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Cogn Emot. 2017 Jun;31(4):834-843. doi: 10.1080/02699931.2016.1168284. Epub 2016 Apr 4.

Acute aerobic exercise helps overcome emotion regulation deficits.

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a Department of Psychology , Harvard University , Cambridge , MA , USA.


Although colloquial wisdom and some studies suggest an association between regular aerobic exercise and emotional well-being, the nature of this link remains poorly understood. We hypothesised that aerobic exercise may change the way people respond to their emotions. Specifically, we tested whether individuals experiencing difficulties with emotion regulation would benefit from a previous session of exercise and show swifter recovery than their counterparts who did not exercise. Participants (N = 80) completed measures of emotion response tendencies, mood, and anxiety, and were randomly assigned to either stretch or jog for 30 minutes. All participants then underwent the same negative and positive mood inductions, and reported their emotional responses. Analyses showed that more perceived difficulty generating regulatory strategies and engaging in goal-directed behaviours after the negative mood induction predicted more intense and persistent negative affect in response to the stressor, as would be expected. Interactions revealed that aerobic exercise attenuated these effects. Moderate aerobic exercise may help attenuate negative emotions for participants initially experiencing regulatory difficulties. This study contributes to the literature on aerobic exercise's therapeutic effects with experimental data, specifically in the realm of emotional processing.


Emotion regulation; aerobic exercise; depression

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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