Joe Wicks, lifestyle capitalism and the social construction of PE (with Joe)

H. Bowles, B. C. Clift, G. Wiltshire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (SciVal)


In Spring 2020, the UK Government announced the cessation of in-person teaching for the vast majority of school-aged children in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Prompting an accelerated shift towards digital learning across the curriculum, this announcement was accompanied by a rise in market-based solutions to address the problem of keeping young people active, ‘healthy’ and ‘positive’ whilst at home. The most prominent of these was offered by Joe Wicks, who broadcasted PE with Joe live globally via YouTube for five days per week for eighteen weeks. The aim of this paper is to critically explore some of the contextual factors that enabled Joe Wicks to create and legitimise a public health intervention under the title of physical education, and henceforth position himself (whether intentionally or not) as an authoritative agent for change within the discipline. After outlining who Joe Wicks is, we unpack the discursive framing of PE with Joe in order to locate Wicks’ intervention amid the perennial politics of physical education. We then consider the meaning of PE with Joe and why Joe Wicks’ involvement in physical education matters, reflecting upon the effects of Joe Wicks on the future of physical education practice and research. Among our conclusions is that the Covid-19 pandemic provided an opportunity for Joe Wicks–here positioned and understood as a branded, celebrity lifestyle enterprise–to manoeuvre himself (and his products) from the periphery to the centre of physical education’s public imagery and discourse. Furthermore, we argue that exploring the ways in which Wicks’ presence in the physical education space has been received, embraced, modified, challenged and resisted is vital in discerning PE with Joe’s actual or perceived effects on the social construction of physical education, and the educational engagements of young people in physical activity in the post-Covid-19 landscape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-131
JournalSport, Education and Society
Issue number2
Early online date30 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 29 Feb 2024

Bibliographical note

No funders were acknowledged.


  • celebrity
  • Covid-19
  • crisis
  • discourse
  • entrepreneurialism
  • health
  • Joe Wicks
  • late-capitalism
  • physical education
  • public pedagogy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Education


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