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What is the Difference Between a Health Coach and a Personal Trainer?

By: Lindsay McKay

Published On: August 19, 2021

Differences between Health Coach and Personal Trainer

The health and wellness industry is full of a diverse range of career opportunities. If you are looking for a field where you can make yourself a unique niche in the market, this is a promising one to explore. From completing a coach certification course and becoming a life coach, health coach or business coach, to completing mindfulness training and complementing a current role where you interact and support clients, you can find something to suit your strength and ambitions. I will take you through the purpose of a personal trainer and the purpose of a health coach, as well as key differences between the two roles.  

What is the Purpose of a Personal Trainer? 

People that are looking to change physically and want help to get starting on their exercise and wellness journey go to a personal trainer. Personal trainers are there to support, teach, and ensure clients are doing the exercises in a correct and effective manner that suits their current physique and limits. The setting of a personal trainer is usually in a gym or a place with exercise equipment. The point of the sessions is to work on the body through physical exercise. A personal trainer will create a training regime for a client that either wants to get fitter, improve their health, or are recovering from an injury and need a personal trainer to oversee rehabilitation with specific exercises to strengthen muscles or joints. Criteria they use include age, weight, sex, exercise level, health conditions, and injuries.   

What is the Purpose of a Health Coach? 

People looking to change their overall lifestyle and that want to lead a healthier and happier life will seek the services of a health coach. A health coach is there to facilitate a healthy lifestyle through problem-solving, accountability, and motivational skills to address a range of lifestyle factors and help clients reach their goals surrounding all aspects of mental, physical, and overall wellbeing. A health coach will also provide information and offer support, plus be a mentor to their clients while cultivating a personal relationship of trust and nonjudgement. 

An effective health coach should: 

  • Be able to actively listen 
  • Maintain presence in sessions with clients 
  • Be able to provide constructive feedback in a safe and honest manner 
  • Help clients identify their “why” of their goals 
  • Reinforce, remind, and reevaluate 
  • Provide clear communication, responses, and input when necessary 

Key Differences 

At first glance, a health coach and a personal trainer might seem like the same thing, but there are some key differences. Their role and education are significantly different. A personal trainer goes through training that focuses on the anatomy of the body, creating exercise and nutrition plans, as well as learning how to motivate their clients to succeed. Their focus is on the physical body and what exercises are most effective at creating or maintaining the health and physique of their client. While a health coach has undergone a minimum of 160 hours of focused health coach certification training, supervision hours, and has passed an exam through the International Coaching Federation (ICF) to become certified. Health coaches can help in areas personal trainers cannot, such as people who are struggling with negative thinking, fears, limiting beliefs, or harmful life patterns and behaviours that are outside the gym. Learn more about the specifics of the path to becoming a certified coach in our other blog to see if this career is for you.  

Additional Training 

No matter the career you ultimately end up going into, there is always the need for ongoing learning and continuing education. As mentioned above, a mindfulness course to help you better understand the concepts, principles and practices of mindfulness and how it can be used in your daily life is beneficial for anyone wanting to reduce stress or introduce it into their professional life. Another important skill, especially in human services and health and wellness, is communication; taking an online communication course will increase your confidence and skills in interacting positively with your clients and other people in your life.      


The information contained in this post is considered true and accurate as of the publication date. However, the accuracy of this information may be impacted by changes in circumstances that occur after the time of publication. Ashton College assumes no liability for any error or omissions in the information contained in this post or any other post in our blog


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