More trainers are integrating life coaching with fitness training to improve clients’ results. Given the increasing popularity of life coaching, investigators from Lillebaelt Hospital and from IRS University of Southern Denmark in Kabbeltoft decided to evaluate its effectiveness in improving health.
Study authors distinguished life coaching from health coaching. They defined life coaching as a method based on a client’s needs, values and priorities with a focus on the person’s whole life and on wellness, rather than disease. These investigators believe that the purpose of life coaching is to achieve sustained cognitive, emotional and behavioral changes by understanding distortions in thinking: Once clients perceive their own mental barriers, they can generate individual strategies to make the daily choices required to realize specific goals. In contrast, traditional health coaching was described as a practice of health education and health promotion within a coaching context that focuses on specific health- or disease-related goals.
The researchers found five studies that met inclusion criteria, including two randomized, controlled trials. Since evidence was limited and the studies varied broadly, reviewers opted to limit themselves to observing tendencies.
Two points in particular emerged: First, people who need support to improve self-efficacy and self-empowerment may benefit more from life coaching than those who already possess self-confidence. Second, since life coaching differs in style from traditional healthcare education, using external professional certified coaches appears promising as a method of achieving successful results. This is good news for fitness professionals who are expanding their expertise by gaining certification in professional life coaching.
The review of studies appeared in the BMC Health Services Research (2013; , 428).