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Melburnians get hot and sweaty with fitness phenom Joe Wicks

Key points

  • UK-based, self-proclaimed body coach Joe Wicks led a mass workout in Melbourne on Saturday.
  • Wicks started online PE tutorials to help young people during lockdowns.
  • He amassed about A$1m from his online tutorials and has made donations to the UK’s National Health Service.
  • While in Australia, he will raise money for local groups ReachOut and the Taronga Conservation Society. 

When the world went into lockdown in 2020, Joe Wicks wanted to lift peoples’ spirits by getting their bodies moving during the uncertainty of the pandemic.

The UK-based, self-proclaimed body coach attracted record viewers through his online video tutorials, aimed at helping people build their mental wellbeing and physical health via cardio, burpees, kangaroo hops and duck walks in their living rooms.

Joe Wicks attracted record viewers through his online video tutorials.Credit:Simon Schluter

On the first Monday morning after lockdown started, Wicks was shocked when he hit almost a million viewers on his livestream.

“It took things to another level because there were kids in the UK doing it live with their grandma, their uncles or aunty in Australia, who were doing the class in the evening,” Wicks said.

His videos clearly struck a chord with locked down Melburnians.

On Saturday morning they descended on Federation Square in their hundreds, sporting active wear, some with toddlers in tow, for a mass workout led by Wicks.

Wicks in action at Federation Square on Saturday.Credit:Simon Schluter

As he was being interviewed by The Sunday Age, Wicks was approached by a father and son, who shared his surname.

“We are the Wicks from Melbourne, and we love your work,” the father said, as Wicks leaned in for a photo.

For Wicks, 37, exercise was lifeline growing up in a home where his father struggled with a heroin addiction and his mum battled obsessive compulsive and eating disorders.

“I was a very disruptive and distracted kid and I couldn’t focus on anything, but PE was the one subject I’d look forward to and where the teacher didn’t kick me out of class,” he said.

Hundreds of people attended the mass workout.Credit:Simon Schluter

“For me, it was like a release. Exercising, running around, playing sports and moving my body, I just really felt like it released a lot of that anxiety and stress in my body, and it instantly improved my mood.”

Wicks has always wanted to emulate the positive impact his PE teachers had on him as boy. His philosophy is to get children exercising at a young age, so they start health habits early.

“We all want our kids to be smart, but we need our kids to be healthy and happy and that’s going to come through exercise and movement,” Wicks said.

His live workouts on YouTube have made him one of the most well-known personal trainers in the world. Every morning, at 9am UK time, he runs an online “PE lesson” – an exercise class for kids that you can do at home.

It sounds like a simple enough idea, but in the UK every child, their mum (and grandma) was talking about it during the pandemic.

Wicks amassed £580,000 pounds – about $1 million Australian dollars – from his online PE sessions during lockdowns and has made some big donations to the UK’s National Health Service.

During the lockdowns, Wicks, who has more than 4.5 million Instagram followers, was invited to Windsor Palace to be awarded a Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by Princess Anne for his efforts at keeping kids active and looking after their mental health in lockdown.

Wicks is in Australia hosting a pair of workout events that will raise money for youth mental health charity ReachOut and wildlife group the Taronga Conservation Society.

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