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4 Fitness Tips to Turn Your Negative Emotions into Success

Jennifer was alone with a 6-month-old infant and only enough money to cover one month of living expenses. She had no income or safety net. “It was me against the world with only a computer as my weapon,” she said. Overwhelmed with anxiety and worry, she asked, “What am I going to do?”

The first thing she had to do was to change the way she thought, and she knew from years of experience that the only way to do that was with rhythmic exercise. She needed to jog, cycle, walk or do the stepper or elliptical. That was how she was going to spin anxiety and worry into success.

Jennifer put her head down and didn’t look up for weeks except for trips to the gym, where they provided free child care. Within weeks, she had signed $10,000 in contract work. By the end of the year, she had a full-time job. Jennifer went from earning $200 a month to $100,000 a year relying on the power rhythmic exercise.

  1. Find your central pattern generator
    The central pattern generator controls rhythmic modes of exercise such as walking, jogging, elliptical training, and step climbing. A CPG is a movement started by the brain that the spinal cord keeps going. The CPG is how we can walk on a treadmill and read a book. The spinal cord controls the movement, and the brain reads.How does rhythmic exercise such as jogging, running, cycling, walking, elliptical training, and stepping connect you to the power of your emotions and change your life?
  2. Quiet your cortex; activate your primitive brain
    Rhythmic exercise quiets the cortex and activates the limbic system, the deep emotion center. The limbic system is our primitive brain. Rhythmic exercise hushes the overthinking, overreasoning, and overanalyzing cortex. It calms the mind, quiets the unwanted thoughts, and creates a sense of well-being. When we activate the primitive brain, we connect to our emotions and our true self.
  3. Your one-minute miracle
    Being in control of your emotions is an ongoing life event, but sometimes you have to take it one day at a time and even one minute at a time. Get on the treadmill, bike, elliptical, or head outside for a walk. Tell yourself, “I am OK right now.” Start moving. You can tolerate anything for one minute, right?The solution to alleviate negative emotions starts with one minute at a time. Don’t overthink anything. Look downward and focus inward. Set your intention. What is the problem that you need to solve right now? Do you want to stop feeling sad? Are you trying to get over the disappointment associated with failure? Or, do you just need to forget about something?

    Whatever you are dealing with, you need to quiet the overactive front brain and let the deep primitive centers of your brain enlighten you. The emotion center of your brain using the power of rhythmic exercise will lead you to positive action and success. Try to maintain your focus on your intent for one minute and then another. You have to push past the initial two minutes that do not feel great — the brain is loading up.

  4. 2-10-20, you are on your way!
    At two minutes, the deep, primitive emotion centers of the brain are in control. The overanalyzing, overthinking front of your brain, the executive center, is lulled by the hum of the movement pattern.At 10 minutes, cardiac drift occurs. This is where the heart begins to pump faster to keep up with blood supply. By then, oxygen-rich blood has made its way to the deep center of the brain and your primitive self is in control.

    The cortex wraps the primitive brain in silence. You are in the “zone.” You are focused. You have clarity that leads to insight, creativity, productivity, and happiness. To reset your thoughts long-term, where you begin to change the structure and function of your brain over time with regular rhythmic exercise, you have to do about 20 minutes of sustained, moderate-intensity exercise. Moderate intensity is anything above 55 percent of maximum heart rate. You should be able to talk.

Try to do this three days a week or whenever you feel depressed, anxious, worried, or angry. Do not go more than 48 hours without rhythmic exercise. Muscles begin to waste away after 48 hours of non-use, and so does the brain.

Woman exercising photo available from Shutterstock

4 Fitness Tips to Turn Your Negative Emotions into Success

Amy Ashmore, PhD

Amy Ashmore holds a Ph.D. in Kinesiology from the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Timing Resistance Training: Programming the Muscle Clock for Optimal Performance (Human Kinetics, 2020), dozens of articles, blogs, training and continuing education programs recognized by National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA), American Council on Exercise (ACE), and American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Amy is former Sports Sciences faculty at Florida State University and the former Program Director for Sports Sciences at the American Military University. She is located in Las Vegas, Nevada.

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APA Reference
Ashmore, A. (2018). 4 Fitness Tips to Turn Your Negative Emotions into Success. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 14 Dec 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.