Health Coaching vs. Life Coaching

by April Durrett on Jul 09, 2014

Coaching is not a new field. “The general consensus is that personal life coaching evolved in the early 1990s out of the coaching techniques being used to motivate business executives in the 1980s,” says Mary Bratcher, wellness coach and co-owner of The Biomechanics Method in San Diego. “The application of life coaching to the health and fitness sector began to happen in the early 2000s.”

You probably know about life coaches, who help people make changes and increase happiness in many areas of their lives. They help clients to focus in on what they really want, to overcome obstacles and to strive for what truly matters to them.

Health coaching is not an evolution of life coaching; it is a different specialty. Health coaches help people develop individualized strategies for improving their health, exercise and eating. Lifestyle coaching focuses on the individual’s entire life.

What’s in a name?

The field of health coaching is new enough that an industry standard for its name still hasn’t emerged.

ACE uses the term “health coach,” while Wellcoaches certifies “health and wellness coaches.” Duke University certifies “integrative health coaches,” and the Mayo Clinic trains people to be “wellness coaches.”

Even though the names may be different, everyone is trying to do the same thing: Help people learn how to improve their health. The National Consortium for Credentialing of Health and Wellness Coaches, which aims to transform health care by integrating professional health and wellness coaches, has moved past the confusion about “wellness” versus “health,” says Wellcoaches CEO Margaret Moore, MBA, who serves on the consortium’s board of directors. “We have agreed that for credentialing purposes there will be just one credential.”

The consortium’s certification and competencies project team, including ACSM’s Richard Cotton, MA, arrived at this definition following a 3-month process led by certification development experts:

“Health and wellness coaches are professionals from diverse backgrounds and education who work with individuals and groups in a client-centered process to facilitate and empower the client to achieve self-determined goals related to health and wellness. Successful coaching takes place when coaches apply clearly defined knowledge and skills so that clients mobilize internal strengths and external resources for sustainable change.”

Health Coach Resouces

Different companies and universities offer health coaching certifications. Below are two that many fitness pros are choosing. Both have prerequisites before you can start studying to become a health coach. These involve college degrees, certifications and/or job experience. See specific websites for more information.

ACE. Launched in 2012, the ACE Health Coach certification is the only one accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the same body that accredits certifications for pharmacists, nurse practitioners, registered dietitians and many other health professionals;

Wellcoaches. Launched in 2002, this certification is endorsed and promoted by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM);

Other well-regarded health coaching programs include the following:

The National Consortium for Credentialing of Health & Wellness Coaches,, is another key resource for would-be coaches. It includes health and coaching research and case studies on its website and features the combined voices of many top professionals in the coaching, healthcare and fitness industries.

To read the full article which was published in the July-August 2014 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal click here.

© 2015 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

About the Author

April Durrett IDEA Author/Presenter

April Durrett is a contributing editor for IDEA Fitness Journal.


Trending Articles

Health Benefits of Mediterranean Diet

Crous-Bou, M., et al. 2014. Mediterranean diet and telomere length in Nurses’ Health Study: Population based cohort study. British Med...

Exercise: The Miracle Cure-All?

Miracle Cure-All? We know there are many benefits to regular exercise. After sifting through study after study, professors at the Academy o...

Kettlebells and Cardiovascular Improvements

Despite being around for quite some time—the International Union of Kettlebell Lifting suggests their origin can be traced to Ancient Greece—kettlebells have become a popular “trend....

Answering the Age-Old Question “So, What Do You Think About This Diet?"

Since there is no one “best” diet, and since adherence to a new eating and exercise plan is the most important predictor of whet...

Understanding Inflammation

Inflammation is the body’s immune, self-protective and healing response to harmful stimuli, irritants, pathogens and damaged cells. Mo...

A Best Time to Exercise for Individuals With Type 2 Diabetes

Do you have clients with type 2 diabetes? Perhaps you should think carefully about when to schedule their strength training sessions, say re...

How To Work With Teen Athletes

Working with a group of teen athletes can be a frustrating experience—but it doesn’t have to be. Justin Russ, CSCS, a strength a...

Cardio and Creative Core

Group fitness participants can’t seem to get enough of creative core and cardiovascular exercises. If you need innovative ideas to cha...

A Simple Solution for Type 2 Diabetes Prevention?

Over the past several years, adequate sleep has been associated with appetite suppression, weight loss and improved energy levels. New resea...

Postmenopausal Women: Jump for Bone Health

Knee osteoarthritis (OA)—a progressive disease that destroys articular tissues and cartilage—affects about 13% of women aged 60 and older. According to a report published in the Caspian Jo...