While many of us hate the idea of exercise, Joe Wicks’ chirpy demeanour has inspired us to wrap ourselves in unflattering tight clothing and leap around our lounges when we’d probably rather be going something else.
Wicks was a force to be reckoned with in the online fitness world before March 2020. His devotion to HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and healthy eating won him an army of fans who made his Lean In 15 recipe books bestsellers, while a short but sweet Channel 4 programme in 2016 introduced him to a wider audience.
But it was his PE With Joe YouTube videos, which began during the lockdown, that turned him into a superstar. These weekday workouts became a godsend to parents, giving children something to do for a few minutes every morning while also burning off the energy they might otherwise have struggled to expel.
As news of his efforts grew, mums and dads joined in, as did, seemingly, everybody else. While some cynics might have questioned whether his sweet nature was real or just for show, he proved he was a genuine, all-round nice guy by donating all the profits made from the videos to the NHS, a total of around £500,000.
Throughout his career, Wicks has promoted the idea of exercise as not only being good for the body, but for the mind too – it’s a subject he’s passionate about, perhaps because he’s seen it working first-hand. Now he’s opening up about his experiences in this new documentary, co-executive produced by Louis Theroux.
“I was one of the hundreds of thousands of people who flocked to Joe’s online work-outs on that first day of PE With Joe back in March 2020,” says Theroux. “I’m a true believer in Joe’s mission of improving your mental wellbeing through exercise and it is a complete thrill and privilege to be able to spread the word further in this documentary, while also showing a side of the nation’s favourite PE teacher they have never seen before. This is a dream project for me.”
Wicks and his brothers grew up in Surrey with parents who had mental health issues – while their mother suffered from acute obsessive compulsive disorder, their father battled heroin addiction.
“I’ve spent a lot of time helping people improve their physical health, but as a child that grew up in a home with parents that struggled with their mental health, I know that this is just as important, especially given what’s happened over the last year,” explains Wicks.
“I’m passionate about exploring it and I want to use my own experience to connect and help families today who are in similar situations to the one I was in. I also want to share the message that exercise can be a really powerful tool in helping to boost our mental health.”
“I’m incredibly grateful to Joe and his family for sharing their story with the BBC,” adds Jack Bootle, the BBC’s head of commissioning, Natural History and Science. “I hope that by doing so they will make it easier for people in a similar situation to reach out for help.”