Training in Lifestyle Coaching: 8 Best Certifications and Courses

Lifestyle coachingWhat makes the Wizard of Oz storyline so compelling?

Maybe it’s that we relate to Dorothy’s struggle and her feelings of being stuck, lost, and unsure of her next steps.

After being dropped in the land of Oz, Dorothy wishes for nothing more than to find her way home. Along the way, she encounters a cast of iconic characters who journey with her, fully present and focusing on her needs until she ultimately reaches her goal.

Lifestyle coaching fills a similar role for people seeking to maximize their potential (Gavin & McBrearty, 2019). Coaches are dedicated and trained professionals focused on helping clients become more effective and satisfied while improving their quality of life.

Many people have felt stuck in situations, unsure of their next steps or where to turn for help. Thankfully, lifestyle coaching has gained substantial footing for those seeking support.

Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients create actionable goals and master techniques to create lasting behavior change.

What Is Lifestyle Coaching?

The stuck space between thinking and doing yawns wide before many, begging the question, “What makes some take action while others don’t?” The late Jim Rohn summed up the consequence when he said, “We all must suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline, or the pain of regret” (Anderson, 2020, p. 110).

Viewing health and wellness through the lens of the systems theory paradigm shows the interrelatedness of all things and is helpful given the mind–body connection (Gavin & McBrearty, 2019).

Not only do thoughts influence emotions and vice versa, but thoughts and feelings also influence the physical body, and how a person relates to their body affects mental and emotional health (Gavin & McBrearty, 2019).

When Hans Selye began researching how mental experiences of stress impacted physical wellness in the 1950s, he was considered eccentric (Gavin & McBrearty, 2019). Today, this is a common truism. Therefore, integrating daily health habits — what we eat, activity level, disease management, and more — will impact all areas of our lives, including psychological, social, and spiritual.

Lifestyle coaching is “a vehicle for helping people to achieve a higher level of wellbeing and performance in life and work, particularly when change is hard” (Tschannen-Moran et al., 2015, p. 1).

Experts in health, wellness, physical fitness, nutrition, and medicine partner with the client to invite awareness and determine a plan of action.

Lifestyle coaching is sought for various life-enhancing outcomes, including overall wellness, weight management, diabetes management, nutrition, activity, smoking, alcohol consumption, and stress reduction.

Coaching for healthier lifestyles has found its way into health care settings and relies on self-determination and self-efficacy to initiate and sustain desired behaviors. The motivation occurs because coaches support clients as they discover compelling reasons for change and create a clear vision of their goals (Curtain, 2019).

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) describes coaching as “a partnership that inspires clients to maximize their potential through thought-provoking and creative processes” (Gavin & McBrearty, 2019, p. 7).

Coaches possess many skills; however, deep, intuitive listening is one of the most vital skills coaches bring to the coaching relationship. According to Menendez and Williams (2015, p. 4), “Listening forms the cornerstone of coaching, just as it remains the bedrock for every human relationship.”

Let’s learn how to become a lifestyle coach.

How to Become a Lifestyle Coach

How to become a lifestyle coachAn effective coach focuses entirely on the client.

Good coaches are devoted to their craft and practice. They are ready to leave their own agenda outside the session to work with their clients.

According to Gavin and McBrearty (2019, p. 4), “Coaching is a client-centered approach based on mutual trust and respect. Its emphasis is on the present and the future.”

For those wondering if they would enjoy lifestyle coaching as a career, below are some ideas to consider.

Effective coaches:

  • Refrain from giving unsolicited advice.
  • Let the client be the expert of their own life while asking thought-provoking questions and listening wholly.
  • Inspire by connecting health to a higher purpose and meaning in life.
  • Uncover strengths and talents.
  • Hold the client accountable for their commitments.
  • Gently nudge clients beyond what they believe they can achieve.
  • Have an unwavering belief in their clients.
  • Remain focused, observant, supportive, empathetic, and responsive to the client.
  • Maintain curiosity while managing their own emotions.
  • Support the client’s expression of feelings, concerns, perceptions, beliefs, or suggestions.
  • Establish trust and intimacy.
  • Create a safe and supportive environment.
  • Respect the client’s identity, style, perception, and language and adapt their coaching style to the client.
  • Empower the client throughout the coaching process.
  • Are willing to grow throughout the coaching process.

