As a college student, both exercise and grades are very important to me. A question struck me when I was thinking about whether there was any noticeable correlation between exercise and grades. I wondered whether regular exercise could cause my grades to improve? Before I dove into a discussion on whether the two are correlated, I took a moment to think of the ways that the two could be connected.
- Exercise could cause students grades to improve.
- There could be some third variable that contributed to both good grades and regular exercise such as an individual’s tendency to be self disciplined.
- Reverse could be ruled out if the passage of time between exercise and improvement of grades were controlled.
A study was conducted by faculty at Texas A&M University in order to try and identify if a correlation between exercise and grades existed. One thing that I found very interesting was that the paper opened by saying that all the students involved in the study gave informed consent before participating in the study. This is important because it ensured that the participants knew all possible outcomes before participating. All of the students who decided to participate were divided into two groups, experimental and control. Because this was an observational study, those conducting the study just surveyed to find out the students’ exercise habits and put those who did exercise into the experimental group and those who didn’t into the control group.
After looking at the data, there was no clear correlation between exercise and GPA. These researchers, however, continued to discuss that many researchers had found a clear correlation between the two. With so much evidence pointing towards a clear correlation between exercise habits and improved grades in other studies, it made me wonder if this field suffers from the file drawer problem. Perhaps university sponsored researchers are reluctant to publish data that contradicts a more popular view that exercise has a positive impact on grades because universities might want to encourage their student bodies to participate in regular physical exercise.
In another study published in the Journal of Exercise Psychology, researchers compared students’ scores on a fitness test to their scores on SAT reading and math. While this study yielded a very clear correlation between fitness and grades, the researchers even said that it was very possible that this correlation was caused by a third variable. If researchers wanted to rule out extraneous variables, they could continue to design more well controlled studies and increase the populations studied in order to create statistically significant bodies of data that could reduce the chances of the study showing a false positive.
My take away was that you might as well take time to schedule daily exercise. Perhaps the supposed predisposition of universities is a healthy one–that is that daily exercise is a positive habit in the long term.