Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete

Elisse Barnes, 60: Dancing Her Way Around the Globe

Meet Dr. Elisse W. Barnes, JD, PhD. She’s one of the 2021 Senior Planet Sponsored Athletes, and she’ll be sharing updates on her health & wellness journey through the rest of this year. Today, Elisse is taking us through her fitness story that began after a series of life-changing events: at age 60, she’s striving to build upon her transformation and inspire others. 


“In late February of 2020, five and a half years after putting on 50 extra pounds to cope with a trimalleolar ankle fracture and displacement which threatened to permanently rob me of my mobility…and my husband’s cancer diagnosis which threatened to permanently rob me of my true love, I signed up with a weight coach and began a 10-month journey to take off the excess weight in time for my 60th birthday in March, and to wear my wedding dress for my 10th anniversary in May.

“With the help of my coach and the playlists, I accomplished my weight loss goal and rediscovered my love for dance.”

Having taken the Senior Planet Montgomery class on “Cutting the Cord” at the Schweinhaut Senior Center, I had already begun watching more internet TV and discovered the vast array of fitness resources on YouTube. As someone who has always enjoyed dancing and other cultures, I began, as my weight loss coach called it, “dancing my way around the globe” four times a week.

Around the World in Dance

I created playlists for BollyX, Body Groove, Hot Hula, and a United Nations of Zumba instructors: a young Asian mom in Port Arthur, Texas; a mid-aged woman in Denmark, a Brazilian man living in Istanbul, a jubilant, ever-smiling Romanian man with a name I didn’t know how to pronounce. I even subscribed to the Patreon channel of a Canadian bellydancer I found on Facebook. With the help of my coach and the playlists, I accomplished my weight loss goal and rediscovered my love for dance.

The Next Step: Sponsored Athlete

The next step in my fitness journey is to shift my focus from burning calories to core strengthening, toning, and building muscle to keep the weight off and reverse the muscle loss that accompanies aging. So in the upcoming months, as a Senior Planet Sponsored Athlete, I will connect with a personal trainer to create an enjoyable, age and ability-appropriate strength training routine to alternate with my dancing.

“Even though it may take a while and some help to figure it out, we can recover from setbacks.”

I hope my fitness journey thus far will be an encouragement to others.  It demonstrates that, even though it may take a while and some help to figure it out, we can recover from setbacks — like our own health challenges or those of a loved one — to regain our fitness footing.

In my case, it required:

  1. Taking the time to recover from my injury
  2. Working with a coach to keep me accountable, and to figure out how to eat properly and exercise regularly given my current lifestyle (as opposed to in an ideal world)
  3. Connecting — in my case, reconnecting — to an activity that I loved
  4. Determining when, where, and how I would be willing to do the activity

I know that when I apply these same principles to my next step — incorporating strength training — I will be successful as well. I can’t wait to share the results!”


In need of a little motivation to get moving? Join our daily health and wellness programs, stay tuned to the latest news and articles from SeniorPlanet.org by signing up for The Orbit weekly newsletter, and follow us on social media (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram) to get to know these awe-inspiring athletes. You might just find a new love for fitness along the way!

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