Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dr. Vonda Wright on Aging with Vitality

Dr. Vonda Wright
(image from http://www.vondawright.com)
When I first saw Dr. Vonda Wright before the talk she gave at Carnegie Mellon University last week as part of the university's Fitness Challenge for staff and faculty, I exclaimed out loud, "Wow, she's young!" With her impressive bio as an orthopedic surgeon, author of multiple books, and a national expert who has given more than 200 media interviews in the past two years, I expected her to look, well, older. Turns out that Dr. Wright is the poster child for the subject she's passionate about: healthy aging. 

Specializing in fitness over 40, Dr. Wright herself is fit, vibrant, and radiant--and she's 45 (or will be soon, I think she said). Some of the highlights from her inspiring talk are:
  • We can die from not being physically active! Sedentary death syndrome accounts for some 33 diseases that can kill people, like heart disease and diabetes. Just 30 minutes of exercise a day can decrease the risk of many of these diseases.
  • When polled, 70% of people said that physical activity is important; only 30% of people exercise regularly, though.
  • 70% of what determines how we age is due to our lifestyle. Only 30% is genetic.
  • Research shows that a 60-year-old man is equally as strong as an 85-year-old man who does resistance training.
  • A good indicator of how healthy your weight is (better than BMI) is your waist-to-hip ratio. Divide your hip measurement (around the biggest part of your butt) by your waist measurement (right below the belly button). You should be under .8. If you're over 1, you're "a disaster!"
  • One 30-minute exercise session can provide feel-good feelings for up to 12 hours.
  • Strive for an intense physical exercise (high-impact exercise like running and plyometrics that "bash your bones") every other day.
Dr. Wright explained that previous research on how people age (think of a frail, shuffling old man using a walker) is based on those people being sedentary. Her research proves that physically active people can look and feel youthful as they age. She gave many examples of people in their 60s, 70s, 80s, and even 90s who are living with vitality because they incorporate fitness into their lives. One amazing photo showed a 92-year-old patient she works with--who regularly windsurfs!

Her message was clear. It's our choice: we can choose to be frail, weak, and unhealthy as we grow older, or we be can be strong, fit, and healthy and live our golden years to the fullest. I choose fitness. I choose vitality!

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