Game changers: Health coaches gain in popularity, influence


Do you think health coaches are just for the rich and famous? According to Forbes Magazine, the new focus on health and wellness that is partly a consequence of the pandemic has people of all ages, genders and socioeconomic levels flocking to these experts.

Harvard Medical School says that people tend to hire health coaches to help them with a broad variety of issues, including the management of chronic health conditions, adjusting to a life-altering health events such as a heart attack, weight loss, stress reduction and quitting tobacco.

Toni Armbruster, MS, NBC-HWC, a board-certified health coach who practices in Vero Beach, loves to help people get their lives on track. Whether it’s starting on a healthier diet or learning how to handle stress, the first thing she asks prospective clients is, “What are you trying to gain? Do you need someone to help you set goals?”

A major part of her practice is helping people with conditions such as diabetes or elevated cholesterol make lifestyle changes aimed at improving their health.

The NBHWC (National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching) states that health coaches work in various settings – some on healthcare teams alongside physicians and other health professionals as part of an integrative approach to client care, others in digital health, providing online coaching. Some work in community-based programs while others have entrepreneurial operations.

Armbruster took 40 hours of training with a qualified health coach while pursuing certification. She had to demonstrate her coaching skill by coaching the coach. She then applied for – and received – board-certification from NBHWC in 2021. She must complete 36 hours of additional certification training every three years.

“The industry is working towards strengthening the relationship between doctors and certified health coaches,” Armbruster says. “A billing/coding system is being developed so that doctors can refer patients to us for certifiable lifestyle changes.”

The National Society of Health Coaches says that the job outlook for health coaches in 2023 and beyond is positive. The industry is expected to grow at a rate of 6.7 percent annually through 2030, reaching an expected worth of nearly $20 billion by 2026, $23 billion by 2028 and $26 billion by 2030.

Titles of practitioners in the booming field can be confusing and have lots of gray areas, warns Armbruster. “You need to be cautious when choosing someone with whom to work,” she adds. There are people who call themselves health coaches who haven’t had much training in the field and other people who don’t call themselves health coaches who have great credentials and are more than capable of helping you get on the path to wellness.

Registered and licensed dieticians have years of high-level education in their field and have passed rigorous qualifying exams and certifications on the way to their designations.

Although they technically aren’t health coaches, they have the background, education and skills to function as a health coach, expanding their advice beyond just diet.

Nutritionist Alicia Cost, MS RDN LDN, is the principal of Cost Effective RD, which serves Vero Beach and the entire Treasure Coast. She is an example of a professional who is highly qualified to help her clients achieve better health through better diet, habits and lifestyle.

Cost finds that more and more people are coming to her practice wanting help with medical conditions.

“I use the SMART method of goal setting,” she says. “I help people understand why they do what they do.”

The SMART method is a framework that helps people create a clearly defined and detailed plan for succeeding at their goals. It’s an acronym that stands for:

• Specific
• Measurable
• Attainable
• Relevant
• Time-bound

This method has been praised for encouraging people to write down their goals and helping them to commit to the steps necessary for success.

Cost says many clients she sees are motivated to make changes after someone close to them has had a serious health problem. “If someone in the family has passed away, my clients are willing to embark on the long- and short-term goals they need for a healthier lifestyle.

Losing weight, exercising – the very things that may help you avoid ever having to get on meds at all, especially cholesterol drugs.

“It’s important to find a person who is an excellent listener, gives you their full attention, and takes your concerns seriously when you’re choosing someone with whom to work,” she adds.

A health and wellness coach needs empathy, passion and a drive to empower others. Some might even draw on their own life journey to relate on a deeper level with their clients to create a non-judgmental environment for them.
Most people want to take a more active role in their health to experience the benefits of good health but many don’t have the tools to do it. Every January first, New Year’s resolutions are made. For a few weeks, gyms are packed and salad kits fly off grocery shelves. Yet by February, more than 80 percent have abandoned our goals. Common challenges to lifestyle change include:
• Lack of time.
• Lack of accountability.
• Lack of motivation.
• Stress and mental or physical exhaustion.

Most people want to do better but most fail when they attempt to make changes.

Professionals like Armbruster and Cost can help them to get where they want – and need – to be.

“It’s never too late to change and adjust,” says Cost. “Sometimes even the smallest steps are enough to get us started on the right path to a healthier life.”

Toni Armbruster has a master’s degree in Exercise Science and Health Promotion with a concentration in Health Coaching from California University of Pennsylvania. She is a National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coach, Wellcoaches Certified Health and Well-being Coach, and National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer.

She serves clients in Vero Beach and the Treasure Coast and is accepting new clients at

Alicia Cost, MS, RDN, LDN, received an undergraduate degree in dietetics in 1989 and a master’s degree in nutrition in 2018 from Arizona State. She completed her internship in 1990 in Oakland County, Michigan. Her practice, Cost Effective RD, serves clients in Vero Beach and the Treasure Coast and she is accepting new clients. She can be contacted at 772-242-3570 or

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