Originally published July 12 in Medical Daily.
By Lecia Bushak
Research out of Michigan State University (MSU) has found a link between exercise and higher GPAs in college students. It’s not a surprising finding, as plenty of research exists highlighting the mental, physical, and even emotional benefits of working out.
The study discovered that students who were members of recreational sports and fitness centers at Michigan State during their freshman and sophomore years had higher GPAs than students who weren’t. The researchers also found that students who had memberships at the gym were less likely to drop out of school — there was an increase of 3.5 percent in two-year retention rates among the members.
“That could equate to about 1,575 people within a student population of 49,000 deciding to move on to a third year of school,” said James Pivarnik, a professor of kinesiology and epidemiology at MSU, in a press release. “These results provide a compelling argument to universities that a higher student retention rate could be enhanced just by having adequate recreational and fitness facilities for students.”
It’s not only gym memberships that might increase retention rates as well as academic success among students, but other social opportunities that create a “connection” to the school that might have positive effects.
The study reviewed a total of 4,843 freshmen and sophomores, comparing their GPAs based on who was a member at a fitness facility and who was not. People with memberships had higher cumulative GPAs and had also completed more credits by the end of their freshman years.
“We found that these students’ cumulative GPAs were 0.13 points higher,” Pivarnik said in the release. “Although this number may not appear to be significant, in the end, that amount could mean the difference to those students on the cusp of getting into graduate school or even advancing to the next academic year.”
Of course, it’s nothing new that exercise can make your mind sharper. In certain studies, scientists examined the effect exercise had on the brains of mice, discovering that daily workouts replenished their brain energy stores and also produced extra energy, particularly in the areas of the brain that have to do with thinking and memory. In fact, exercising every day over a long period of time created excess energy consistently. Exercise can increase the number of brain cells in the hippocampus, which is also essential in learning and memory.
There are some things that can stimulate the production of new cells in the brain, especially when it’s faced with new “challenges” like social opportunities, increased learning, and more physical activity. A combination of all of these things can help keep the mind focused and ultimately boost work productivity and academic success in students, as well as keep the immune system strong and stress reduced.
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