“We really have to acknowledge and accept our responsibility as parents. We must work to be a role model. “We must move ourselves and encourage our children to move too.”
Joe Wicks, a British fitness coach on a mission to get people moving, recently visited primary schools in Ireland.
When I spoke to him in Limerick last month, just after completing the third day of his four-day tour, he was delighted with the response he was getting from the kids.
“It was amazing,” he says. “We are visiting ten schools over four days. “We started in Belfast, went to Galway and Limerick and then we finish in Dublin.”
He meets kids of a certain age who will forever associate Wicks with those long quarantine days during the pandemic.
P.E. with Joe It started in March 2020, just after schools were closed around the world; While schools are closed, Wicks hosts daily workouts for kids on his popular YouTube channel, Monday through Friday (the first video has 7.9 million views).
It continued through June, publishing almost 80 lessons and giving parents working from home something to do with their kids before getting stuck in endless Zoom calls.
Wicks’ star, who started his career as a personal trainer in 2011, rose after the 15-second healthy recipe videos he published on social media became popular.
The first collection of recipes and workouts, a bestseller lean at 15It was released in 2015.
He has since published 11 more books; the newest of these Feel Good Food– She has amassed millions of followers on Instagram and YouTube and runs a popular subscription app called The Body Coach.
He is also passionate about imparting the benefits of exercise to children. Wicks understands this from personal experience.
“As a child, I grew up in a home where my father was addicted to heroin and my mother suffered from serious mental health issues such as anxiety and eating disorders. “If I didn’t have physical education at school as a child, I didn’t think I could handle it, I would have been overwhelmed,” she says. “I was very young and couldn’t talk about it with anyone, but exercise, physical education and sports basically saved me and changed my life.”
A 2021 report from the World Health Organization (WHO) noted that the global prevalence of anxiety and depression increased by 25% in the first year of the pandemic.
“It was tough,” Wicks says. “More parents than ever are experiencing mental health issues and young children are experiencing anxiety and depression. [Exercise] very important. This isn’t fair in schools. This isn’t just about teachers. This is a parental issue, this is a family issue. “We need to work together to keep kids active because if we don’t, they’re going to really struggle throughout their lives.”
Wicks tries to convey this message to children during school visits: “I ask the children, how do you feel at the beginning of practice? Are you tired or angry? Are you stressed? Are you worried about something? At the end of the workout, I ask them again and they all say, ‘I feel happier!’ says. They are more energetic. “This is a seed I planted in their minds, and you need it for your mental health, too.”
He is aware of children having difficulties at home. “I care about that because I was one of those kids. I grew up in that house and it was chaos. Fitness and sports were my salvation. This was my therapy. So I want parents and teachers to see this, believe it, and participate. “Adults are role models for children and we have to show this.”
Q&As with the kids after practices give Wicks the opportunity to offer some food-related advice, but he’s careful how he phrases it.
“I’m not criticizing nutrition,” she says, knowing that sometimes children don’t have access to nutritious food at home.
“When they ask me questions like what’s your favorite breakfast? What is the healthiest thing to eat? How is your diet? I give them little information. I don’t want to make them feel like they’re failing because they’re not eating healthy. But how about having porridge instead of Coco Pops for breakfast, or a piece of apple instead of a bag of chips for lunch?
These simple ideas can have a positive impact, especially when they come from someone as influential as Wicks. “These are just simple moves that can be accomplished,” he says. “Every day he makes some impact and it adds up.
“As a parent, I think the most important thing we can give our children is to be a role model in cooking and help them enjoy food and the process of learning nutrition,” she says.
The second thing is movement. “You don’t need to tell your children to do intense exercise at home on their own, but you can do fun activities together, go out into nature, go to the park.
It’s something he does often with his own children, five-year-old Indie, three-year-old Marley, and one-year-old Leni: “I [older] Kids go on little walks and say, ‘Let’s try to run 500 meters or run around the block.’
“Last weekend I took them to the park run in the park and we ran a lap – just a kilometer, they didn’t have the strength to go any further than that but we celebrated as if they had won an Olympic medal.
“If you make kids feel like they’ve accomplished something and make them feel proud, they’ll want to do it again,” Wicks says.
But they can’t do this on their own. “I have to be the one to stand up with them, go out there and run around that park. If I hadn’t been there, they wouldn’t have been there either. “I am a role model for them.”