College students are under a lot of pressure to perform at the top of their potential, and look for anything (safe) that can give them an edge. Typically, this includes study groups, tutoring and making the library their second home. But what if we told you there was another way of boosting your GPA? You shouldn't necessarily give up your other study habits, but rather make room for a new one: heading to the gym.
Hit the Gym and Boost Your GPA
A recent study by Michigan State University, led by kinesiology and epidemiology professor James Pivarnik, covered the goings on of 4,843 freshmen and sophomores at MSU. The distinction between the students (other than their year of study) was whether or not they had a membership to MSU's recreational sports and fitness centers, and used them.
The students who did have memberships to their school gyms also had, on average, a GPA that was 0.13 points higher than the students who did not. On a 4-point grading scale, just over a tenth of a percentage point hardly seems to make a difference but in Pivarnik's words, it could "mean the difference to those students on the cusp of getting into graduate school or even advancing to the next academic year."
Another piece of very interesting information was the students' overall performance when measured in the long-term. He found that students that utilized their gym memberships took on more credits in their freshmen year, putting them on a more efficient pace to graduate. Plus, the same students, if they had trouble with their courses, they were likelier to stay in school and stick it out rather than dropping out and giving up.
How Going to the Gym Helps With GPA Increases
Anytime you work out, your body gets a boost in blood circulation and oxygen throughout the body, with varying amounts depending on whether you're engaging in aerobic or anaerobic exercise. The former, aerobic, requires you to use up more oxygen, and involves activities that get your heart rate up (e.g. swimming, cycling, running, etc.). Anaerobic, on the other hand, is meant to increase muscle and bone strength, but still uses oxygen as well. If you lift weights or stretch, you're still increasing blood and oxygen flow in your body, with the brain being one of the prime recipients of it.
And how does this have an impact on your GPA?
Your brain needs fuel and care to perform at an optimum level, and other than sleep, exercise is one of the top ways you can achieve this. Think of your brain as a car: if you don't fill up the tank with gas, it won't be long before it'll run out and sputter to a stop on the side of the road. Your brain's fuel is oxygen and nutrients, both of which can be found in blood, and a super way of "filling it up" is to exercise.
With many studies, the difference between the control group and the tested group is that while there may be a contrast between their results, it's not always staggeringly clear cut. In Pivarnik's study, though, that's definitely not the case. The students who were freshmen with gym memberships had a three in four chance (74%) of going on to become sophomores, while just a bit more than one in two (60%) who didn't have gym memberships fare the same. That's a huge difference, and makes the study more than worth a second look.
And while neither we nor the researchers in the study advocate only going to the gym in hopes of boosting your GPA (you still need to have excellent study habits in place), it just could be that difference maker between success and success.