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The Positive Benefits of Exercise on One’s GPA

By: Tiffany Rowbottom
It is that time of year again. Fall is in the air and Halloween feels as though it is right around the corner. Meanwhile, some students still have their brains stuck in summer mode and are finding it hard to switch over to the rigors of schoolwork and studying. Right around this time of the semester students are realizing that a full one fourth of the semester is over already and are looking for tips and tricks on how to tackle their semester and execute it like a boss.
Most college students have already read plenty of articles regarding suggestions on how to study better and the importance of avoiding procrastination. However, what many may not know is that exercise, or the lack thereof, can have a serious impact on grades. Now, upon reading that, a lot of you are already starting to turn to the next article, but seriously Snapper readers, it would be wise to listen up. Mounting evidence is being discovered supporting the positive effects of exercise on one’s GPA.
What many researchers are finding is that exercise can help decrease stress, reduce feelings of depression, manage the symptoms of ADHD, structure study schedules and improve sleep patterns.
Regarding the effect of exercise on mood, a behavioral intervention study performed by Cotman, and Berchtold in 2002 found that regular exercise increased levels of endorphins and a protein called BDNF (Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor). This information was then taken and expanded upon in a study conducted by Bucci, Davis, Hopkins, Vantieghem and Whalen at Dartmouth College in 2012. In this study it was found that the BDNF protein reduced symptoms of physical pain and stress hormones, while endorphins boosted mood and acted as an effective tool in combating stress and reducing symptoms of depression. Furthermore, they found that increased rates of exercise lead to higher reported energy levels and brain plasticity.
This information suggests that students who tend to procrastinate more when they are feeling stressed may be able to use exercise as an effective de-stressor and avoid triggering a cycle of procrastination-stress-procrastination that can be detrimental to the completion of assignments outside of class. It also indicates that those with depression who find it difficult to motivate themselves to do schoolwork can benefit from regular exercise in their mood management. Those who experience high levels of stress or depression are not the only ones that can benefit from regular exercise.
A study conducted by Archer and Kostrzewa in 2011 found that regular physical exercise alleviated symptoms and improved focus in those diagnosed with ADHD. They found that by burning off excess energy and regularly engaging in mental discipline through the intervention of regular physical exercise, participants experienced increased levels of impulse control and memory along with a decrease in reported instances of distraction. This is significant for ADHD diagnosed students attending the university who find that medication alone is not completely effective in their school setting and may benefit from the addition of regularly scheduled exercise in their symptom management routine.
In addition to the possible direct positive effects of exercise on one’s GPA there are some positive indirect factors also, especially for those who prefer early morning exercise. In support of this, Harvard professors DeLaurentis and Howes have found that early birds in college tend to out achieve night owls by a full GPA grade level with early birds averaging a 3.5 GPA and night owls averaging a 2.5 GPA. Despite this high difference between the two GPA levels Howes argues that it may prove very difficult to convert late night partyers into early morning studiers.