There are times we could all use a personal guru, especially when it comes to our health. Making lifestyle changes like eating right, committing to a fitness routine, and successfully managing stress is easier when you have someone to keep you accountable and help identify potential pitfalls so you can head them off. For many people these days that guru is a health coach.
“A health coach works with someone who wants to make a change in their well-being and helps them reach their goals,” says Linda Smith, director of educational programs at Duke Integrative Medicine. That sounds broad and vague, but research (like this April study published in The American Journal of Managed Care, and this May study published in Clinical Pediatrics) has found that health coaches can help patients with a variety of issues, including sticking to their new nutrition, exercise, and weight-loss plans, and also managing chronic conditions.
With doctors spending less time with patients (about 9 to 16 minutes per appointment, says a 2015 survey) and Google becoming a go-to source for medical information, it’s not surprising that health coaches are on the rise. It’s ranked number 13 in a list of 20 in the annual “Worldwide Survey of Fitness Trends” (more than 2,800 health and fitness professionals around the globe weighed in) published in ACSM’S Health & Fitness Journal last December.
Just because something works for a lot of people doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Smith says some people may benefit from health coaches more than others.