Health Coach Vs Personal Trainer

Health Coach Vs Personal Trainer

Have you ever checked the job title of a personal trainer and health coach? You might be wondering how much different they are from one another especially if there is any difference among them. Basically, as per your assumption, they all do the same things and even have the same scope.

Now to burst the bubble, the quick answer is it somewhat depends. Many people fail to realize that there is a great variability among the job titles.  Chances are there for the scope to be the same or it can overlap with any other professional title.  Now keep in mind that the people in such roles or having these titles are not counsellors. Frankly, this is a huge misconception that people have where they view the title of the health coach or personal trainer as a ‘licensed counsellor’.

Such roles provide coaching. This simply varies differently from counselling and it is more in a clinical practical sense that is related to mental health support and behaviour changes. In addition, the title of the personal trainer won’t have coaching in them, still it is the major characteristics in the given field and occupation.

Status Symbol of Personal Trainer

If you check out the status symbol of a personal trainer came due to Hollywood stars. These spotlight celebrities made them the next big thing. After the mid-2000s with the recognition and nationalisation of the personal training profession, the stardom of the personal trainers increased.

Frankly, these were some of the exciting times that saw a massive industrial growth. Also, the education programs which armed personal trainers in everything related to fitness, health, and well being also increased. This lead to personal trainers becoming an everyday expectation and somewhat a necessity. Basically, the aim of personal trainers was to create a healthier nation, where the population wanted to reduce waistline and even decrease in chronic diseases.

An important aspect of personal trainers was that they had the power to make lives better. Using instructions, education and deep motivation, they could easily guide clients in reaching their fitness goals. No doubt, a personal trainer is deeply passionate about fitness and health, where they encourage and inspire others to have good healthy habits and routines. All these are possible by the effective programs, motivation, instruction and education.

That means that the work of personal trainers is very much positive. But a slight glance to the hard figures will simply show you the true facts that are related to waistlines, obesity rates, chronic diseases, etc. These are still at perilous levels. What’s missing here? Now these so-called fit individuals who have become fitter and even successful have adopted a bullet proof or fool proof healthy lifestyle regime.

Basically, that is great. However, there might be people who are struggling with self-belief, chronic patterns of limited belief and life direction over the basic control of their own health.

Status Symbol A Health Coach Has

Now regarding the health and wellness coach, they are more of a client-centred process. It is based on the working relationship or partnership that is created among coach and clients for advancing a healthy lifestyle and behaviour modifications with tools like goal setting, non-judgmental dialogue, and accountability.

The best part of a skillful health coach is that they will try to build partnership or alliances with their clients. However, rather than instructing and providing them about the details of the things to be done, the client will drive the given process. Also, a skilful coach can easily guide their clients to untapped the inner resources which was once unlocked. This will help in empowering them to strive towards achieving their basic goals.

By powerful questions, it becomes easy for the coach to provide the experience of self-compassion for their clients. So, it will help them to easily know about themselves and what can simply work for them. And this will easily allow them, the clients to get empowered with the new knowledge about them, providing them about their choices and getting control.

Frankly, here the strong focus will be on the present and the constant movement to the future that is better self. This is the focal point of a health coach. Also, it will remove the basic emphasis present on “It had not worked previously before or something like “I can’t do” to “what is really holding me back”?

Here health coaching will somewhat become a profession of its own rite. Not only will that it has a great impact on the health status of the population. Also, it is important for personal trainers and somewhat other professionals to get some kind of good resources and skills, that too from credible avenues.

Definition of A Health Coach

A health coach is a professional whose major focus is to assist clients in major (three) areas – increasing activity, changing behaviour, and developing healthy eating practices and various lifestyle behaviours. Here health coach will bridge the gap among individual’s current lifestyle health habits. These habits are those which individuals wish to change or establish.

Most importantly, a health coach is not a personal trainer. However, it is possible for professionals to have both the licensees. Having both the licenses can help in widening one’s scope of practice and employment opportunities. Most importantly, it will allow the aspect of multi-faceted approach while working with clients.

Now the employment of health coaches is very much same as that of the wellness coaches. Here the only possible future trend can be for the wellness and health coaches are the expansion of the employment opportunities. It will even include the greater revenue creating stream. Also, there is a huge increment of potential reimbursement from various insurance companies.

Frankly, the focus is moving from the treatment first to having a combined approach. This consists of homeopathic remedies, prevention, and treatment as and when needed. Also, it will even contain the role of wellness and health coaches for preventing efforts gains that are somewhat greater prominence and even necessity.