You might be a good coaching candidate if you are still reading!

The first step toward lifestyle coaching should include robust research. Research may be in the form of reading coaching books and materials, hiring a coach to immerse yourself in the process, or exploring different coaching programs.

Below are some ideas to begin your coaching journey.

Download 3 Free Goals Exercises (PDF)

These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients create actionable goals and master techniques for lasting behavior change.

4 Certification Training Options

In 1974, W. T. Gallwey wrote The Inner Game of Tennis, which marked a transition from a pure sports coaching model to the development of personal coaching (Gavin & McBrearty, 2019).

Lifestyle coaching in health and medicine is burgeoning. Research has proven its efficacy for clients and patients who desire sustainable behavior changes, preventing or reversing lifestyle-related chronic diseases.

The National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC) is an approved body for education and coach training programs. It ensures that required hours, practical skill development and assessment, and faculty qualifications meet industry standards.

Several options are available for practitioners looking to become lifestyle coaches.

All coach training options provided below are NBHWC approved.

1. Mayo Clinic Wellness Coach Training Program

Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a leading medical center with a well-respected reputation.

The coaching program lasts 12 weeks and is best suited for those with a background in health care.

The training is 100% online with mandatory synchronous sessions.

2. Institute for Integrative Nutrition Health Coach Training Program

Institute for Integrative Nutrition

For prospective coaches interested in bio-individuality — unique programming for each individual — the Institute for Integrative Nutrition may be a great option.

In addition, the course extends to crucial life areas such as relationships, environment, social life, and finances.

Reputable coaches teach courses that are delivered online and are cohort-based.

3. Precision Nutrition Level 2

Precision Nutrition

This program is peer reviewed and backed by the latest science. Courses are self-paced and online.

Coaches learn how to prioritize client goals and help them discover how to remove obstacles to success. Training includes relevant topics such as sleep, stress management, mental health, and emotional wellbeing.

4. Health Coach Institute Health and Life Coach

Health Coach Institute

The Health Coach Institute training program offers health and life coaching training in tandem. Both the NBHWC and ICF approve the program.

Training is available online in a flexible format with no prerequisites. The program has been featured in Forbes, Fitness, and Hollywood Life.

4 College-Level Lifestyle Coaching Courses

Several lifestyle coach training options are available through colleges and universities, including certifications and degree programs. Below are just a few.

1. Duke University Health & Wellbeing Coach Training

Duke University

Duke University offers health and wellness coach training and certification programs that focus on success through building new habits. The program is hands-on and online and mixes both self-paced and live training.

The program helps participants understand the dynamics of behavior change, personal health planning, and mindful awareness.

A benefit to this program is receiving mentor reviews on recorded coaching sessions. Their website provides an accompanying blog for students who dig deeper into topics.

2. Emory University Health and Wellness Coaching Certificate

Emory University

Emory University’s continuing education health and wellness coaching certification program is nationally recognized as a rigorous academic program. To enroll in this program, participants must have completed a bachelor’s degree or higher.

This program includes 100% attendance with mandatory in-person full weekends. Other highlights include weekly coaching practice sessions and a five-session mentored coaching practicum.

Other components include theory and practice in coaching psychology and behavior change and the essential skill of client-centered communication.

3. University of Utah Health Education Specialist and Wellness Coaching

University of Utah

The University of Utah offers a unique non-thesis Master of Science degree through its Health and Kinesiology program and is one of the few programs in the country to offer this specialized degree.

Successful graduates can sit for the Certified Health Specialist and National Health and Wellness Coach certification exams, allowing participants to teach and coach.

This program takes two years of full-time schooling, excluding summer. Some prerequisite courses are highly recommended for acceptance and success.

4. Loma Linda University Health Education and Wellness

Loma Linda University

Loma Linda’s program in health education and wellness coaching is a component of their Master of Public Health degree that leads participants to a career in health promotion for individuals and communities.

