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Pros and Cons of Online Health Coaching

Rachel is a health blogger who coaches other women in diet and exercise. She has lived with chronic migraines for 16 years.


What Is Online Health Coaching?

Online health coaching is one of the hottest trends in the current fitness industry. It makes sense, given that most things have migrated to the online world—shopping, dating, and banking to name a few. Fitness professionals have taken advantage of this trend and created a whole new avenue for personal training.

Online health coaching typically involves an assessment of your current health and your goals for improvement. Then, a meal plan and workout routine are created for you. The amount of personal attention and accountability you receive after that varies widely from program to program.

As with most things, there are pros and cons to online health coaching. There are many factors to consider, from cost and convenience to quality and consistency. Before committing to an online coaching program, consider all of the benefits and drawbacks.

From Client to Coach: My Experience

Throughout my own personal health journey, I have worked with three different online health coaches. Each coach had a different approach, plan, and level of interaction. In all three cases, I felt my assigned coach had oversold in regards to the amount of engagement we would have.

Many coaches make a pitch that promises daily check-ins, Skype chats, and very consistent support. I, unfortunately, never had that experience. In most cases, I would wait several days for answers to questions, or follow up on the nutrition and exercise data I had submitted. Getting a "congratulations" or "great job" message two or three days after a workout doesn't have a very strong impact.

On the plus side, I did eventually develop a plan that worked for me, and I saw great results. The best part about the online coaching experience was the knowledge I was able to walk away with. I learned how to eat the right foods for my body. I learned about proper portion sizes and developed an appropriate eating schedule. I learned many, many new exercises and how to use them most effectively. Everything I learned from my online health coaches is part of my daily life in some capacity.

After the experiences I had with online coaching, I wanted to help others who were looking for support and guidance on their health journeys. I completed a certificate program to increase my knowledge of nutrition and exercise science, and began coaching other women. Having experienced different online coaching styles, I was able to come up with a strategy that makes every client feel supported and empowered.

Pros of Online Health Coaching

  • Flexibility & convenience. Essentially, you have a personal trainer in your pocket everywhere you go. Your trainer can help you figure out what to eat from a restaurant menu, make adjustments to your workout plan to accommodate for injuries, and provide accountability for your actions. You don't have to show up at a gym at a set time, and you don't have to miss a workout if you're traveling-- just ask your trainer to adjust your plan.
  • Privacy. Many people suffer from gym anxiety, making it very difficult to workout in a gym setting. With online health coaching, you can request at-home or outdoor workouts to avoid setting foot in a gym. Your weight, goals, and progress photos are all kept in confidence.
  • Pricing options. Most online health coaching platforms offer different pricing options. Some operate on time-based contracts, asking you to commit to three months, or maybe a year. Other programs charge based on services provided. A simple workout plan will cost loss than a meal plan and workout plan. Look for programs that offer a free assessment, or a risk-free trial period.

Cons of Online Health Coaching

  • Lack of customization. While some programs do an excellent job of assessing your health and tailoring a plan to meet your goals, other programs are more apt to handing out cookie-cutter plans to every client. If a program claims to offer "customized" plans, it's worth asking questions to determine just how personalized your plan will be. A good health coach should always take injuries, allergies, and pre-existing medical conditions into consideration.
  • Not enough accountability. Health coaches are supposed to motivate and encourage their clients. In turn, clients are accountable to their coaches and are expected to accurately report on their diet and exercise activity. If the coach is hard to reach, or offers very little personal contact, it's easy to stray from the plan. Look for programs that offer daily (or weekly) email check-ins, or preferably Skype check-ins. Not all programs excel in this area, simply because the coaches take on more clients than they can reasonably keep up with on a highly individualized basis.
  • Under-qualified coaches. Not every health coach doing business is certified, or even qualified. In fact, there is no certification that one must legally have to advertise and work as an online health coach. Sometimes referred to as "Instagram trainers," these are people who see health coaching only as a money-making opportunity. While their physique may look good on social media, there is no guarantee that they have the health science knowledge, or business sense, to be operating as a health coach. Even though it's not required, check to see if the program you're interested in has coaches that are certified by a nationally-recognized organization. Under-qualified coaches pose a risk to your health and safety. Do your research and ask to see testimonials before seriously pursuing a program.

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Rachel Leigh