Health Coach vs. Personal Trainer: Key Differences and Similarities

Customers now not view “wellness” merely as “improved health and diet,” however, as a substitute, as a a lot broader and holistic path—one which encompasses higher long-term well being administration, psychological well being (particularly, mindfulness), and sleep.

Enter, well being coaches.

Wait. “Well being coaches”? Properly, in case you had been questioning, sure. Well being coaches aren’t fairly the identical factor as private trainers. However how do these two professions differ, precisely? And are there any overlaps between the 2 in any respect? Discover solutions beneath so you possibly can decide the very best profession path for your self within the well being and wellness business. 

What Does a Well being Coach Do?

A well being coach helps shoppers enhance their general well-being and well being by equipping them with the mandatory information of sound diet ideas and way of life habits.

Well being coaches information shoppers via constructing self-care expertise, habits, and wholesome behaviors essential for optimum wellness. Consequently, they may help with all kinds of well being points—from managing continual circumstances to tobacco cessation, from enhancing weight loss program and train to adjusting to a life-altering well being occasion (e.g., a diabetes prognosis).

In different phrases, well being coaches act as a shopper’s private well being “cheerleader”; they assist a shopper discover the instruments they should make higher way of life decisions and obtain their well being targets.

What Does a Private Coach Do?

A private coach works with shoppers to realize fitness-related targets (e.g., weight reduction, improved physique composition, and enhanced athletic efficiency).

They design health applications, exhibit correct train execution, assess progress, and regulate coaching plans as wanted. Relying on a private coach’s particular certification, they could additionally assemble meal plans and dietary pointers as regards to MyPlate, a government-recommended revision of the Meals Pyramid.  

Key Variations Between a Well being Coach and a Private Coach

Scope of Observe

Instantly, the important thing distinction between a well being coach and a private coach turns into clear.

A private coach’s scope of observe is extra restricted and higher outlined than a well being coach’s. Private coaching is primarily about health—creating well-designed exercise plans, instructing shoppers on train kind, and coaching shoppers in a approach that optimizes their athletic efficiency.

Quite the opposite, a well being coach has a a lot wider vary of points to sort out, comparable to stress administration, sleep hygiene, and numerous way of life habits (e.g., alcohol and nicotine use).  

That stated, there is a vital disclaimer: The scope of observe for a well being coach does have limits.

In the end, well being coaches do not have the identical coaching and certifications as medical professionals—like medical doctors, psychiatrists, or dietitians.

Meaning they can not diagnose a medical situation (e.g., normal anxiousness dysfunction) or try and deal with it. Notice: These limitations apply to non-public trainers, too.

Data Specialization

Whereas private trainers’ restricted scope of observe might seem like a con, it isn’t essentially so. For what they lack in scope protection, private trainers make up with their depth of information as health specialists. What does that imply?

As an example: Think about a shopper is trying to construct muscle mass.

Whereas a well being coach may information the shopper into staying in line with their exercise classes, they would not essentially learn about what’s wanted for maximal hypertrophy.

Particularly, a well being teaching certification doesn’t cowl ideas like muscle anatomy, muscular diversifications in response to coaching, and progressive overload—foundations important to a well-designed “hypertrophy exercise program.”  

The identical applies throughout all health targets, be it improved energy, cardiovascular health, and even energy.

Work Setting

One other distinction between well being coaches and private trainers could be their work setting. Generally, well being coaches conduct their classes remotely (by telephone or via web-conferencing instruments).

This contrasts with private trainers, who normally work with shoppers bodily in a health club or some other sort of health facility setting.

In fact, it’s value noting that non-public trainers can even conduct their classes on-line, as has been demonstrated by the pandemic.

However whereas the effectiveness of distant private coaching has been strongly contested (particularly for shoppers new to health), that of well being teaching has been confirmed. Analysis exhibits well being teaching to be equally efficient when performed remotely as face-to-face teaching.

Why? One of many primary causes for that is that it’s typically difficult for a private coach to make sure correct train kind remotely.

This may very well be on account of a restricted viewing angle (e.g., the digicam solely captures a shopper’s aspect profile) or a misunderstanding of verbal teaching cues (some shoppers might “get” muscle activation higher when calmly tapped on that area). 

Backside line? Whereas a well being coach may work with anybody remotely, a private coach probably should meet with a shopper face-to-face in a health facility—particularly in the event that they haven’t any prior expertise understanding.

Similarities Between a Well being Coach and a Private Coach

At this level, you could consider well being coaches and private trainers as like chalk and cheese, so essentially totally different that similarities are unattainable. So, it would shock you to study that the 2 professions share loads of frequent traits.

Degree of Regulation

Neither private trainers nor well being coaches want a certification, license, or particular training to make use of these titles legally. Meaning anybody may declare that they’re a private coach and/or well being coach—and cost shoppers for his or her companies.

Nonetheless, it’s unlikely for these and not using a acknowledged certification to get pleasure from a profitable profession. Many gyms require their trainers to be licensed by a good coaching supplier.

Plus, shoppers would even be cautious about having somebody coach them—be it within the capability of a well being coach or private coach—with out supporting credentials.

