This summer I earned my health coach certification through American Council on Exercise (ACE) as part of an independent study for school. You might remember that I’m also certified as a personal trainer, group fitness instructor, and Jazzercise instructor. I’m excited to have another certification to add to my toolbox and resume.

I thought I’d do a brief recap of the certification and my experience with it. Health coaching is something I’d love to offer, so please let me know if you’d be interested or have any advice on getting starting!


What is a health coach?

According to the ACE website, a health coach “move[s] people to adopt healthy, long-term, sustainable behaviors that can change the course of their lives” by ” facilitat[ing] ¬†healthy lifestyle changes for individuals and groups through physical-activity guidance, nutritional education and behavior-change coaching.” –Source

Essentially a health coach can help you set achievable fitness and nutrition goals, create a plan for you to reach those goals, and keep you motivated and accountable while helping you overcome challenges.

Why did I choose to be certified through ACE?

Because I did this certification as independent study credits towards my master’s degree, I worked with a faculty advisor. My advisor does health coaching and ACE was the certification she recommended for me. She actually holds a different certification (for the life of me, I can’t remember what; I’ll edit if it comes back to me) but it costs upwards of $1000-not something this grad student can afford. If you search for health coach certifications, several results will come up but ACE is one of the only ones that is NCAA-accredited. It’s important to note that the ACE Health Coach certification is only open to those who already have some kind of health, nutrition, and/or fitness background.

How much does the certification cost?

It depends if you choose the standard or premium package. The premium package includes a separate study guide, practice tests, and an online study program. You can compare the study programs here. Those who already have an ACE certification (like me) get a discount. If you don’t already have a certification through ACE but are interested in the health coach certification, I’d suggest following their Facebook page because it seems like there’s always sales.

I chose the premium package mainly because the study guide and practice tests were huge helps to me when I was completing my group fitness certification and I knew they’d be helpful for this certification as well. If you can afford it, I’d highly recommend spending a little more for the extra study materials.

Any study tips?


The best advice I can give is just dive in and take advantage of the study materials that you have. I read a chapter, completed the review in the companion study guide open-book style, and then tested myself on the end-of-chapter quiz. Once I reached the end of the book, I skimmed/reviewed the chapters and took the first practice test. Then I repeated the process. One tip: if you use the companion study guide, do the quizzes on a separate piece of paper so you can take them multiple times.

What is the time commitment?

I believe you have six months from date of purchase to schedule your exam. I completed this as an independent study for school during the summer semester, so I started in June and took my exam at the end of July. At the time, I was also taking another 3-credit graduate course and nannying; studying for and completing the course in that time felt very manageable and not overwhelming. I should point out, however, that the certification covers nutrition, fitness assessments, and behavior change theories, all of which I’ve studied before. It may take you more or less time to feel comfortable with the material depending on your background.

What is the exam like?

Do the practice tests! The practice tests give you a good idea of what the exam is like, although the actual exam is more difficult. If you’re confident with the practice tests and quizzes in the study guide, you’ll probably do fine on the actual exam.

What are my overall thoughts on the certification?

There are a lot of great things with this certification. I particularly enjoyed the chapters on the different change theories and motivational interviewing. The fitness and nutrition overviews are very informative and helpful for being knowledgable while working with clients without going outside of scope of practice.

There are also a few things I didn’t like. One, there’s no in-person component. As part of my independent study, I was able to ask my advisor questions and role-play practice sessions with her; I felt like I got so much out of this and would like to see it incorporated into the certification process. I also really didn’t like all the time dedicated to fitness assessments and putting together workout programs. I felt that is more under the domain of a personal trainer and not a health coach. I don’t want to run personal training sessions with health coach clients, unless I’ve also been hired as their personal trainer.

Overall, I’m very pleased I completed the ACE Health Coach certification and would recommend it to anyone looking to add another certification and learn more about how to best help clients. I’m hoping to put this certification to good use and am looking forward to helping others live a healthier lifestyle!


ACE Health Coach Certification

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