Joe Wicks’ tips for finding a physical and mental health balance

BY DAVID LEVESLEY British GQ

Joe Wicks has been on a journey learning about how meditation, exercise and mental health can sit together. Below he guides you through how the mind and the body can benefit each other.

It was noted fictional lawyer Elle Woods that once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” While this was true in the instance of Legally Blonde, the connection between fitness and happiness, and indeed mental health, goes a lot further than just preventing homicide. 

It was noted fictional lawyer Elle Woods that once said, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” While this was true in the instance of Legally Blonde, the connection between fitness and happiness, and indeed mental health, goes a lot further than just preventing homicide. 

It is this connection between physical and mental health that has become a bit of a passion for Joe Wicks. You may remember him for his workouts or his cookbooks or when he became the nation’s PE teacher, but now he’s trying to find a new form of balance, for him and his audience, between contentment and getting a sweat on. “I’m really seeing a big shift in people’s attitudes towards exercise and their reasoning behind it,” he says, Zooming me while in the pigeon pose on his living room floor. “It’s not just about losing weight for summer, it’s about people wanting to deal with anxiety, depression, overcoming some real mental health issues.”

Wicks has had his own realisations about mental health and exercise over lockdown. While he had the purpose of offering his daily PE classes to start with, he says, “It slowed down and people were starting to go out again. That’s when I found it difficult. I missed my family, my friends – even now I struggle with it. I feel like it’s constant and it affects my mind.”

Then Russell Brand came on his podcast and recommended meditation. “I’ve always been really resistant to it, thought it’s not for me, but I have found a lot of peace and kind of calm through doing ten-minute guided meditations,” he said. Combined with a few other practices – ice baths, cold showers, breath work – “It’s really helped me to bring myself back to the moment.” 

This new journey is something he’s bringing to a new collaboration with Lululemon – “I’ve been wearing their shorts and using their yoga mats for five or six years” – in which he brings this combination of mobility, exercise and mindfulness to the fore of his practice and hopefully that of his fans too. 

Joe Wicks doesn’t pretend to be a trained psychotherapist, but, if you have maybe realised some new areas of your mental health over the past 18 months or maybe a lack of access to the gym has changed what you consider your relationship between your body and mind, here are his tips for finding balance between the two pursuits.

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