Wellness Coaching: What Is It and Why It Matters
Wellness coaching recently landed a spot in the top 20 of the American College of Sports Medicine’s “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends for 2018” for the eighth consecutive year. Meanwhile, WebMD recently declared wellness coaching to be “the latest trend in fitness.” Wondering what wellness coaching is and whether your fitness business should be stepping up its wellness coaching game? Here’s a closer look at the trend.What is Wellness Coaching?
“Wellness coaching is the integration of behavioral change science with health promotion, disease prevention, and rehabilitation. Wellness coaching often uses a one-on-one approach similar to a personal trainer with the coach providing support, guidance, encouragement, and confirmation when short- and long-term goals are reached,” says ACSM.
In other words, it’s not just about logging hours on the treadmill, but rather about taking a more holistic view of the journey toward comprehensive health and wellbeing. While wellness coaching often stands alone, its principles are also being adopted by fitness professionals, including personal trainers.
This can lead to profound -- and unexpected -- outcomes. As a compulsive overeater, Laurie Heit told WebMD of the transformative effect working with a wellness coach had on her. She stated:
“My goal didn’t change, but how I got there did. The time and exploration of the right food plan helped me explore myself and my wants in life.”
Bridging the Gap
How, exactly, does wellness coaching succeed where other methods fail? It is by bridging the gap between a person’s goals and the path to reaching them.
Insists Margaret Moore, founder of health and wellness coaching certification program Well Coaches:
“We want to be well. We yearn to be in control and feel better. We want more energy. But there is an enormous gap between wanting to be well and the everyday reality of living with the mental and physical health penalties of overeating, underexercising, and having too little down time.”
Grass-roots but Growing
While wellness coaching isn’t exactly new; it’s still finding its place, not only in the fitness community but also among medical professionals.
Many doctors are coming around to it, including primary care doctor Michael Lano, who routinely refers patients to wellness coaching. "I'm a family physician and I always tell my patients that it's my job to help them live a long, healthy life. But 98 percent is their part, and that's what the life coach helps with -- everything from diet and exercise to emotional well-being. It's the same thing that we [doctors] deal with, but she deals with it from a lifestyle perspective,” he told WebMD.
According to Lano, it works. Not only do most of his patients begin eating better and moving more after beginning wellness coaching, but they also show improvements in both their outlook and overall lifestyle.
Is Wellness Coaching Right for Your Fitness Business?
While wellness coaching may not benefit all of your members, it can provide wonderful motivation for those looking to make meaningful change in their lives, but not necessarily knowing how. “They’re not eating well. They’re not exercising. They’re stressed. They’re stuck. They’re not making progress,” continues Lano.
Said one workaholic-turned enthusiastic wellness coaching recipient of daily walks with licensed corporate wellness coach Ellen Albertson:
“One might think I could walk on my own, but what she was doing was listening to me about my life, learning about how I managed eating, the stressors in my life, and my relationship to my body. She became familiar, almost like a good therapist, with all aspects of my life. And slowly, she built a relationship that I started to value.”
Through this relationship, he was able to slow down, get in better touch with his body, and lose 40 pounds.
Finding the Right Wellness Coaching Professionals
Building a good wellness coaching program starts with hiring the right people. This can be tricky because there is currently no standard when it comes to licensure for wellness coaches. Proposes Albertson, “Coaching is a fairly new field, and someone can call themselves a health coach and not have any credentials attached to that. There is no national certification out there to protect people. There are also a lot of matchbook credentials. Anybody can put a shingle out there and call themselves a coach.”
To that end, experts recommend looking for wellness coaches with degrees from reputable organizations, a minimum of two years of experiences working in the field, and excellent references.
Additionally, certain certifications, such as the ACE Certified Health Coach program, offer quality assurance.
Another way to find the best wellness coaches is to train them from within. According to a recent Zen Planner piece on the benefits of investing in coaching development, doing so can boost retention rates, decrease churn, generate referrals, and build your local reputation.
Wellness coaching may still be growing -- both in terms of how it’s viewed and utilized -- but the takeaway is clear for fitness business owners. If your gym, health center, or studio isn’t integrating a wellness coaching component, you may be missing out on a major member recruitment and retention opportunity.
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