A bachelor’s degree is required whether participants choose the coaching certificate track or the Master of Public Health track.

Successful graduates can sit for the following credentialing exams: the Certified Health Specialist exam, the National Health and Wellness Coach certification exam, the National Board of Public Health Examiners exam, and the Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist exam.

Online courses are offered online in both synchronous and asynchronous formats.

Also of value to coaches are masterclasses offered by PositivePsychology.com. Let’s look at a few.

A Look at Our Coaching Masterclasses

Below are PositivePsychology.com’s coaching masterclasses, which add value to coaching practices. These training templates for practitioners include an incredible selection of materials needed to deliver science-based lifestyle coaching.

1. Emotional Intelligence

Train emotional intelligence masterclassCoaches using emotional intelligence concepts and exercises will help clients gain insight into their emotions, decipher what they mean, and improve self-regulation skills. Self-regulation is a crucial element of health and wellbeing.

Understanding emotions and developing self-regulation skills are integral to making lifestyle changes. In addition, this Emotional Intelligence Masterclass© teaches appropriate emotional expression and provides all the materials needed to provide emotional intelligence coaching.

2. Mindfulness X©

Mindfulness-boxOften, habits are acquired to soothe or avoid painful situations. It can feel like habits sneak up on us, such as sitting too long or reaching for a cocktail when feeling awkward. These habits may be okay occasionally, but building a lifestyle around them can incur consequences.

The concept of emotional eating is almost cliche. Teaching clients mindful awareness of their choices can help identify issues such as emotional eating or sedentary behavior rather than moving.

Participants will learn concepts such as automaticity, nonjudgmental awareness, and acceptance.

The Mindfulness X© course brings awareness and creates a new relationship with our thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

3. Positive Relationships

Train Positive Relationships MasterclassBecause healthy relationships are key to wellbeing, coaches can strengthen their coaching skills by adding the Positive Relationships Masterclass© to their repertoire.

Participants will learn why positive relationships are one key marker of wellbeing, the different types of support clients need, the benefits of building social capital, perceptions about relationships, and how to manage relationships.

Learning to create and negotiate healthy relationships can help clients find others who will support and cheer them through the change process.

Exercises, metaphors, facts, and usable downloads provide an optimum client experience.

Other masterclasses available through PositivePsychology.com beneficial to a coaching toolkit include Maximizing Strengths, Motivation and Goal Achievement, Realizing Resilience, The Science of Self-Acceptance, and Balancing Life Domains.

Find out more about these in the Masterclass store.

4 Lifestyle Coaching Books to Read

As mentioned above, research is integral when making decisions and career changes. Below are some books that will provide insight into a career in lifestyle coaching.

1. Coaching Psychology Manual – Margaret Moore, Erika Jackson, and Bob Tschannen-Moran

Coaching Psychology Manual

This comprehensive and user-friendly text is in its second edition and is widely used within the lifestyle coaching community and introduces readers to the experience of coaching practices.

Highlights include the psychology behind coaching, in-depth analysis of the coaching presence, theoretical perspectives on the stages of change, and motivational interviewing.

Readers will find a chapter on generative moments within the coaching process and how to walk through them with clients.

Find the book on Amazon.


2. Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change – Michael Arloski

Wellness Coaching for Lasting Lifestyle Change

In its second edition, this book addresses coaching in general and specifics to lifestyle coaching. Topics include seven steps for a lasting lifestyle change, creating an alliance with clients, and charting the course for change.

One interesting chapter is devoted to coaching strategic, interpersonal, and intrapersonal aspects of effective change.

Find the book on Amazon.


3. Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything – B. J. Fogg

Tiny Habits

My lifestyle coach, Teresa Peacock, CPT, PN1, PN2, recommended this book.

Lifestyle coaching is about changing for the better. However, change is hard. This book aims to make any habit or change small enough to decrease the fear associated with change and increase motivation.

Written by B. J. Fogg, a habit expert at Stanford University, the goal of the book is to change the way we approach habits to make them more palatable. Fogg shows readers how to celebrate and feel good about success rather than focus on failure.

Find the book on Amazon.


