Exercise & Academic Achievement
We know that exercise has numerous benefits on our physical and mental health. However, there are also significant benefits that exercise has on our academic performance, writes Aleksandra Pozder.
University students lead very busy lives with the need to balance study, work and a social life. There is so much to fit into one day and more often than not it is the exercise that gets cut out. But as we will see scheduling even shorter exercise on a daily basis has far reaching positive effects. We all know that research has linked exercise and physical health but only in recent times more research has been carried out to demonstrate the benefits of exercise on our mental health and in particular how it can help university students get ahead.
Although longer exercise is widely popularised, benefits of shorter bursts cannot be discounted. It has been said that shorter physical exercise of 30 minutes per day will yield significant health benefits However, you need to engage in a vigorous sporting activity that will increase your heart rate in order to derive these health benefits. To ensure consistent results it is essential to plan ahead and schedule various types of sporting activities in your calendar at the beginning of your academic year – that’s now!
Think ahead – what free time do you have before or after lectures? It doesn’t have to be at the crack of dawn or after a long day. There are several key benefits that regular exercise will have on your study:
It has been shown that exercise is very effective in the way that it can restore your focus while improving your memory leading to better academic results. Moreover, it can clear your mind and help you to de-stress. This will likely assist in motivating you to do your study and to in fact have a very productive study session.
We all know the pressure of study. If not addressed, this pressure can snowball and lead to serious detrimental effects on our health as well as academic performance3. Exercise can be used as a tool to combat anxiety, allowing you to focus on your studies more clearly and also maintain a sense of well-being.
Regular exercise has also been shown to improve cognitive function, decision making, stimulate clearer thinking, and enhance learning. When we are faced with so much to do, it may be difficult to come up with creative solutions to our problems. However, following the exercise session, your cognitive function will be enhanced leaving you able to solve problems that would have otherwise seemed challenging.
It should also be noted that regular physical exercise improves memory while enhancing our ability to learn. When we need to study for exams, there is much to learn. However, faced with so much to do, our memory may not be able to function at its optimal capacity. Sport and exercise are proven to help clear your mind and enhance your memory function leaving you better able to prepare for the important exams and to recall the necessary information when needed.
Sports participation provides invaluable skills of a strong work ethic, respect for authority and perseverance that will enhance your capacity to strive for the best results6. These are essential skills that will not only improve your study experiences but also prepare you for life after university where you will be able to succeed in your career and deal with the challenges more powerfully and effectively. In addition to all of the above, evidence has shown that sport and exercise will provide excellent support for academic study. For example, students will perform well academically and contribute to their university’s reputation and brand compared to other institutions.
It’s clear that participation in sport and exercise has far reaching effects well outside the sporting arena, providing invaluable skills and experiences where standards of excellence are upheld in all Student athletes have competing demands on their time other areas of the student’s life even after they leave university requiring strict planning and dedication. Even so, these students are used to various pressures and the need to plan effectively but also perform on-and-off the field. They have high expectations of themselves in their sporting pursuits but also doing well academically. So, when’s the perfect time to fit exercise in? Right now.
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- Jenna B. Gillen, Brian J. Martin, Martin J. MacInnis, Lauren E. Skelly, Mark A. Tarnopolsky, Martin J. Gibala, Twelve Weeks of Sprint Interval Training Improves Indices of Cardiometabolic Health Similar to Traditional Endurance Training despite a Five-Fold Lower Exercise Volume and Time Commitment, Public Library of Science One, 2016.
- Roman-Fulks JJ1, Berman ME, Rabian BA, Webster MJ, Effects of aerobicexercise on anxiety sensitivity, Behaviour Research and Therapy, 2004
- Griffin ÉW1, Mullally S, Foley C, Warmington SA, O'Mara SM, Kelly AM, Aerobic exercise improves hippocampal function and increases BDNF in the serum of young adult males, Physiology Behaviour, 2011.
- Erickson KI1, Voss MW, Prakash RS, Basak C, Szabo A, Chaddock L, Kim JS, Heo S, Alves H, White SM, Wojcicki TR, Mailey E, Vieira VJ, Martin SA, Pence BD, Woods JA, McAuley E, Kramer AF, Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2011.
- Andrew J Miracle Junior, C Roger Lees, Lessons of the Locker Room: The Myth of School Sports, Prometheus Books, 1994.
- Ryan Yeung, Athletics, Athletic Leadership, and Academic Achievement, Education and Urban Society, 2013.
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