It’s a question that I often get asked. “What’s the difference between a health coach, a wellness coach, and a life coach?”
And to be honest, I can understand people’s frustrations when it comes to trying to differentiate between all three, especially when comparing a health coach with a wellness coach.
I mean, to start with, name-wise, they seem pretty similar. Health… wellness… where is the difference?
So it’s for this reason that I decided to write a blog on the subject.
One that will give you a thorough, in-depth look at these three roles in the fitness world: the health coach, the wellness coach, and finally, the life coach.
And in the end, you hopefully will know the difference between them and have a far better idea of which professions you might prefer to enter.
I also highly recommend that you take the quiz and find out which health coach certification is best for your career goals.
What health coach certification is right for you?
We developed this critical quiz to help you find the best certification for you and your goals.
So let’s begin then. And to do that, we start by looking at what it is a health coach does.
The Health Coach
If we had to specify what a health coach does quickly, you could sum it up by saying that they help people with certain health-related problems or conditions.
These can be linked to illnesses or weight issues that result from lifestyle choices or chronic conditions that a person might suffer from.
And it’s the job of a health coach to help each respective client to overcome these problems, if possible, or come up with a solution that helps make them easier to manage.
So that’s kind of like a doctor, right?
Well, I suppose so, in a way. But it’s very different as well. Yes, doctors are all about quickly establishing what might be ailing you, giving a course of treatment, and sending you on your way.
Think about it, how much time do you spend in a doctor’s office? Most appointments are 15 to 20 minutes max.
With a health coach, the aim is to get to the root cause of the problem and fix it.
Listen, I am not saying that’s not saying a health coach is a doctor, far from it, in fact. But they can really help people with specific conditions, especially in the form of treatment aided by lifestyle changes.
In a nutshell, a health coach and their clients will develop a long-term plan for specific health problems or conditions they might suffer from. These plans mostly involve lifestyle changes. A health coach stays involved throughout the whole process, motivating, making changes along the way, and facilitating the process.
If I were to sum up, what a health coach does, I would say that they work in three specific ways. Firstly, they help to change behavior. Secondly, they introduce clients to healthy ways of living and encourage them to become less sedentary and more physical.
In fact, many personal trainers are also certified health coaches and vice versa.
What can a health coach help with?
There are many ways that a health coach can help someone. For example, a health coach can:
- Help someone lose or gain weight
- Help someone to quit smoking
- Help with stress management
- Help with healthy eating
- Help to help fight chronic health problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.
A health coach won’t provide full nutritional information or devise an exercise program for their clients unless they are also certified in those fields.
The Wellness Coach
So now let’s get onto what it is a wellness coach does. It certainly is a profession that is taking off in the health industry, that’s for sure. But of course, not many people know what a wellness coach does or how they can benefit from seeing one.
Today, wellness coaches are found at lifestyle centers, wellness centers, and even at some gyms. But why has wellness coaching become an important part of the health industry?
Well, as a way to prevent health problems down the line, many people are modifying their lifestyles by becoming more healthy, not only by working out but by watching what they eat, for example.
So you probably think that’s pretty similar to what a health coach does, right?
And while it is, a wellness coach gets a little more in-depth by focusing not only on the physical aspect like a health coach would but on three other important spheres. And those are emotional, mental, and spiritual.
All-in-all, a wellness coach holistically focuses on these four parts as part of improving a client’s overall personal wellness. Of course, this is a very individualized approach, as each client will have their own set of unique needs.
What can a wellness coach help with?
There certainly can be a slight crossover when it comes to health coaches and wellness coaches and what each of these can help people with. So yes, like a health coach, a wellness coach can:
- Help with weight management
- Help with stress management
- Help with various lifestyle issues that need to be addressed
That said, as we have already discussed, they work on more levels than a health coach does. That means a wellness coach can also help clients with the following:
- Emotional health
- Mental health
- Overall personal improvement
- Time management
So as you can see, while certain areas overlap, a wellness coach does have a few more strings to their bow than a health coach. And that’s because they work with clients physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually as well.
The Life Coach
Now let’s look at our third and final coaching gig – the life coach. And the name certainly would suggest that a life coach is very different from a health coach and a wellness coach but again, some areas do overlap, especially between a wellness coach and a health coach.
While these types of coaches can help a person with their life in general, usually, a life coach has a particular area of expertise. For example, relationships or perhaps finance.
People approach life coaches for help for several reasons. They may have certain goals that they have failed to achieve and need guidance on how to get there.
Or they might be struggling with a certain aspect of day-to-day living and need to make a drastic change before disaster sets in – think of someone who, despite their best efforts, is just terrible with money and slowly but surely is sinking into debt.