And fortunately, whereas authorized laws should not stringent, each professions at the moment are recognized to uphold a unified code of ethics, training, analysis, and credentials aimed toward standardizing coaching and certification for well being coaches and private trainers:

  • Well being coaches: In 2016, the Nationwide Board of Well being and Wellness Coaches (NBHWC) joined forces with the Nationwide Board of Medical Examiners (the certifying physique that licenses physicians) and permitted greater than eighty well being and wellness coach coaching applications all through the US. FYI: AFPA’s well being coach applications are acknowledged by the NBHWC.  
  • Private trainers: A key attribute of high quality private coaching programs is accreditation from the Nationwide Academy of Sports activities Drugs (NASM), a acknowledged third-party company that accredits certification applications that meet and adjust to its requirements. AFPA’s private coaching applications are all NASM-accredited.

Neither Are Medical Professionals

Here is some extent touched on beforehand however bears repeating (and elaboration): Neither well being coaches nor private trainers are medical professionals. 

As soon as once more, this implies they can not diagnose medical circumstances or deal with them, interpret medical check outcomes, suggest dietary supplements, and even prescribe meal plans (i.e., mandate {that a} shopper should comply with a specific approach of consuming).

At any time when crucial, each professions should refer their shoppers to the related medical professionals as a substitute. Listed here are examples of conditions that decision for “exterior” assist:

  • Working via traumatic experiences: A scenario finest handled by a post-traumatic stress dysfunction (PTSD) psychiatrist.
  • Diagnosing and/or treating nutrient deficiencies: Finest addressed by medical doctors and dietitians who can order blood checks and develop an acceptable remedy plan. As soon as once more, well being coaches and private trainers can’t diagnose or deal with medical circumstances. 
  • Enhancing sleep high quality with dietary supplements: Solely healthcare suppliers can prescribe sufferers “sleep-promoting” dietary supplements, like melatonin or L-theanine. The furthest well being coaches and private trainers can go could be recommending suggestions for higher sleep hygiene (e.g., avoiding display screen time earlier than bedtime and protecting the bed room cool)—nothing extra.

A Associate Relationship that is Centered Round Behavioral Change

One other crucial similarity between well being coaches and private trainers lies within the nature of the coach-client relationship. It is a sort of partnership designed to take the shopper via a step-by-step course of of fixing their lives for the higher.

Neither occupation makes use of a one-size-fits-all method to shoppers.

As a substitute, all shoppers will usually undergo an “onboarding” session, the place they’ll need to fill out a well being historical past, give the coach an concept of the place they at the moment stand (health stage for the non-public coach, present way of life habits for the well being coach), and what, precisely, they’re hoping to realize via teaching.

Well being coaches and private trainers will then take all these components (i.e., shopper’s way of life, wants, and preferences) into consideration when designing teaching classes.

Consequently, each professions will should be accustomed to (and perceive the right way to apply) behavioral change information:

  • Motivational interviewing: A key approach utilized by coaches the place they ask open-ended questions meant to assist shoppers elicit their very own causes for change. Efficient motivational interviewing helps shoppers verbalize limitations and different components out of their management but impacting their well being. In flip, this initiates a dialogue about managing these limitations, probably paving the way in which towards the adoption of assorted health-promoting behaviors (that make sense for them).
  • Well being conduct change frameworks: A shopper’s well being conduct outcomes from a posh course of of selections, habits, psychological state, social help, historic experiences with discrimination, entry to healthcare, trauma, tradition, financial entry, amongst others. Understanding the two standard conduct change theories—the Well being Perception Mannequin (HBM) and the Transtheoretical Mannequin (TTM)—supplies a coach with precious insights right into a shopper’s attitudes and beliefs towards well being behaviors together with how shoppers may very well be higher guided into altering.
  • Growing shopper’s sense of self-efficacy: Self-efficacy refers to a person’s confidence of their skill to realize a objective (i.e., the specified consequence). Analysis exhibits individuals who expertise excessive self-efficacy set larger targets and put extra effort into altering conduct. As such, each well being coaches and private trainers ought to focus their efforts on rising a shopper’s self-efficacy ranges (e.g., with goal-setting and constructive psychology).

Consequence of Teaching

And what’s the ultimate frequent thread between the work of well being coaches and private trainers? Their objective for a shopper.

On the finish of the day, each professions need their shopper to really feel empowered—and to have the ability to perceive the tidal wave of well being and wellness data on the market.

A shopper ought to come out of the teaching classes with a clearer concept of the subsequent step to take. Merely put, they need to really feel like you have got simply helped them discover the stability they wanted for higher well being.


Completely different as they could seem, private trainers and well being coaches play complementary roles.

As an illustration, a well being coach coping with a shopper wishing to get in higher form might refer them to a private coach. A private coach with a shopper complaining about feeling overwhelmed by each day stressors, then again, might refer them to a well being coach.

That stated, it’s value noting {that a} private coach may be a well being coach—and vice versa.

In spite of everything, lots of the expertise you have got developed as a private coach are transferable and related in a well being coach function. Along with an expanded shopper base, being licensed in each may also give you the chance to help shoppers’ wellness in a multifaceted approach.

Private trainers who earn their well being teaching certification purchase the broader information crucial for the each day administration of continual circumstances, for instance.

In distinction, a well being coach outfitted with private coaching information may give actionable recommendations on how, precisely, a shopper may get extra energetic (as a substitute of normal suggestions like “work out 3 times weekly”).

Backside line? Getting licensed in each well being teaching and private coaching may very well be probably the most rewarding strikes a well being and wellness skilled may make. The time, cash, and energy you set into the method will probably be properly value it. 


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