4. Lifestyle Wellness Coaching – James Gavin and Madeleine McBrearty

Lifestyle Wellness Coaching

Now in its third edition, this book introduces wellness coaching and provides readers with a thorough background of core coaching ingredients such as the evolution of coaching and learning models.

The book also provides a comprehensive overview of paths of change and the theoretical models that enable change. Other valuable components include various coaching models that can be implemented and creating an alliance with the client.

Find the book on Amazon.

Resources From PositivePsychology.com

There are a variety of coaching resources available from PositivePsychology.com. Below are just a few.

Positive Psychology Coaching Manuals

This set of coaching manuals is designed to incorporate positive psychology principles into a coaching practice.

Based on sound theoretical background, the manuals are designed as a six-session course with a coach instruction manual and client workbook. Lessons help clients gain self-regulation, goal achievement, and overall wellbeing.

Who Am I?

Coaching is about exploration and self-awareness. The Who Am I? worksheet walks clients through introspective questions that help build self-awareness and enhance self-knowledge.

Introspection allows us to delve into thoughts, behaviors, and actions and assess what changes would increase positive results. This six-question survey allows clients insight into how they view themselves and how others view them.

Coping With Stress

Stress is a ubiquitous part of life and a topic that clients are often motivated to manage and change.

The Coping With Stress worksheet helps clients work through the stages of stress, define areas of life that produce stress, and provide ideas for new ways to react to stress.

This two-part exercise begins with an awareness of what causes the client stress. The second part encourages clients to explore healthier ways to reduce stress.

Changing Physical Habits

The Changing Physical Habits worksheet connects our behavior with how we feel — crucial concepts during stressful situations such as trying to effect change. Enhancing how we see ourselves can help influence healthier lifestyles.

This worksheet walks clients through physical vulnerabilities, providing insight and awareness that will help inform necessary changes.

Clients analyze daily habits such as diet, sleep, and exercise to decide how they feel about their current habits and journal what needs to change and how that will make them feel.

17 Motivation & Goal Achievement Exercises

If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others reach their goals, check out this collection of 17 validated motivation & goal achievement tools for practitioners. Use them to help others turn their dreams into reality by applying the latest science-based behavioral change techniques.

World’s Largest Positive Psychology Resource

The Positive Psychology Toolkit© is a groundbreaking practitioner resource containing over 500 science-based exercises, activities, interventions, questionnaires, and assessments created by experts using the latest positive psychology research.

Updated monthly. 100% Science-based.

“The best positive psychology resource out there!”
Emiliya Zhivotovskaya, Flourishing Center CEO

A Take-Home Message

Like Dorothy, a client’s journey begins within themselves. In lifestyle coaching, transformation happens, and, like Dorothy, clients discover the courage, heart, knowledge, and wisdom necessary to change and grow.

Effective lifestyle coaches know this and are honored to explore with clients as they discover these treasures.

If this type of endeavor interests you, there may be a hidden coach within you. Similar to what the iconic characters who accompanied Dorothy experienced, coaches grow and change throughout the coaching journey.

This calls to mind the words the Wizard said to Dorothy at the end of her journey in Oz:

“You’ve always had the power, my dear. You just had to learn it for yourself.”

Lloyd, 2021

We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Goal Achievement Exercises for free.

  • Anderson, K. (2020). Unstuck: Letting go of the myths keeping you from who you were created to be. Morgan James.
  • Curtain, S. (2019). Health coaching as a lifestyle medicine process in primary care. Australian Journal of General Practice, 48(10), 677–680.
  • Gavin, J., & McBrearty, M. (2019). Lifestyle wellness coaching. Human Kinetics.
  • Lloyd, J. (2021, September 13). Leadership lessons from the Wizard of Oz. LinkedIn. Retrieved June 2, 2023, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/leadership-lessons-from-wizard-oz-john-lloyd/.
  • Menendez, D. S., & Williams, P. (2015). Becoming a professional life coach: Lessons from the institute for life coach training (2nd ed.). W.W. Norton.
  • Tschannen-Moran, B., Jackson, E., & Moore, M. (2015). Coaching psychology manual. Wolters Kluwer.

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