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Stress-relieving exercise can take many forms

Whether your exercise of choice is hitting the treadmill or playing basketball, it's no secret that working out is one of the best ways to manage stress. And there are a wide variety of ways for you to go about doing this. Everything including where and how you exercise  can have an impact on your stress levels, The Huffington Post reports.

Experts say that one of the best approaches for using exercise as stress release is to work out ahead of any potential anxiety-inducing situations. For instance, if you have a job interview or a big exam in the near future, hopping on the treadmill for a half-hour beforehand can help keep you calm during a normally stressful environment. 

Timing isn't the only thing that can play a role. You may also want to consider exercising with a friend. Grabbing a buddy and heading to the basketball court or golf course can not only help you reap the mental health benefits of exercise, but the added advantage of companionship is hard to beat.

"Is it really exercise that makes you feel good? Or is it the change of environment and the social support?" kinesiologist Dr. Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen told the news source. "Social support releases oxytocin, neutralizes physical effects of stress and makes you feel good."

Whatever method you choose, recent research has shed light on exactly why working up a sweat can have such powerful mood boosting effects. While most people think it stimulates the production of endorphins - commonly known as feel-good hormones - that's not the only reason, according to the American Psychological Association (APA). In fact, scientists believe the neurotransmitter norepinephrine is likely more responsible.

The APA says that previous animal-based studies have shown an increase in production of norepinephrine in the areas of the brain that are most closely associated with stress management. This means that rather than stimulating good feelings, exercise makes you better at meeting challenges associated with stress. 

While there is a chemical reason for exercise's mental health benefits, there are other factors at play as well. According to the Mayo Clinic, physical activity is a kind of meditation in motion, allowing you to clear your head while improving your physical health. 

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