The Right Recipe: Spy Inside 5 Killer Kitchens

The Right Recipe: Spy Inside 5 Killer Kitchens

Executive chefs often are given much of the credit for their restaurants’ success, but that praise would be hard to bestow if each did not lead an outstanding kitchen brigade.
The Beginner's Garden: How to Easily Create a Summer Eden

The Beginner's Garden: How to Easily Create a Summer Eden

From ferns to forsythia, there are ample growth opportunities for creating a gorgeous, low-maintenance garden this year in your own backyard.
PittGirl Believes She is Totally Right about the Pittsburgh Left

PittGirl Believes She is Totally Right about the Pittsburgh Left

In this case, as in most others, it's better to give than take.
On Par with Arnie, She is America's 'Queen of Golf'

On Par with Arnie, She is America's 'Queen of Golf'

The world of golf may have been slow to embrace women, but Sewickley amateur Carol Semple Thompson always has found her way into the club.
Last in the Water But First at the Finish Line

Last in the Water But First at the Finish Line

Penn State Behrend swimmer Mia Pietropola’s deafness may give her competitors an advantage at the starting blocks. She beats them anyway.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module