Few People Know What a Health Coach Does – But Everyone Should!

Updated on December 5, 2023

If there’s one lesson to be learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and its still-emerging variants, it’s that better overall health and increased levels of physical activity—at both the personal and population levels—are more vital than ever. Now that we’re a few years into the pandemic, we have enough evidence to tell us that physical inactivity is associated with a higher risk for severe COVID-19 outcomes (hospitalization, admission to the ICU and death) and that exercise is an effective tool in boosting the immune system against the disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that people are at risk of becoming very sick from COVID-19 if they have one or more health conditions. Included on that list of health conditions—alongside cancer, diabetes and heart disease—is physical inactivity. 

Stated more simply, physical activity makes us healthier and being healthier helps us avoid, fight or recover from serious illness. Not exactly groundbreaking. Most of us know that we should be exercising more and living a healthier overall lifestyle. It’s the how that trips us up. 

Health Coaching to the Rescue

Health coaching is all about unraveling that how. Health coaches work with people either one-on-one or in small groups to help them develop personalized behavior-change plans and empower them with strategies to make long-lasting lifestyle changes. What separates health coaches from most personal trainers, other exercise professionals, and members of the healthcare community is their holistic approach to health and wellbeing, which combines exercise, nutrition, other healthy lifestyle behaviors, and the psychology of behavior change. 

So, what exactly is a health coach and what do they do?

A health coach is an expert who can collaborate with you to develop a plan suited to your unique dietary, emotional and physical needs, and, perhaps more importantly, your values and your current lifestyle. Those values define your why, which is another thing that a health coach can help you uncover and tap into as a key source of motivation.

With health coaching, the work extends beyond what occurs in the fitness facility or within the context of a workout, to the small, everyday changes that you can make to improve your health and wellness. Health coaches don’t offer a quick fix, but rather a long-term solution to help you develop positive habits that lead to steady growth and sustainable change. 

While health coaching is not a silver bullet to help you avoid COVID-19 or a magical cure if you do get sick, it can help you live your healthiest life and prepare you to face the disease or any other challenge you might encounter at full strength. 

An important note: Being more active and living a healthier lifestyle should not be viewed only as a means of avoiding sickness or disease. Those objectives can sometimes feel too distant or fear-based to be effective. Instead, view physical activity as a means to live better now, whatever that means to you (again, your why), whether it’s keeping up with your kids or grandkids as you get older or being able to go hiking or play pickleball without being too sore the next day. 

Winter Is Coming

Winter creates a perfect storm for viral illnesses, including not only COVID-19, but also the flu and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. People travel more and spend more time indoors in close contact with others (then get back on a plane with lots of other folks who just did the same). So, now is the perfect time to get started on a regular physical-activity and lifestyle-behavior change routine to best position yourself to stay healthy through the winter months. 

Working with a health coach is a vital investment in yourself, your current wellness and your long-term health.

Cedric X. Bryant
Cedric X. Bryant
President and Chief Science Officer at American Council on Exercise

Cedric X. Bryant is president and chief science officer at the American Council on Exercise. He stewards ACE's development of strategies to deliver exercise-science and behavior-change education in ways that are engaging and compelling, recruiting more people to become exercise professionals and health coaches and equipping them for growth in their respective fields. He's responsible for driving innovation in the area of behavior-change programming, overseeing the development of programs that ACE-certified professionals can utilize to help people adopt and sustain healthier lifestyles.

With more than 35 years of expertise in exercise science, he leads ACE's exploration of how science-based programs and interventions appropriately integrate into health care and public health. Bryant is also responsible for ensuring the scientific accuracy of ACE-commissioned studies, publications and all other materials that ACE creates. He represents ACE as a national and international presenter, author and subject-matter expert, and is a highly sought-after media spokesperson who has been frequently quoted in major media outlets, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time magazine and NBC News.