Joe Wicks quit his phone to combat stress and poor sleep - here's why you should too

We can all learn lessons from The Body Coach's two-day screen break. Here's how to get started with your own digital detox.

Joe Wicks with an inset of a mobile phone showing his Body Coach app
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Joe Wicks, popularly known as The Body Coach, recently posted on Instagram that he had taken a two-day break from his smartphone. In the post, he noted that he wanted to “feel more present” and take a bit of downtime with his family and for his mental health.

He took to the social network after his 48-hour hiatus to say that he felt “recharged and mentally reenergized,” telling his 4.1 million followers that he had been more present, less stressed, calmer, happier, and slept better. 

This isn’t the first time the fitness coach has expressed the need for a short break. Speaking to Russell Brand on a recent episode of the Joe Wicks Podcast, he said: “I’m very cool but I also burn out and I have weeks where I want to throw my phone in the sea and never look at it again. And I don’t want to be the Body Coach. I have a couple of days off and I come back and I’m ready to be that motivator, inspiring and helping people.”

Although he runs a successful Instagram account and one of the best fitness apps, it isn't a surprise that Joe has focused on his mental wellbeing. Throughout the pandemic-era PE With Joe live YouTube workouts, he spotlighted the link between fitness, exercise, and mental health.

Of course, he’s not the only one to have picked up on the advantages of disconnecting from time to time. Even before the pandemic led to increased screen time, we were spending more time with our devices. Research has also shown that using your phone before bed can lead to weight gain

According to Grace McMahon, Life Coach at Beingwell, “screen time isn’t a bad thing per se, it’s how we use our screens that can become damaging to our wellbeing. Unintentional use can lead to overstimulation, overwhelm, and leave us feeling drained.”

There are benefits to a short digital detox, where you temporarily step away from your smartphone, computer, and social media. People often find this helps them decrease stress and anxiety, improve relationships, and remove distractions.

For most people, it’d be impractical to digital detox for longer periods. We conduct an increasing amount of our professional and social lives online, so being out of contact would be detrimental in the long run. As McMahon notes, “there are benefits to screens and technology. You just need to find the right balance.” 

If you’re after a shorter pause, you could prepare for the downtime by letting friends and family know in advance, setting an Out of Office response on your emails, and maybe even a social media post about your temporary hiatus. 

McMahon suggests that when temptation hits, “find something else to do - go for a quick walk, read a chapter of a book, make an iced latte or practice your foam art. There are also features on your phone to help you curb your desire for a screen fix too.”

The important thing is to do what works for you and be honest about why you want a digital detox. If you’ve found yourself doomscrolling social media apps late into the night, develop a plan for how to avoid slipping into those habits during your downtime. 

There are also some low-cost and popular ways to manage stress, with no smart device required. And, you could consider investing in one of the best diffusers for essential oils if you’re after a way to create a more calming atmosphere at home.

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.