2010-2011 Undergraduate Research in Nutrition and Food Science
Physical Activity and GPA
It is suggested that regular exercise improves both the physical body and enhances the mind. The supposed cognitive benefits of exercise include improved mood, reduced stress, and enhanced memory and brain functioning. Based on these observations, it appears that the implementation of regular physical activity would have a positive effect on students' academic performances. The relationship between participation in regular physical activity and a student's GPA was examined in 308 undergraduate students at the University of Kentucky. The participants included 169 female students (age 19.68 +/- 1.33 years) and 139 male students (age 19.65 +/- 1.55 years). The students completed surveys inquiring about their physical activity level and the type of exercise they most commonly practiced, as well as his or her major, amount of time spent studying, and grade point averages. According to the survey, 66% of females and 80% of males participate in physical activity on 3 or more days per week. Of the females surveyed, those who exercised 0-2 days per week had an average GPA of 3.40 +/- 0.53, while those who exercised 3 or more days per week averaged 3.51 +/- 0.44. Of the males surveyed, those who exercised 0-2 days per week had an average GPA of 3.43 +/- 0.45 and those who exercised 3 or more days per week averaged 3.25 +/- 0.59. While these values appear to suggest that more frequent exercise has a positive effect on the GPA of females, but a negative one on males, neither of the GPA comparisons was statistically significant. There is, however, a statistically significant (p=0.01) difference in GPA for those students who reported themselves as "extremely active" versus those who claimed to be "inactive". Students who were "extremely active" had an average GPA of 3.24 +/- 0.62 and those who were reportedly "inactive" averaged 3.59 +/- 0.31. The fact that the most active students had significantly lower GPAs than those who were inactive suggests that perhaps the mental benefits of regular exercise are not as substantial as other lifestyle factors, such as time spent studying, on a student's grades.