What does a health and fitness coach do? Is it the career for you?

(BPT) - Health solutions and preventative wellness have never been more crucial. Today, six in 10 Americans live with at least one chronic disease, many of which can be prevented by eating well, being physically active, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and getting regular health screenings.

People are increasingly choosing to prioritize their well-being today to enjoy a longer, more fulfilling life. Google’s 2021 Year in Search results illustrate this momentum, as “women’s health” was searched more in 2021 than ever before in the United States, while interest in mental health broke records globally.

Now more than ever, individuals are seeking experts to support their desired changes, turning to health coaches and educators to help them live healthier lifestyles. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports overall employment of health education specialists and community health workers is projected to grow 17% from 2020 to 2030 — much faster than the average for all other occupations.

Career outlook aside, if you feel passionate about learning how to be healthier and achieving your own wellness goals, a career as a health coach could allow you to turn that passion into a meaningful career.

This was the case for ASU Online student Vicki Sheerin, who developed a life-altering passion for health and wellness after realizing weight loss would allow her to be more active in her children’s lives.

“I once struggled with weight gain, then had a moment in 2018 where I felt a spark telling me I had to do something about it,” she said. “My fire and determination [for this profession] came from seeing how much my weight loss was having a ripple effect in others’ lives.”

What does a health and fitness coach do?

In this newer profession, lifestyle and fitness practitioners are expert facilitators of mindset and behavior change. Health coaches serve an important need by empowering people to take control of their well-being. In doing so, they help people develop a sense of purpose and cultivate lasting behavioral changes necessary to optimize their well-being, foster thriving and help prevent disease.

Health coaches are not limited to working in any singular location. Those with a background or degree in fitness science can “work in the burgeoning field of wellness, supporting health and well-being in a variety of settings, working with individuals, groups or communities,” said Dr. Devi Davis-Strong, a lecturer at Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions.

By becoming a health coach, you can help others improve their health through guidance and counseling, providing the resources necessary to advance the wellness of individuals and communities alike. If the idea of empowering people to live healthier lives sounds exciting, you may consider starting on the path to becoming a health coach.

How to become a health and fitness coach

To create such lasting change as a wellness coach, one needs to be sufficiently knowledgeable about evidence-based processes of lifestyle change and lifestyle, wellness and positive psychological knowledge and skills. Your first step to entering this fulfilling career path is finding an educational program that provides the necessary background and helps you obtain useful credentials.

Arizona State University, for example, launched the first online bachelor’s program in the nation focused on preparing students for the fields of both health and wellness coaching and fitness science. ASU Online’s Bachelor of Science in health sciences with a focus on healthy lifestyles and fitness science uses an interdisciplinary approach and online simulated hands-on experiential learning to provide students with the skills needed to work in preventative health care and the knowledge necessary to pursue advanced health degrees. Courses cover core subjects including:

  • Nutrition
  • Physical fitness
  • Stress management
  • Coaching and behavioral health psychology
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Evidence-based practice

According to Karen Gregory-Mercado, Ph.D, MPH, MCHES, NBC-HWC, director and senior lecturer for the degree, the curriculum centers on two foundational components: healthy lifestyles and fitness sciences.

“Healthy lifestyles focuses on teaching skills and competencies supporting meaningful behavioral changes and improved wellbeing by expanding knowledge about health theories, coaching psychology, ethical principles and evidence-based applications in nutrition, stress and substance use/abuse. Fitness sciences prepares students to design, communicate and utilize evidence-based physical activity programs,” she said.

A degree in this area can lead to a fulfilling career, or prepare students for further certification. While completing this degree through ASU Online, students may sit for nationally-accredited, advanced certification in health and fitness areas such as those offered by the American College of Sports Medicine.

“These certifications, in addition to coursework, prepare graduates for opportunities in worksite wellness, community wellness and fitness centers, health coaching, health education and health promotion,” said Dr. Davis-Strong.

Career prospects in health sciences

With the background provided by this degree in healthy lifestyles and fitness science, you could pursue a wide variety of positions, including:

  • Health and wellness coach
  • Behavior management specialist
  • Occupational health and safety specialist
  • Medical and health services manager
  • Community health worker
  • Fitness and wellness coordinator
  • Medical and health services manager
  • Postsecondary health specialties teacher

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a much higher than average job outlook for Group Fitness Instructors and Health Education Specialists over the next decade. These careers are expected to grow 39% and 17% between 2020 and 2030, respectively.

To learn more about how you can earn a degree to begin your health and fitness sciences profession, visit ASUOnline.asu.edu.

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