Rochester, Minnesota - Making a lifestyle change can be a daunting task, as an overwhelming amount of popular health trends seem unsustainable at best and, at worst, could be dangerous. However, promising results of a study conducted by Mayo Clinic experts suggests that one of these latest trends - wellness coaching  - can produce substantial lifestyle improvements that align with an individual’s personal values and foster confidence to sustain these changes after the program has concluded.

Wellness coaches are trained professionals who help individuals identify values and make customized changes to manage stress, begin or maintain healthy habits and improve their overall quality of life. One of the reasons wellness coaching can be successful is that the focus isn’t necessarily on weight management or fitness. People usually begin wellness programs to lose weight, but, according to Matthew Clark, Ph. D., L.P., the study’s lead author and medical expert at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program, what often begins as a short-term goal evolves into clinically meaningful improvements, such as stress reduction, sleep improvement, increased spiritual connection and quality of life that is sustained long after the wellness program has been completed.

This study, which is published in The American Journal of Health Promotion, examines data from three main areas of wellness coaching: health behaviors, eating self-efficacy and goal-setting skills. Researchers asked 100 participants to evaluate themselves based on these criteria at the beginning of the program, after the standard 12 weeks were completed and three months following the last appointment. In all three areas, individuals reported statistically significant improvement and maintained self-perception of these improvements during the three-month period following.

The research from the study, conducted at the Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center on Mayo Clinic’s campus in Rochester, is being used for ongoing program planning at the clinic’s own Healthy Living Program – a comprehensive wellness program led by certified wellness experts. Dr. Clark offers this advice for people looking to make a lifestyle change: “If you’re looking to improve your quality of life ─ if you’re trying to make healthier changes ─ and it’s been difficult to do that on your own, be receptive to working with a wellness coach. That person can provide you with guidance, look at your strengths and help you build confidence and skills for long-term change.”