Generically, wellness is considered a dynamic process which “emphasizes self-healing, the promotion of health, and the prevention of illnesses rather than solely the treatment of symptoms of a disease” (Edlin & Galanty, 2016). However, the term wellness means many things to different people.

Wellness is…


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Individually, some see wellness as the achievement of a balanced lifestyle – mind, body, and spirit. To others, it might mean a greater emphasis on success professionally and personally. Still, others may define it only as the absence of disease or limiting conditions.

Wellness is multidimensional.

In other words, how wellness is defined greatly depends on the vantage point of each individual. Unlike the easily evaluated markers of metabolic health (LDL cholesterol or triglyceride levels), determining a person’s level of wellness requires more than simple lab work or body scans.

Measuring a client’s metabolic health is clinically easy and we have a table of norms and reference range values by which to compare the results. But what about a client’s level of wellness? How do we measure that? More importantly, what does it mean to help a client build a well lifestyle?

The answers to these questions are not as simple and direct as one might think. Everyone’s journey in wellness is unique which makes comparisons impractical – there’s no “table of norms” or standardized values that help us understand where a client falls in the range of “wellness”.

This is what makes helping our clients build a well lifestyle both challenging and beautiful. Each client comes to us with different goals, different value systems, and different needs that must be met. Each time we work with a client, we start from scratch.

Helping Your Clients Define Wellness

There’s no defined method by which you can explore the concept of wellness with your clients. There are, however, accepted “dimensions” or areas of wellness to explore:

  • physical (healthy and functioning body)
  • social (performing social roles and communicating effectively while building relationships)
  • emotional (understanding personal emotions and respecting the emotions of others)
  • intellectual (open-mind/growth perspective)
  • environmental (responsibility to protecting and preserving environment; can also relate to home and work environments)
  • occupational (deriving personal satisfaction from professional pursuits)
  • spiritual (belief system and state of harmony internally and with the rest of the world)

Definitions of these dimensions vary by expert and source. The key is discovering what dimensions a client considers as part of his or her personal wellness puzzle.

Helping Clients Build Harmony


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By virtue of simply being human, life isn’t likely to be perfectly balanced for long periods of time – if at all. Humans are fallible and life and our role in life can be subject to swift changes and alterations. That’s ok. The real value is teaching clients to create harmony so that when change happens, and it will, our clients are prepared to continue to enjoy life while enduring whatever challenges they face.

What to Ask Clients

Clients often seek our services to “fix” something physical or to help them “tone up” or “slim down”. It’s the why behind a client’s reasons that can guide us to understanding what building blocks might be missing from someone’s larger wellness picture.

The next time you sign on a new client, try to ask some questions such as:

1.    How satisfied are you with your home and work environments?
2.    How do you feel about your occupational pursuits?
3.    What are three things that bring you joy?
4.    How satisfied are you with your social life? What could be different?
5.    What would you like to do more of?

Based on a client’s responses, you can start to build a picture of what the gaps are in his or her wellness lifestyle. You might be a fitness professional, but your role and scope aren’t limited to exercise program design or nutritional guidance; you have the unique ability to change a lifestyle by coaching a client – not just training a client in the physical sense.

For example, if a client would like to spend more time playing with her young children, you can help her engage in healthful habits that involve her children. A nature walk through a local park, a post-dinner bike ride or a scavenger hunt around the neighborhood. Events like this are physically active, intellectually stimulating, and address an underlying desire – more time with the children. That’s a multidimensional wellness win.

In what ways can you think to help clients build more than their muscles?

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Edlin, G. & Golanty, E. (2016). Health & Wellness (12th ed.). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlet Learning

Erin Nitschke

Dr. Erin Nitschke, NFPT-CPT, NSCA-CPT, ACE Health Coach, Fitness Nutrition Specialist, Therapeutic Exercise Specialist, and Pn1 is a health and human performance college professor, fitness blogger, mother, and passionate fitness professional. She has over 15 years of experience in the fitness industry and college instruction. Erin believes in the power of a holistic approach to healthy living. She loves encouraging her clients and students to develop body harmony by teaching focused skill development and lifestyle balance. Erin is also the Director of Educational Partnerships & Programs for the NFPT. Erin is an editorial author for ACE, IDEA, The Sheridan Press, and the Casper Star Tribune. Visit her personal blog at