Keep Moving – Aerobic Exercise Increases College GPAs

medicine ball squats

Julia C. Basso, PhD

Reporting from the 2017 Annual Society for Neuroscience Meeting (Basso JC, Crosta C, Raskin M, Wang A, Kadakia D, Choi J, Milburn E, Trivedi R, Suzuki WA)

Long-term aerobic exercise enhances mood state and improves a range of cognitive functions including attention, information processing speed and both short- and long-term memory.

Though a recent study found that first-year medical school students who regularly exercised attained higher grades than those who remained sedentary, little has been done to assess whether long-term exercise in undergraduate students positively influences cognitive function and academic performance.

The Study

college students studyingTherefore, we examined the effects of an aerobic exercise intervention on mood, cognitive function and academic performance in first-year college students. Previously sedentary students engaged in one typically sedentary semester and one semester where they exercised approximately 3 times per week. Before and after each semester, students were tested on cardiopulmonary fitness, cognitive functioning, mood state, and their learning and studies strategies.

The Results

Compared to a sedentary experience, exercise enhanced the ability to recall information, increased information processing speed, and improved creative thinking. Exercise also increased the motivation to exercise and enhanced mood state (via a decrease in negative affect), with those individuals gaining the most in the their fitness, showing the largest behavioral improvements.

These findings have important implications for academia and indicate that students should be exercising along with their studies to possibly enhance academic performance. 

Related Article: Exercise May Improve Brain Health In Adolescent Binge Drinking

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