Health Behavior Science and Why It’s Important for Health Coaches


As health, wellness, nutrition, and fitness coaches, one of many major abilities that you just develop throughout your training is find out how to information your purchasers towards adopting behaviors that make them more healthy. You assist them to attain bodily, psychological, and social wellbeing.

The normal inhabitants has the notion that entry to info will naturally result in conduct change. 

Health professionals know change in health behaviors hardly ever takes place when somebody merely is aware of which behaviors contribute to sickness and which behaviors contribute to health. 

If health conduct change have been so simple as figuring out what actions contribute to health, nobody would smoke, drink alcohol, or eat ultra-processed meals, and most individuals on the planet would make exercise a part of their each day actions. 

Clearly, health conduct change is far more complicated than merely getting access to info. 

Health behaviors outcome from a complex process of choices, habits, psychological state, social assist, historic experiences with discrimination, entry to healthcare, trauma, tradition, financial entry, and a number of others.

These dynamics of health behaviors are regularly altering, and it may be ineffective to take motion by trial and error with purchasers.  

This article will offer you the data foundation about why sure health behaviors come about and what are among the ineffective and efficient strategies of modifying health behaviors. 

After studying this text, you can be geared up with the research-backed info and instruments to assist your purchasers make useful and long-lasting adjustments concerning their health.

What Are Health Behaviors?

Health behaviors are decisions and actions that form health and wellbeing in people, in addition to in populations.

Some experts discuss with health behaviors as any motion that influences health both by sustaining, selling, or diminishing health standing. In distinction, others see health behaviors solely as those who positively influence health.

William Cockerham defines a health conduct, within the optimistic sense, as “the activity undertaken by individuals for the purpose of maintaining or enhancing their health, preventing health problems, or achieving a positive body image.”

Health behaviors aren’t essentially restricted to individuals who wish to keep healthy, but in addition individuals who have a bodily incapacity and individuals who have been identified with power ailments and who want to sluggish illness development, handle the sickness, and even comprise or reverse the illness. They can obtain this via optimistic types of health conduct, like a balanced weight loss plan, common exercise, and avoiding smoking and medication.

In the United States, the leading causes of illness and death are no less than partially straight associated to health behaviors, particularly, poor weight loss plan, smoking, and high blood pressure. 

The most important health-related behaviors embrace:

  • Diet
  •  Exercise, bodily exercise, and sedentarism
  • Smoking
  • Drugs
  • Sex-related behaviors (like unprotected intercourse)
  • Thoughts or actions that influence psychological health
  • Thoughts or actions that influence social health

As health and wellness professionals, as you learn via this record, it is perhaps clear to you wherein of those behaviors you’re greatest geared up to assist your purchasers. 

Why Do Your Clients Make the Choices They Do?

Health behaviors are the results of a fancy interplay between social, environmental, and psychological influences. These are known as “key determinants of health behaviors.”

Social Determinants of Health Behaviors

The social setting has a big affect on how folks make selections for their health. These are essential elements to contemplate as they clarify that health standing will not be merely the results of particular person selection.

As the researcher Clare Xanthos and her crew state, “explaining unhealthy behaviors simply as a matter of individual choice may be counterproductive since it leads toward a ‘blaming the victim approach’ whereby disadvantaged populations are blamed for using unhealthy coping mechanisms for dealing with their difficult social circumstances.”

In different phrases, social determinants of health can have a big influence on health standing because the social setting can encourage unhealthy behaviors and discourage healthy behaviors. For instance, researchers have demonstrated that alcohol is disproportionally marketed towards Black communities.

That being stated, there are a number of social determinants of health behaviors which are well-established. These include:

  • Societal establishments
  •  Ideologies on a household, neighborhood, regional, nationwide, and even international stage
  •  Inequalities and discrimination, together with racism and sexism 
  • Agency, or the ability of a person to make selections and take actions

Environmental Determinants of Health Behaviors

The setting wherein completely different people dwell, work, and these via which they transfer all have an affect on health behaviors. Some researchers discuss with this because the “health ecosystem.” Through this mannequin, the person and their private traits are influenced by working situations, residing situations, social and environmental assets, and alternatives which are out there along side the construct and pure setting.

Access to parks and secure sidewalks; contemporary, low-cost food; and steady, well-paying jobs with time for recreation all have an affect on how folks make selections for their health.

Environmental racism has an essential position within the determinants of health behaviors. Environmental racism refers back to the insurance policies and actions carried out by public and non-public entities that explicitly put folks of coloration at an obstacle. 

The study that coined the time period “environmental racism” in 1987 demonstrated that hazardous waste services, that are recognized to be detrimental to health, have been much more prone to be located in Black and Latino communities than in areas populated by whites of the identical socioeconomic class. 

Other types of environmental air pollution, like the shortage of entry to wash water and residing in cities with high ranges of smog, even have a unfavourable impact on health conduct. 

Since all these elements aren’t solely related to the person but in addition to the health of whole populations underneath those self same situations, that is typically the mannequin of selection for public health professionals.

