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.

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