At UGA’s Ramsey Student Center, a girl in a pale blue sorority t-shirt and Nike shorts powers through her elliptical workout while actively wiping the sweat away from her forehead. Her eyes light up with determination during the last 10 minutes of her workout. The girl leaves the area once her workout is completed, with an extra bounce in her step. Spending time in the gym may not only increase your level of health, but also your GPA, researchers say.
“Researchers at North Carolina State University, looked at 20,000 students’ recreational activities during the 2013-14 school year. For every extra hour that students exercised, their odds of graduating (or returning the following year) increased by 50 percent,” according to researcher Dr. Heather Sanderson.
Sanderson’s research is currently in production for journal publication.
Sanderson, associate director of university sports at North Carolina State University, also examined students’ standardized test scores when gathering this data.
Sanderson and her colleagues observed students’ GPA and SAT scores, so that they could rule out any inconsistencies among the students. Smarter people tend to work out more, so the North Carolina State researchers wanted to factor this into their study.
For those who don’t love the idea of exercise, even a little can go a long way.
Sanderson’s research states, “Even in small amounts, exercise can help: for every one-hour increase in weekly physical activities, researchers found, students’ GPAs increased by 0.06.”
Chelsea Watson, graduate assistant for competitive sports at UGA, says the university encourages students to take advantage of the recreation activities offered in order to reap the benefits from exercise.
UGA Competitive sports utilizes their social media as a way to encourage students to exercise and get involved with sports on campus.
These methods seem to be working because according to Watson, student participation has been high.
Intramural sports have seen a range of 8,600 to 9,300 participants over the past five years. In addition, club sports have seen as many as 2,000 participants.
“Campus recreation facilities provide students an environment of positive student interaction and are a likely contributor to student success,” according to researchers from a Midwestern university.
The usage of recreation facilities at students’ colleges had a positive effect on students’ academic success, according to researchers at a separate Midwestern university.
One student can vouch for this fact and relate it back to her own story.
Seeing it in action
Sophomore Alex Wilhelm was an active soccer player in high school, but chose not to follow the athlete path in college. Instead, Alex’s amount of daily exercise continued to decrease over the months during her time at the University of Mississippi.
“I was miserable at Ole Miss. I was going through a really tough time, and I just didn’t want to work out. My grades were also pretty bad.”
Once Alex decided to transfer to UGA, everything turned around. Alex began using the elliptical and running almost every day during the week, and her grades increased along with her amount of exercise.
“I was just so happy to finally be in Athens. I started to work out again, and now I work out whenever I can. I’m also on the intramural indoor soccer team for my sorority.”
Graduate assistant, Jamie Diaz, works as a ceramics instructor for UGA’s Lamar Dodd School of Art and teaches Alex in one of her classes. Diaz’s students don’t directly tell her whether or not they work out, but she sees how exercise can be beneficial to students’ GPAs.
“I kind of wish I did it more as an undergrad,” says Diaz.
GPA isn’t the only factor that stands to benefit from exercise. Sanderson is also researching the effects of exercise on students’ mental health.
“One of the biggest challenges right now that students are facing are issues with mental health and emotional well being. So things like stress, anxiety and depression. So our colleagues in exercise psychology, one of them, a big one, is at the University of Georgia. And they do control studies on exercise and cognition and exercise and mental health.”
A study conducted by Alexandra Henchy in 2011 polled students to see how campus recreation activities affected the quality of student life.
“48% of students felt their stress management has strongly or moderately improved from participating in campus recreation activities,” according to the study.