A life coach is all about helping with personal growth in many different facets of a person’s life.
What can a life coach help people with?
So let’s look at exactly where a life coach can help someone. These include:
- Relationships (including romantic or interpersonal)
- Financial planning
- Social life
- Career planning
And as mentioned before, some life coaches specialize in specific areas, while others can help on a more general scale.
Certifications for Health and Wellness Coaching
Now let’s take a little look into the different types of certifications available for both health and wellness coaches.
American Fitness Professionals Association (AFPA) Certifications
A good place to start is with the certifications offered by AFPA. This organization has existed since 1994; to date, over 100,000 people have become accredited through the AFPA.
The AFPA offers a range of certifications covering many different fitness and health areas. Still, we will look at their health and wellness and holistic health coach certifications.
AFPA Health and Wellness Certification
While we have described the simple differences between what a health coach, wellness coach, and life coach does, AFPA comes along and muddles that all up with the naming convention for their two certifications.
So let’s see just what it is that their health and wellness certification offers.
This online course provides you with all the material you need to become a health and wellness coach. It focuses on the following core aspects.
- The coaching processes needed for clients with varying conditions and needs
- Ways to coach unique individuals in an effective manner
- Getting clients to buy into behavioral changes as a path to their ultimate success
- A holistic approach to health. It’s not only about diet and exercise but life balance (between work, relationships, and “me” time), spirituality, a positive mental outlook, and more.
- A focus on overall client support throughout the whole coaching process
AFPA Holistic Health Coach Certification
Okay, now that we know what the AFPA health and wellness certification is about, let’s look at their holistic health coach offering a little more in-depth.
The first thing to know is that this certification takes in everything from the health and wellness certification and adds to it. So it’s far more comprehensive and certainly more expensive. In fact, you are looking at $799 versus $1,699.
Over and above the bullet points outlined in the section above, what added extras can you expect? Well, these extras focus on the following:
- Guidelines for diet and meal planning about nutrition from whole foods as a way to combat various diseases
- Plant-based and whole food nutrition and the science behind it
- In-depth knowledge about a range of holistic diet types, including vegetarian, vegan, and paleo, amongst others
American Council on Exercise (ACE) Health Coach Certification
There is no doubt about it; ACE is one of the top certifications out there in the world of fitness and health. And they offer a health coach certification as well.
This is not only a great option if you are looking to become a health coach but also if you are already certified as a personal trainer and want to add even more expertise to your knowledge base, example.
ACE offers two separate packages when it comes to this certification. The first is the cheapest but already expects participants to have some knowledge of principles related or health coaching or have had experience in the health field. The second is a fully comprehensive package for those without prior knowledge who want to become health coaches.
Each of these will provide you with the knowledge to:
- Help fight against the rise of chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension
- Provide the framework for clients to lead a healthy lifestyle
- And motivate clients to make healthy lifestyle changes permanent
One of the biggest advantages of this certification is that it is one of the only ones accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). That’s a pretty big deal in my book.
Coaches empower people to change their lives.
To do this, they provide a unique, fresh perspective of a client’s problems after garnering all the information they need to do so. It’s often a tough journey, and for the most part, whether you choose to be a health, wellness, or life coach, gaining a client’s trust and getting them to provide information plays a large part in helping them overcome their unique problems.
If that’s where you want to make your focus, well, then go out there and make a difference!
- “Health & Wellness Coach Certification.” American Fitness Professionals & Associates (AFPA), https://store.afpafitness.com/health-wellness-coach-certification/.
- “Health Coach Certification.” American Council on Exercise (ACE), https://www.acefitness.org/fitness-certifications/health-coach-certification/default.aspx#whyHealthCoach.
- “What Is a Wellness Coach, and When Do You Need One?” The Balance, https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-a-wellness-coach-when-do-you-need-one-4175824.
- “What Does a Wellness Coach Do?” Institute for Wellness Education, https://instituteforwellness.com/what-does-a-wellness-coach-do/.
- “What Does a Wellness Coach Do?” Saybrook University, https://www.saybrook.edu/unbound/what-does-a-wellness-coach-do/.
- “Wellness Coaching Australia Blog.” Wellness Coaching Australia, https://www.wellnesscoachingaustralia.com.au/_blog/Wellness_Coaching_Australia.
- “Life Coach vs. Health Coach: What’s the Difference?” Primal Health Coach Institute, https://www.primalhealthcoach.com/life-coach-vs-health-coach-whats-the-difference/.
- “Life Coaching vs. Health Coaching.” Audacious Wellness, 30 Dec. 2015, https://www.audaciouswellness.com/blog-1/2015/12/30/life-coaching-vs-health-coaching.