What Is a Health Coach and What Can They Do?

You're not alone if you're just now hearing the term health coach. Health coaches have been gaining popularity, and rightly so; they are trained professionals who can improve a person's overall health and wellbeing for a better quality of life.

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Disclaimer: This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any health program.

The problem is that most people don't know what a health coach is and what they do. That can be partly due to information online about what health coaches can't do, which can cause confusion regarding their effectiveness. In this article, we will focus on what a health coach can do so you can stop asking yourself, "what is a health coach" and decide if partnering with one is the right step for you.

So, what is a health coach?

In general, a health coach is a professional who helps people make lifestyle changes that lead to improved health. The changes can be related to diet, exercise, sleep, stress management, and many other habits. They will work with you to identify your goals and create a plan to help you reach them. They will also provide support and accountability to keep you on track.

Health coaches aren't new; they've been around for quite some time. However, they have only recently gained popularity. The term "health coach" is now being used more frequently because it encompasses a broader range of services than traditionally offered. It's also a more accurate description of what these professionals do. This is because health coaches don't just focus on one aspect of your health; they look at the bigger picture and work with you to find the culprits causing you to experience less-than-optimal health and then work with you to fix them.

But wait, what about wellness coaches? Are they the same as health coaches?

Yes, we know how confusing this can all be. Wellness coaches and health coaches are often used interchangeably. However, there is a slight difference between the two. A wellness coach focuses more holistically, including all areas of your life, not just your health. On the other hand, a health coach will focus specifically on your health and help you make changes to improve it.

A holistic approach means that the coach looks at all areas of your life and how they impact your health. This includes physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. By taking this approach, coaches can better understand what is causing imbalances in your life and help you make the necessary changes to find more balance.

For a complete overview of a health coach, you can read our article "A Health Coach: Everything You Need to Know."

Examples of what a health coach can do

Understanding what a health coach can do for your health and wellness is the first step in deciding if partnering with one is right for you. So, let's look at specific examples of what a health coach can do to give you a better idea. They can:

Help you make lifestyle changes

A health coach will help you assess your current lifestyle and identify areas where you want to make changes. They will then work with you to develop a plan of action tailored to your individual needs and preferences to guide you to a healthier lifestyle.

Educate you on healthy living

When it comes to making healthy lifestyle changes, having a soundboard can be invaluable. A health coach can provide much-needed support and education as you navigate your way to a healthier life.

Help you develop healthy habits

Creating habits on your own can be daunting, especially if you have tried and failed in the past. A health coach will work with you to find out what's been holding you back and help you develop new healthy habits that stick.

Help you set and reach your health goals

Health coaches use unique skills to help you identify your health goals and co-create a plan to reach them.

Motivate you to live a healthier life

Wanting to throw in the towel when things get tough is normal, and by having a health coach in your corner, you'll have someone to help pick you up and keep you motivated.

Help you overcome obstacles

When making any meaningful change in your life, obstacles will undoubtedly arise. A health coach will help you identify and overcome these obstacles to continue your journey to better health.

Hold you accountable

Accountability is the glue that holds your intentions and actions together. Working with a health coach will help you stay accountable for your health decisions and ensure you're making progress towards your goals.

Empower you to take control of your health

The beautiful thing about partnering with a health coach is that they pass their knowledge onto you. They understand that at the end of the day, it's your life, and you should have the power to make decisions that affect your health.

All in all, a health coach is there to listen, guide, and support you as you work to improve your health.

Though this article focuses on a health coach's abilities, it is crucial to understand what they can't do.

An example of how a health coach could change your life

Below is a hypothetical example of how working with a health coach could change your life.  

You've recently been diagnosed with type 2  diabetes and are feeling overwhelmed. You have a lot of questions and don't know where to start. Your doctor has told you that you need to make lifestyle changes, but you're not sure how.

You start researching low glycemic index foods and portion control online, but the information is conflicting, and you're feeling more confused than ever. You know you need to make changes, but the thought of doing it alone is daunting.

This is where a health coach comes in.

A health coach trained in diabetes management will help you understand the necessary lifestyle changes and create a plan tailored to your individual needs. They will also provide much-needed support and motivation as you navigate your way to better health.

Over time, with the help of your health coach, you'll make significant changes that improve your overall health and help you better manage your diabetes.

Above is just one example of how health coaching could help a person dealing with a chronic disease such as diabetes. There are certified health coaches out there that can help people with all sorts of different health conditions, not just diabetes.

How are health coaches certified?

At this time of writing, the health coaching industry is still unregulated. However, standards are being set by the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC). For a health and wellness coach to be recognized as a legitimate practitioner, they must have completed an accredited health coach training program.  These programs are designed to train coaches in the latest evidence-based health and wellness coaching methods.

Once a coach has completed an accredited training program, they can then apply to take the NBHWC's Certification Exam. This exam is used to assess a coach's knowledge and skills.

Those who pass the exam are awarded the NBC-HWC credential which show they have met the standards set by the NBHWC. To keep their credential, health coaches must earn continuing education credits to ensure they are up-to-date on the latest health and wellness coaching research.

While certification through the NBHWC is not required to practice as a health coach, it does provide legitimacy and assurance of a coach's skills and knowledge.

If you're thinking about working with a health coach, ask if they are a national board certified health and wellness coach.

More about the National Board for Certified Health and Wellness Coaching

The NBC-HWC credential is the gold standard for health and wellness coaches, and it is recognized and often required by employers looking to employ health coaches.

At this time, there are 7,412 board certified health and wellness coaches across the globe and this number is growing significantly year after year.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to health coaching, working with a certified health coach will give you peace of mind knowing that they have the skills and knowledge necessary to help you improve your health.

Some of the tools of a health and wellness coach

We won't go into detail here as we have covered this top in another article, but here is a quick overview of some of the methods and techniques that health coaches use to help their clients:

  • Motivational interviewing
  • Goal setting
  • Health behavior change
  • Lifestyle education
  • Positive psychology
  • Stress management
  • Physical activity coaching

The power of health coaching and wellness coaching

In a world where we are sicker than ever before, it's clear that our current approach to health and healthcare is not working.

Health and wellness coaching is a powerful tool that can solve some of the most pressing health issues facing our society today.

When should you consider working with a health coach?

The use cases for working with a health coach are vast, and whether or not to work with a health coach will depend on your specific individual needs and goals. However, there are a few scenarios in which health coaching may be particularly beneficial:

1. If you're looking to make healthy lifestyle changes, a health coach can provide guidance and support as you establish new habits.

2. If you're struggling with a chronic illness or other health condition, a health coach can help you develop strategies for managing your symptoms and improving your quality of life.

3. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of making significant changes to your diet or exercise routine, a health coach can provide guidance and support every step of the way.

4. If you're looking for accountability and motivation, a health coach can help you stay on track with your goals and make lasting changes.

Health and wellness coaches are also often used in corporate wellness programs. If your employer offers health coaching as part of their wellness program, take advantage of it.


Health coaches work hard to help in preventative care, education, and assisting people in developing new healthy lifestyle habits. They are excellent resources for establishing or improving healthy habits. If you think you could benefit from working with a health coach, check out our directory of certified health coaches to find the perfect coach.

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