Need a Health Coach?

They can offer help on nutrition, wellness, stress and a number of other things

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Health coaching rides the trend of preventive health, but how could a health coach help you?

Karen Fisk, wellness educator at Natur-Tyme in Syracuse, said that health coaches’ services are about putting people on a track to good health.

“If we don’t think about what we eat or what level of exercise we get, we might think we’re fine. Getting an education about what’s healthful is helpful,” Fisk said.

While health coaches tend to work one-on-one with clients, Fisk distributes general health tips to the customers of Natur-Tyme.   

“A health coach is invested in your outcomes and is hired to track you,” she said. “Consistency is key.”

Physician Joanne Wu, an experienced yoga teacher, health coach and wellness expert who sees clients in Syracuse, said that health coaches engage clients to focus on a healthful lifestyle.

“These skills are specialized,” Wu said. “Many people could use inspiring and accountable people in their lives so they can make sustainable change in daunting tasks such as exercise, lose weight, eat right, sleep better, and have less stress; however, not all health coaches are certified, are properly trained, or use evidence-based counseling tools to help their clients.”

The cost of health coaching — an average $50 to $80 an hour — may be covered by health insurance. However, those not covered who can’t afford to hire a health coach have other options.

Seeking support in a group setting to meet health goals can often help participants succeed while they save. For example, many gyms employ personal trainers and experts in nutrition who offer group programming. Group fitness sessions can foster accountability and camaraderie.

Laura Kirkpatrick has worked as a physical therapist for 20 years with HCR Home Care, which has locations throughout the state. Currently, she works as a nutritionist and wellness coach with Metro Fitness where clients can get group fitness classes and personal training.

“We offer programs with focus on nutrition and exercise and the psychological aspects,” Kirkpatrick said. “We’re doing the body boost program that focuses on improving dietary habits, getting more movement and exercise into the day and working with a licensed  psychologist to adopt healthier mental attitudes toward fitness and nutrition. It’s about adopting positive self-talk and healthy habits.”

Kirkpatrick also recommends trying fitness tracking apps to help count calories, encourage more movement and reach more fitness goals. Many fitness apps are free or low cost.

Though a health coach may not be specifically covered under insurance, many plans cover massage therapy, chiropractic care and gym memberships — all of which may offer elements promoted by a health coach.

Community-based organizations such as Oasis, YMCA, and JCC offer fitness classes for short sessions. There’s no long-term commitment so you can “try on” an activity and learn more about health. Some gyms, martial arts schools and dance studios offer trial lessons or memberships as well. While these can’t replace regular exercise, they do provide an opportunity to experiment to see what activity could become lifelong without wasting money on an unused membership.

Workshops offered at the public library, health foods stores and other venues could offer a good way to learn more about good health (although these lack the ongoing motivation many need to stick with their goals). Read local periodicals and look on community bulletin boards to spot upcoming events.

“Should you have a friend that practices healthy behaviors, you can always approach them and many people will help each other best they can as friends,” Wu said. “Don’t be shy.”