Can Exercise Boost Your GPA?

Has anyone ever told you that exercising helps your grades? This has shown to be true for numerous students in high school, as well as college. But, can exercise actually boost your GPA? Let’s find out if this is a fact or myth.


Studies have found that exercise can not only lead to physical and emotional health, but also brain health. Scientists who were interested in this topic conducted an experimental study using rats. Scientists at California College of San Diego, took two groups of mice. They had one group of mice put on sweatbands and perform physical activity every day. The other group of mice sat on the couch and watched television while the other group of mice were exercising. The scientists determined the mice that worked out had their energy replenished and also produced an excess amount of energy. Scientists found that in the mice that worked out had “60 percent more glycogen in all the portions of the brain that allow us to think quickly and to remember more clearly…It was as if the physical activity had allowed their brains to be super-fueled, allowing those mice to be aced their mid-terms.” However, these effects were only short-lived because the higher glycogen levels returned back to normal after a full day. But, if the mice contented to exercise, scientists discovered that the newly formed energy was not temporary. The increased levels of energy remained. Even more importantly, the increases in energy levels were large in the parts of the brain that are essential for learning and memory purposes.

Another study was conducted by the American College of Sport Medicine relating to this topic. Scientists from the University of Michigan took total of 266 students of both genders. They discovered that those who participated in exercise of moderate and vigorous activity had “reduced stress, an improved performance, and an increase in self-being.” They also stated that students who participated in vigorous exercise had a higher GPA than those who did not. But does exercise actually boost GPA or is reverse causation involved (Do higher academic students participate in more physical activity than those who do not have as high of an academic performance)? The scientists controlled the possible third variables that could impact grade point average such as gender, the amount of time spent in playing sports, and how much you involve yourself in sports. After the scientists controlled these various factors, the results still showed that performing physical activity made a great difference in the GPA of a student. Students who performed vigorous exercise daily acquired GPA’s that were approximately 0.4 points higher than those who did not exercise at all. The study also found that students with a GPA of 3.5 or higher, were three times more likely to become involved in types of vigorous activity than those with a GPA under 3.0.


This graph shows the relationship between average GPA per semester and visiting the REC center frequently. It shows that the more you go to the gym to perform any form of physical activity, your GPA will gradually increase, meaning your grades should slowly improve.

Even those these studies were well conducted with a large enough sample to produce strong results, third or confounding variables are possible in these experiments. The amount of sleep you got the night(s) before, the level of stress you are experiencing, any traumatic events that are occurring in your life or back at home, how much you have studied for exams, etc. are all factors that can contribute to grades on exams and your overall GPA. However, these studies were well conducted and showed significant results linking exercise to higher GPA’s. From the results determined by the randomized control experiment study with the rats and the observational study done with the humans, I would say there is a causal relationship between working out daily and GPA.



1 thought on “Can Exercise Boost Your GPA?

  1. Azhane Morris

    Lauren, remember the study Andrew was talking about with the children who exercised and how their physical activity improved their school performance? But we aren’t sure how long the improvement lasts and if it is worth it to build more gyms and hire new teaches to feed this theory. The study we were exposed to in class focused on little children and I have never thought of it for people of my age or high school kids so thanks for this new perspective.
    Just like you are wondering if exercise can boost your GPA, there are other factors that could have this affect such as chewing gum before an exam or going home for the weekend (class quiz.)
    One concern I have is to what extent are mice smart? For instance, the intelligence they develop I think are complementary of their survival. I don’t know any studies that show mice can solve quadratic equations.
    I think the study was pretty cool though, having mice watch television seems silly, but anything to achieve some results I suppose.
    When you mentioned the effects were temporary, I think that confirms Andrew’s idea that maybe this theory is just as short-lived because it doesn’t produce long term effects.
    Just to clarify, when you say scientist believe the newly formed energy is not temporary and increased levels of energy remained, can I compare this to say if you continue to lift weights you get stronger, thus you can lift even heavier weights and not go back to the lighter ones? I think that’s what the scientists are trying to get at, but I may be misunderstanding.

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