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.

April Durrett

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