Well being Coach vs. Private Coach: Key Variations and Similarities

January 11, 2022

Customers not view “wellness” merely as “improved health and vitamin,” however, as a substitute, as a much 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”? Effectively, in case you have 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 perfect profession path for your self within the well being and wellness business. 


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What Does a Well being Coach Do?

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

Well being coaches information shoppers by constructing self-care expertise, habits, and wholesome behaviors essential for optimum wellness. In consequence, they may also help with all kinds of well being points—from managing persistent circumstances to tobacco cessation, from bettering food plan and train to adjusting to a life-altering well being occasion (e.g., a diabetes diagnosis).

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 selections and obtain their well being targets.

What Does a Private Coach Do?

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

They design health applications, show 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 tips 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

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

A private coach’s scope of practice 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 means that optimizes their athletic efficiency.

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

That stated, there is a crucial disclaimer: The scope of follow 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’t diagnose a medical situation (e.g., normal nervousness dysfunction) or try and deal with it. Word: These limitations apply to private trainers, too.

Data Specialization

Whereas private trainers’ restricted scope of follow might appear as if 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 seeking to construct muscle mass.

Whereas a well being coach may information the shopper into staying per their exercise periods, 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 power, cardiovascular health, and even energy.

Work Atmosphere

One other distinction between well being coaches and private trainers could be their work atmosphere. Generally, well being coaches conduct their periods remotely (by cellphone or by web-conferencing instruments).

This contrasts with private trainers, who often work with shoppers bodily in a health club or another kind of health facility setting.

After all, it’s price noting that private trainers may conduct their periods 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. Research exhibits well being teaching to be equally efficient when carried out remotely as face-to-face teaching.

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

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

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

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’d shock you to be taught 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 providers.

Nonetheless, it’s unlikely for these with out 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 aren’t stringent, each professions are actually recognized to uphold a unified code of ethics, training, analysis, and credentials geared 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 accredited greater than eighty well being and wellness coach coaching applications all through the USA. FYI: AFPA’s well being coach applications are recognized 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 a degree 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’t diagnose medical circumstances or deal with them, interpret medical take a look at outcomes, advocate dietary supplements, and even prescribe meal plans (i.e., mandate {that a} shopper should comply with a specific means of consuming).

At any time when crucial, each professions should refer their clients to the relevant medical professionals instead. Listed below are examples of conditions that decision for “exterior” assist:

  • Working by traumatic experiences: A scenario greatest handled by a post-traumatic stress dysfunction (PTSD) psychiatrist.
  • Diagnosing and/or treating nutrient deficiencies: Greatest addressed by medical doctors and dietitians who can order blood assessments and develop an acceptable remedy plan. As soon as once more, well being coaches and private trainers can not 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 better sleep hygiene (e.g., avoiding display screen time earlier than bedtime and maintaining the bed room cool)—nothing extra.

A Accomplice 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 kind of partnership designed to take the shopper by 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 an alternative, all shoppers will sometimes undergo an “onboarding” session, the place they’ll must fill out a well being historical past, give the coach an concept of the place they at the moment stand (health degree for the non-public coach, present way of life habits for the well being coach), and what, precisely, they’re hoping to realize by 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 periods.

In consequence, each professions will must be accustomed to (and perceive the way to apply) behavioral change data:

  • Motivational interviewing: A key method utilized by coaches the place they ask open-ended questions supposed to assist shoppers elicit their very own causes for change. Efficient motivational interviewing helps shoppers verbalize obstacles and different components out of their management but impacting their well being. In flip, this initiates a dialogue about managing these obstacles, doubtlessly paving the way in which towards the adoption of assorted health-promoting behaviors (that make sense for them).
  • Well being habits change frameworks: A shopper’s well being habits results from a complex process of selections, habits, psychological state, social assist, historic experiences with discrimination, entry to healthcare, trauma, tradition, financial entry, amongst others. Understanding the two popular behavior change theories—the Well being Perception Mannequin (HBM) and the Transtheoretical Mannequin (TTM)—offers a coach with helpful insights right into a shopper’s attitudes and beliefs towards well being behaviors together with how shoppers might be higher guided into altering.
  • Rising shopper’s sense of self-efficacy: Self-efficacy refers to a person’s confidence of their potential to realize a aim (i.e., the specified end result). Research exhibits individuals who expertise excessive self-efficacy set larger targets and put extra effort into altering habits. As such, each well being coaches and private trainers ought to focus their efforts on growing a shopper’s self-efficacy ranges (e.g., with goal-setting and constructive psychology).

End result of Teaching

And what’s the remaining frequent thread between the work of well being coaches and private trainers? Their aim 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 info on the market.

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


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

For example, 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 every day stressors, then again, might refer them to a well being coach.

That stated, it’s price noting {that a} private coach is also a well being coach—and vice versa.

In spite of everything, lots of the expertise you could have developed as a private coach are transferable and related in a well being coach position. Along with an expanded shopper base, being licensed in each may even give you the chance to assist shoppers’ wellness in a multifaceted means.

Private trainers who earn their well being teaching certification purchase the broader data crucial for the every day administration of persistent circumstances, for instance.

In distinction, a well being coach outfitted with private coaching data may give actionable tips about 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 might be one of the crucial rewarding strikes a well being and wellness skilled may make. The time, cash, and energy you set into the method might be effectively price it. 


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