In this age of information, people often know what to do to be healthy. There are websites, articles, podcasts, videos, lectures, webinars, classes and books about exercise and healthy eating within reach of most of us. Essentially, these resources remind us that we need to move more and eat well. Some resources also suggest specific routines to follow, along with step-by-step or bite-by bite-instructions. For most health seekers, however, general knowledge and specific instructions of WHAT to do and even HOW to do it isn’t always enough to make the changes they desire.
In the midst of a rich array of information and options, many people also have questions about the efficacy and relevance of the proposed solutions. How reliable are these resources? How accessible are they? How can they be adapted to fit each person and situation? What are current concepts in weight management and exercise? What approaches and attitudes best promote lifestyle behavior change? What are the risks? We may also be unclear about how to get started, how to cope with setbacks or how to overcome obstacles of time and resources.
The Role of a Health Coach
Health coaches work to empower people to live their most fit lives. To that end, a health coach:
1. Has thorough knowledge and expertise
A health coach helps bridge the gap between basic information and knowledge-based implementation. Health coaches gain expertise in nutritional and physiological sciences, how to use screening and assessment measures, and how to design and implement programs. They thoroughly understand their legal, professional and ethical responsibilities and are aware of other professionals to whom to refer for situations outside of the health coach’s scope of practice.
2. Holds the bigger picture for you
A health coach helps clients discover the larger reason for change: to circumvent disease, to have more energy, to reduce the effects of stress, to enjoy leisure activities, or perhaps to overcome a physical setback or condition. When clients are faced with challenges, it is common to lose sight of the “why” of health-behavior change. At these times, a health coach can remind clients about their big picture intentions and help them navigate through obstacles.
3. Is in your corner
Health coaches value their clients and champion their results. Unlike a friend or family member, whose interests may overlap with the client’s, a health coach offers nonjudgmental support and encouragement and allows clients to be experts in their own lives. Health coaches use proven strategies for effective communication to build rapport, listen actively, ask powerful questions and promote self-efficacy. From this place of trust and connection, clients are free to learn, explore, experiment and gain insight in their quest for greater health and well-being.
4. Helps you design customized action steps to promote your success
A health coach helps clients discern what is most important to them. Health coaches respect each individual’s unique history and perspective, and helps clients choose options to optimize their success. Health coaches work with a range of client goals, whether clients wish to consume more fruits and vegetables, start a walking program or run a marathon. Health coaches help clarify intentions and generate step-by-step action strategies. Once goals and action plans are in place, health coaches serve as a powerful accountability partner to support clients’ desired outcomes.
A health coach is a health promoter and educator, and active an partner in helping clients make healthy lifestyle choices. As many have discovered, working with a health coach can be an exciting and rewarding experience.
American Council on Exercise (2013). ACE Health Coach Manual: The Ultimate Guide to Wellness, Fitness and Lifestyle Change. San Diego, Calif.: American Council on Exercise.
American Council on Exercise (2014). Behavior Change Specialist Skills Guide. San Diego, Calif.: American Council on Exercise.