Psychological/Cognitive Determinants of Health Behaviors

The psychological and cognitive determinants of health behaviors refer to those who are centered on a person’s data or what she or he believes to be true together with a person’s confidence to make a change.

Other elements to contemplate concerning the psychological and cognitive determinants of health are mental health conditions, equivalent to nervousness, depression, addictions, and eating issues.

It is essential to notice that psychological trauma negatively impacts health dangers later in life. Adverse child events (ACEs) are recognized to have an effect on the health of adults later in life by inciting health-damaging way of life decisions like overeating and smoking and as a result of individuals who have been via hostile occasions are likely to expertise power stress, which is a threat issue for a variety of ailments. 

Since most fitness, health, and wellness professionals work with purchasers on a person stage, slightly than on a neighborhood stage, that is the place they’ll take advantage of vital influence. For this cause, we’ll deal with health conduct change concept from a cognitive viewpoint, since it’s going to doubtless be most helpful for health and wellness coaches.

Some Considerations for Health Behaviors

Separate however associated to health behaviors are the organic elements that affect health outcomes, like age, intercourse, and heredity elements.

Keep in thoughts that whereas there are some overarching causes for sure behaviors, there are additionally particular causes and motivators which are particular to every observe. In different phrases, we can’t at all times generalize that one issue is the rationale behind all of the actions a person takes that act for or towards his or her health. For instance, “low self-esteem” might affect your shopper’s motivation to exercise, however you can’t essentially assume that low shallowness is the rationale for all unfavourable health behaviors.

As health, fitness and wellness professionals, it isn’t needed for you to establish the precise determinants of every of your purchasers’ health behaviors. However, understanding how completely different spheres of affect can have an effect on how your shopper makes decisions may also help you to establish numerous strategies of introducing new health behaviors in order that they meet your shopper’s wants.

Health Behavior Change Frameworks: An Overview

There are dozens of conduct change theories. Many of those theories are utilized to, and even developed for, health-related behaviors

Two common conduct change theories are the Health Belief Model (HBM) and the Transtheoretical Model (TTM). The Health Belief Model is predicated on the concept health conduct change is predicated on cognitive elements, or what folks take into consideration health issues and proposed options. 

The Transtheoretical Model of conduct change, often known as the Stages of Change Model, is one other extensively used conduct change mannequin that states that altering a conduct will not be a coincidence however slightly an energetic course of. Different individuals are discovered in several phases of conduct change and readiness.

As a coach, you may discuss with each the Health Belief Model and the Transtheoretical Model to realize a greater understanding of your shopper’s attitudes and beliefs towards health behaviors and the concrete behaviors they perform. 

Below, we provide you with an summary of each fashions. 

Transtheoretical Model 

This mannequin was developed by Prochaska and DiClemente with the purpose of summarizing the unifying elements of a number of conduct change theories. 

In this mannequin, health conduct change is described as happening over 5 phases: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, motion, and upkeep.

The strengths of the Transtheoretical Model embrace with the ability to find a person’s progress towards a desired health conduct in a sequence, and it acknowledges the potential for and potential for relapse at any given stage. 


preview-gallery-The Transtheoretical Stages of Change Model_V1


The phases of the Transtheoretical Model are: 

  1. Precontemplation: A person at this stage doesn’t have an intention to alter present conduct and might actively resist the efforts of others to alter their conduct. This could possibly be as a result of they aren’t conscious that there’s a drawback, don’t acknowledge their conduct as problematic for their health, or are dealing with emotions of hopelessness after having beforehand tried to make a change. 
  2. Contemplation: A person on the contemplation stage acknowledges a necessity to alter however has not but taken motion to make adjustments. They might even see boundaries to alter which are perceived as larger than the necessity to change. Some boundaries could also be financial limitations, inconvenience, a scarcity of assist, or a scarcity of entry to instruments and assets seen as essential to make adjustments. Some of those boundaries outcome from systemic social injustice. 
  3. Preparation: A person at this stage is satisfied that they should make a change and they consider that some great benefits of making a change of their health conduct outweigh the boundaries or disadvantages. A person who’s making ready to make change normally reveals a willingness to attempt new issues. 
  4. Action: People within the motion stage of conduct change have actively modified their conduct to undertake those who promote their health. The motion stage can start as quickly as sooner or later after making the change to as much as six months of persistently having adopted a brand new or modified conduct. 
  5. Maintenance: A person who’s within the upkeep stage of health conduct change has adopted the brand new or modified health-promoting conduct for greater than six months. However, the person should actively work to keep up this conduct and keep away from relapse. 

Health Belief Model

The Health Belief Model is likely one of the oldest and most generally used health conduct change fashions, so there’s extra information to again it up and instruments freely out there. The HBM comes from the angle of cognitive determinants conduct change for health, which is usually the place most fitness, health, and wellness coaches have an affect.

