Integrating Health Coaching With a Medical Fitness Program to Treat Chronic Health Conditions

Am J Lifestyle Med. 2017 Sep 5;14(3):326-334. doi: 10.1177/1559827617728025. eCollection 2020 May-Jun.


Medical fitness and health/wellness coaching (HWC) are emerging health care trends but potential synergistic effects are yet to be studied.

Purpose: To determine the impact of integrating HWC within a community-based medical fitness program for patients with chronic health conditions.

Methods: A before and after clinical trial, examining 3 frequency levels of coaching sessions, with Journey-to-Wellness (J2W) participants (N = 1306) who were predominately female (76%), aged 12 to 87 years (mean ± SD = 53.54 ± 14.34 years), and referred by their health care provider. Over 3 months, J2W emphasized HWC, exercise, nutrition counseling, and group/interactive events. HWC averaged 4.4 ± 2.5 sessions and was analyzed at 3 levels (0-3; 4-6; 6+ sessions). Pre-post measures were Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9), Positivity, General Anxiety Disorder (GAD-7), Dartmouth Quality of Life (QoL), Lifestyle Nutrition Behavior (LNB), Pain, exercise minutes, weight, waist circumference, and systolic/diastolic blood pressures.

Results: J2W intervention significantly (P < .01) improved all outcomes. Between 20% and 43% improvements were observed for PHQ-9, GAD-7, QoL while LNB improved 7.5%, and biometrics between 1% and 2.2%. Greater frequency of HWC enhanced J2W effect for PHQ-9 and QoL with weight and GAD approaching significance.

Conclusion: J2W programming produced measurable improvement in health metrics, with greater HWC frequency adding to these beneficial effects, providing a powerful community-based health intervention.

Keywords: behavior change; disease management; health coaching; medical fitness; risk reduction; wellness.