Negative emotions, such as feeling scared, anxious, or guilty, can motivate moderate to vigorous exercise and can increase daytime levels of cortisol in survivors of breast cancer. The positive effects of high-arousal negative emotions on exercise might depend on a survivor’s ability to engage in new goals.

Researchers assessed high-arousal negative emotions (eg, fear, anxiety), self-reported moderate-to-vigorous activity, area-under-the-curve of daily cortisol secretion, and goal adjustment abilities in a longitudinal sample of 145 female survivors of breast cancer.

This study used hierarchical linear modeling, revealing that survivors who experienced higher levels of negative emotions experienced increased secretion of cortisol and reported higher levels of moderate-to-vigorous exercise compared with survivors who experienced lower levels of negative emotions.

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Additionally, within each survivor, negative emotions correlated with higher moderate-to-vigorous exercise in women with high, but not low, ability to engage in novel goals. Also within each survivor, increased cortisol correlated with decreased ability to engage in novel goals.


1. Castonguay AL, Wrosch C, Sabiston CM. The roles of negative affect and goal adjustment capacities in breast cancer survivors: associations with physical activity and diurnal cortisol secretion. Health Psychol. 2017;36(4):320-331.