Some of the psychological determinants of health behaviors, based mostly on the Health Belief Model embrace:

  • Perceived susceptibility, or the assumption {that a} person has about their probabilities of getting sick or being affected by a situation. In different phrases, if a person feels that they aren’t prone to getting lung most cancers, then they may not be that averse to smoking.
  •  Perceived severity, or the assumption about how severe completely different situations are for a person. For instance, if a twenty-five-year-old person believes that the Coronavirus solely impacts older folks, they may not be too fearful about utilizing a masks or maintaining social distance.
  • Perceived advantages, which is the assumption {that a} person has about how taking an motion will scale back the danger of getting unwell or how a lot the exercise will enhance the present situation. If your shopper believes that following a plant-based weight loss plan will considerably scale back their high blood pressure, they’re extra prone to observe one of these weight loss plan. 
  • Perceived boundaries, or the assumption concerning the drawbacks of a selected motion. If an motion that will enhance health is simply too costly, not nice, or will take up an excessive amount of time, these are all seen as boundaries to creating adjustments.
  • Cues to motion, or the occasions that happen that inspire somebody to do one thing in another way. If your shopper has a health scare, or for those who present details about behaviors that shock them to make a change, these are cues to motion. 
  • Self-efficacy, or the arrogance in a person’s means to take motion. If a person can visualize how completely different behaviors may end in improved health, and in the event that they estimate they’ll realistically obtain these enhancements, they’re self-efficacious. Here, the health coach can have a vital position in bringing out a way of self-efficacy.

It is essential to needless to say all behaviors and motivations are knowledgeable by trauma. Until the trauma is resolved, the sample will perpetuate itself. 

Here is a illustration of how these elements come into play with one another:


preview-gallery-Health Belief Model_V1

Factors that may modify the person beliefs and ensuing actions talked about above embrace age, gender, ethnicity, character, socioeconomics, and data. You can discuss with the part concerning the determinants of health behaviors for extra info on the modifying elements of health beliefs.

Why We Are Where We Are: The Nutrition Transition

From a public health perspective, we’re in a perplexing and seemingly contradictory time in historical past. Globally, most societies have better entry to all kinds of products year-round, however we now have handed some extent of reaching balanced nutrition, and as an alternative, many communities usually tend to over-consume macronutrients whereas nonetheless being in danger for micronutrient deficiencies.

As against the adjustments over a number of hundreds of years of human improvement prior to now, these shifts in our health habits appear to behave directly against the survival of the human race.

Public health specialists describe adjustments in dietary patterns as nutrition transitions , and we’re at the moment experiencing a big one.

Nutrition transitions are phenomena the place modernization, urbanization, financial improvement, and elevated wealth result in adjustments in weight loss plan. Researchers have recognized 5 nutrition transition patterns throughout human historical past.

preview-full-Patterns of Nutrition Transition_V1

A Note About the Nutrition Transition from a Global Perspective

It is essential to notice, nevertheless, that whereas the nutrition transition, which is rooted in Western eating habits , is a world phenomenon, together with in developing countries, there are areas on the earth which have very completely different realities. These areas are nonetheless very weak to famine and varied types of malnutrition, as was frequent in earlier patterns of nutrition transition.

For these causes, as health and wellness professionals, it’s essential to remember that realities could be drastically completely different in several communities, and a lot of these realities will not be what we initially assume.

Why Is Knowledge About the Nutrition Transition Important for Health and Wellness Professionals?

At this second within the historical past of human health, we’re at the moment shifting from sample 4 to sample 5. Different societies and people are shifting at completely different paces.

As we transition right into a sample of health behaviors that require whole societies to start adopting conduct adjustments for their wellbeing, and even their survival, the position of health and wellness professionals turns into ever extra vital.

From your expertise as a health and wellness skilled, you might be able to consider previous purchasers or folks you realize that appear to embody sample 4 (eating meals high in refined sugar, main sedentary life, and creating metabolic issues). In distinction, different purchasers could also be absolutely able to embrace sample 5, that of conduct change, the place they’re prepared and dedicated to taking actions to stop and deal with illness.

You may additionally be capable of consider people which are someplace in between—they’re conscious of how their actions are negatively affecting their health. However, they’re nonetheless adopting unhealthy behaviors as a result of they’re uncertain about find out how to make the change, or they’re fearful about unfavourable impacts on their psychological health from making a change. This final situation might resonate with you considerably—many individuals who look for the assist of health and wellness coaches wish to make a change, however they aren’t certain find out how to start.

As health, wellness, fitness, and nutrition coaches explicitly skilled to assist and information your purchasers towards health-promoting conduct adjustments, your position in preventing the obesity and obesity-related illness epidemic is changing into extra and extra essential to assist transfer alongside the method with every of your purchasers.

Main Takeaways

A health and wellness coach has the purpose of serving to folks undertake actions that enhance their health standing and general wellbeing. Health and wellness professionals can extra successfully assist their purchasers make adjustments to unhealthy behaviors and inspire them to proceed taking healthful motion when they’re knowledgeable about all the elements that affect how they make selections.

In this text, we additionally gave you an summary of different determinants of health behaviors that transcend private data and selection so you may extra sensitively method the person situations wherein your purchasers dwell and work, and how they could affect actions.

In later articles, we’ll offer you the instruments based mostly on the Health Belief Model that may provide help to work together with your purchasers to make efficient and long-lasting change.


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