Exercise instead of study for success (except keep studying too)

What does exercise have to do with my GPA?

It all started with a podcast I had to make for my English 101 class at school. “Fitting life into college”: Why do some students exercise and others do not? I interviewed some of my peers and received a very mixed bag of answers; some said they did it because college was going to be the time they finally got into shape, others used it as a social event with friends, or simply as a stress reliever and a break from all the school work they have piled on top of them. However what interested me was what I found through some research, a common controversy popping up in discussion: do students who exercise regularly have better grades than those who do not?

The short answer? Kind of. It really depends on the student.

What we know:

Aerobic exercise has effects on the brain such as increased glycogen levels in the prefrontal cortex and medial temporal cortex. Glycogen turns into glucose which is the chemical that powers synaptic activity (thinking).

Rationally thinking, if exercise can increase your brain power that much surely your grades will start to improve too?

Well yes, while you will be better mentally prepared to sit down and tackle that 50 problem math assignment, do you have the discipline to make yourself sit there and pound out the work? Just because your brain is more efficient at thinking doesn’t mean you can turn around that B- into A.

What we think:

Research from Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan, shows that researchers found a correlation between GPA and the exercise habits of college students. Students who exercised 7 days a week averaged a GPA .4 points higher (on a 4.0 scale) than students who did not exercise. However, what researchers also found was that students who studied more were more likely to exercise in their day.

This just shows that these two variables go back and forth. There is a correlation between the two but there is no definite causation of one or the other.

It takes a lot of work to get good grades. There is time management to make time before or after exercise to do homework. Plus there’s the work ethic to sit down and actually complete the work assigned to you. Not to mention different people are better or worse at taking tests which also influences your GPA.

Considering some of these aspects about what it takes to get good grades, perhaps it is when a student takes the time to plan time in their day to work out and to continue going on a regular schedule that helps them develop the time management skills and work ethic. Regular exercise or sport practices help students develop the disciplines and habits necessary for a successful student to plan and work through homework assignments.

What students say:


I go to my school’s recreation center almost everyday to work out. Whether it’s rock climbing, cardio, or weights, I have an hour break every day after classes to destress before sitting down to do my homework. Exercising helps me to destress and focus better so I have the patience to do better work for a longer period of time, which in turn allows me to produce work that gets me better grades.

I have a friend, however, who would disagree with me. She spends the majority of her day watching anime and other movies when not in class or eating in the dining hall. “Exercising makes me too tired to do homework, I get back from the gym and all I want to do is go to sleep … I just do homework while watching T.V., sure it probably takes longer to do than if I were just focusing on it, but it makes the work less unbearable”.

Sooo.. is exercise gonna help or not?

It’s really up to you! After reading the positive effects exercise has for your brain, you get to decide how you utilize those benefits to improve your study habits/grades. Work environments are even beginning to implement “active areas” for employees to take a break and move their body to feel refreshed. Getting active is great for your body as well as your brain, every health professional will encourage you to get active in some way everyday. Exercise, like studying, is unique for each person. You just gotta find a system that lets you succeed.

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