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Improve Emotional Regulation In Just 7 Minutes Per Day

What’s inside this article: An in-depth look at how exercise influences the neurotransmitters in the brain to improve emotional regulation, plus instructions for a fun workout for kids, and a free printable poster to use with your children.

It sounds surprising, but you can improve emotional regulation in your child in as little as 7 minutes per day. I’ll explain how.

Our lives are so busy it makes it hard to make time for new, time-consuming activities.

But 7 minutes is such a short period of time and can have a huge impact on your child’s emotional regulation skills.

Emotional Regulation and Dysregulation

Emotional regulation is the ability to manage and respond to an emotional experience effectively. People unconsciously use emotion regulation strategies to cope with difficult or stressful situations many times throughout each day.

When a child experiences dysregulation, they aren’t able to manage or cope with their negative emotions.

These emotions can take control, leading to over-the-top reactions, outbursts, or meeltdowns. This is extremely common for children with autism, ADHD, or complex behavioral challenges.

Emotional regulation can be achieved in two ways:

  • Self-regulation means you can regulate your emotions on your own.
  • Mutual regulation (sometimes called co-regulation) means you need someone to help you regulate your emotions.

Most kids need help sometimes, or even all the time, with emotional regulation. This is normal, even adults seek comfort from their loved ones when they are emotional. However, we should aim to teach kids to regulate their emotions independently during minor day-to-day situations.

You can improve their ability to emotionally regulate with just 7 minutes of daily exercise. The exercise needs to be intense. Short intensive bursts provide better results than longer durations of exercises with less impact.

I have created a 7-minute workout designed to be fun for kids and high-impact for maximum benefits!

How Does Exercise Improve Emotional Regulation?

It’s amazing how this works.

Our mind, brain, and body are all interconnected.

When your child is dysregulated, their brain produces high levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also produces adrenaline. An increase in cortisol and adrenaline spikes anxiety and dysregulation by activating the sympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic nervous system is the part of your nervous system that controls the fight-or-flight instinct and plays a key role in our responses to stressful situations. When fight or flight is activated, there is a huge spike in adrenaline, and this is what occurs during a meltdown.

When this occurs, functional and social communication skills decrease – because the brain can’t access the prefrontal cortex, which controls executive functioning.

Some research suggests that during a meltdown, an individual’s IQ even drops by 30 points.

Exercise has been proven to reduce cortisol and adrenaline levels. In other words, it helps improve emotional regulation.

Exercise also reduces anxiety because it causes the brain to produce more dopamine and other endorphins. These are the brain’s natural mood lifters.

When our brains have lower cortisol levels and more dopamine levels, self-regulation is much easier.

Infographic describing: How Exercises Improves Emotional Regulation . Exercise increases dopamine and endorphins in the brain. It also reduced cortisol and adrenaline, stress hormones. This improves mood and decreases anxiety, priming the brain for optimal emotional self-regulation.

The benefits don’t stop there, though – the increased dopamine levels improve the functions of synapses in the brain. As a result, communication ability improves, as does the ability to retrieve information.

This means that overall, the brain is in a better state for learning.

7-Minute HIIT Workout for Emotional Regulation

These are the instructions for the 7-minute animal-themed HIIT workout I created to help kids with emotional regulation.

For this workout, you will need:

  • An interval timer (I use an app called Interval Timer)
  • Water
  • Sneakers
  • Music
  • Optional: kids yoga mat

That’s it. You can do this exercise anywhere.

Shove some furniture out of the way if you need to make a little more room.

Ideally, this should be done first thing in the morning, especially on school days. These exercises provide unparalleled stimuli, creating an environment where the brain is ready and willing to learn.

Teachers can also use this workout during the day as a way to offer their students a brain break.

However, I’ve also received feedback from parents that doing this workout a second time after school helps reduce after-school meltdowns because many kids struggle with emotional regulation in the afternoon.

Basically, in order to learn, understand, and apply new knowledge, there needs to be a proper balance of neurochemicals in the brain.

Otherwise, the information is not efficiently retained in long-term memory. It will also help your child start their school day in a positive emotional state.

Before You Begin

Set your interval timer for 7 rounds of 45 seconds of work and 15 seconds of rest, totaling 7 minutes.

Get your kiddo’s favorite upbeat music on, and get ready to go hard. Your child (and you! You’ve got to model what you want to see!) should be doing as many of these exercises as possible in 45 seconds. 

You actually want to be tired, breathing heavily, and your heartbeat elevated at the end of these 7 minutes.

These exercises are all animal-themed, by the way, to make them fun for kids!


Frog Hops

These are exactly what they sound like. Hop back and forth like a frog. Depending on how much room you have, you may need to hop in one place.

Bear Walk

Place your hands and feet on the floor. Your hips and butt should be in the air, higher than your head. On all fours, take two steps forward and two steps back, then repeat.

Gorilla Shuffles

Sink down into a low sumo squat and place your hands on the ground between your feet. Shuffle a few steps to the left and then back a few steps to the right. Maintain the squat and ape-like posture throughout the entire movement.

Starfish Jumps

These are jumping jacks! Do as many as you can, arms and legs spread wide like a starfish!

Cheetah Run

Run in place as fast as you can!

Crab Crawl

Sit with your knees bent and place your palms flat on the floor behind you near your hips. Lift your body off the ground and “walk” on all fours forward and backward.

Elephant Stomps

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and stomp, raising your knees up to hip level, or as high as you can bring them up. Try to hit the palm of your hands with your knees.

And You’re Done!

Take some time to cool down slowly.

Do some stretches or yoga poses and allow your heart rate to return to normal. Those 7 minutes will give you and your kiddos a boost that will leave you feeling great for hours!

The animal theme makes this workout enjoyable for kids. Encourage them to use their imagination and make this workout feel like play.

If your kids love this workout, you can also try this 8-minute workout for kids.

Want a printable version of this workout?

7 Minute HIIT Workout for Kids

Other Benefits of Exercise

Aside from helping to improve emotional regulation, there are other benefits to high-intensity exercise for kids.

HIIT has also been proven to:

  • Helps reduce fidgeting
  • Improves sensory integration
  • Increases focus
  • Improves the ability to learn new information
  • Improves communication skills
  • Positively influences learning on a cellular level.

Want even more emotional regulation strategies? Check out this list of 120+ ideas!

Spread the love


Wednesday 4th of September 2019

Can you make a video of this? I'm sure my kids would love to work out along with it.

Nicole Day

Thursday 5th of September 2019

The Zoe Ann show actually shared a youtube video of them doing this workout on their channel. You can watch it here:

Kirsten D

Saturday 3rd of August 2019

Love the idea of this, can’t wait to try it out! Are you doing only one animal for each 45 second interval or are you doing all of the animals during one 45 second interval?

Nicole Day

Saturday 3rd of August 2019

Hi Kirsten,

It's 45 seconds for each animal, doing as many reps as you can in that time. Then 15 seconds of rest in between (to catch your breath). The goal is to be sweating at the end of the 7 minutes!


Monday 6th of May 2019

It's fantastic