Definition of Personal Trainer

The role of a personal trainer is somewhat clear and commonly defined. Various certifying agencies which are accredited by the NCCA have the same kind of description with regards to job duties, role, standards, and scope of practice. Keep in mind that certified personal trainers can sometimes be fitness professionals too. They are especially the ones who have the skills, knowledge and abilities for required design safe and effective fitness program.

Along with these skills, they can even assist and instruct individuals to reach their personal fitness and health goals. Now the primary focus of the personal training is on the physical health of clients. But this major field that will continue to evolve and currently, we can see coaching, behaviour changes, and mindfulness as the basic added requirements for the given role.

Most importantly, personal trainers have a narrower scope of practice. And this is related to guiding clients to nutrition. One of the major aspects of the role involved in this role of being a personal trainer is that the employment opportunities aren’t limited to the big boxy gyms. In most of the organizations personal trainers are employed even though they are different from health coaches. You can find personal coaches and trainers in –

  • Spas and resorts
  • Sports arenas
  • Private training studios
  • Cruise liners
  • Athletic facilities
  • Recreation centres
  • Online (a most innovative growing trend)
  • Outpatient physical therapy clinics
  • Golf clubs
  • Corporations or large businesses
  • Apartment complexes and condos

Difference Between A Health Coach and Personal Trainer

1) Power

A personal trainer is in charge for allocating exercises and activities to clients. With regards to a health coach, it is a partnership among client and coach which is based on client-centred focus.

A personal trainer and health coach can work together where the personal trainer will instruct and prescribe the exercises to do while the health coach will create self-awareness that allows clients to recognize what is holding them back and empowering them to achieve their fitness and health goals.

2) Expertise

A personal trainer is an expert with regards to the various exercise prescriptions, performance, techniques. While the health coach views the client as a creative and resourceful one, which is nothing but an expert on their life and self.

A health coach and personal trainer can work together and put in their expert knowledge. The health coach will guide their clients to be an expert on how to use their full strengths as well as traits, which can make them reach their unlimited potential. Here the basic emphasis is on internal learning. With regards to the personal trainer, the major focus is basically more of external learning.

3) Approach

Here the personal trainer will instruct, prescribe, measure, motivate, monitor. While the health coach will do exploration, non-prescription, awareness, curiosity, self-efficacy, and future focus.

Both the approach factor can be combined for personal trainers and health coaches. The health coach focus is somewhat long term as well as ongoing. Not only that the client is empowered and encouraged to be somewhat self-managed and self-regulated besides being the reliant on other people. Also, personal trainers will provide the required tools and the health coach will provide the drive.

4) Fixing

Personal trainers work on fixing problems for their clients like building strength, and rehab. While health coach won’t, or you can say view clients as needed for getting fixed. Their focus is primary on guidance that is for strengthening the strengths and positive traits of their clients. And these are the ones that clients are not aware of or won’t utilize fully.

Here the fixing factor of both the personal trainer and health coach can be interlinked. Exercising and healthy eating program go a long way in solving the client’s genuine and perceived issues. Also, it will allow various underlying factors to be left untapped, which will lead to the recurrence of the problem.

Furthermore, the health coach will focus on the entire person, and this will include their assumptions as well as perceptions of themselves and the limited beliefs which can trigger bad health behaviours.

5) Process

The process used by personal trainer is often progressive and even linear as well as personal trainer driven. With regards to a health coach, it is somewhat non-linear as well as client driven.

Now the process factor of personal trainer and health coach can be combined. The personal trainer will prescribe progressive programs that can challenge their clients. But with health coaches, they will respond to lows, highs, setbacks and step forward and even address the various range of interrelated factors that can easily affect the health performance of the client.

6) Focus

Now personal trainers really consider the history of the exercises done and the behaviour pattern. This is to simply prescribe the things done in the present. Also, health coaches focus on the present and even how the client can easily reach to the full potential in the future.

Both the personal trainer and health coach can have the same focus. Here the personal trainer will have to consider the exercising pattern as well as eating history of their clients. They will need to look it as forms that are somewhat significant information for prescription. Also, with regards to health coaches, they consider their client must be empowered to begin afresh right from the platform of current day and even have a set of empowered self-beliefs.


Basically, there is a great difference regarding the work ethics that a health coach and personal trainer does. After all their basic aim is to make sure that their clients are healthy and active. Plus, both make sure that their clients embark to a healthier way of living. The only difference lies in the manner they do their job.


Saravavan Nadarajan (Vanan)

Vanan, fitness expert and leader at EzFit Singapore, specializes in holistic training—home-based, boot camps, and corporate fitness—with over a decade of industry experience.