Want to do better in school? Join a gym

For everybody who once saw the Classroom Experiment-documentary (if you didn’t, check here) this won’t come as a surprise, new research shows that students who were members of the recreational sports and fitness centers during their freshman and sophomore years had higher GPAs than those who weren’t. More surprising the research also indicated that students with memberships stayed in school longer.

This is because the research focused on the effects of the group rather than on the effect of physical exercise on studying.

Do note: correlation instead of causal relation.

From the press release:

New Michigan State University research shows that students who were members of the recreational sports and fitness centers on MSU’s campus during their freshman and sophomore years had higher GPAs than those who weren’t.

The research also indicated that students with memberships stayed in school longer. An increase of 3.5 percent in two-year retention rates was seen among this group.

“That could equate to about 1,575 people within a student population of 49,000 deciding to move on to a third year of school,” said James Pivarnik, a professor of kinesiology and epidemiology at MSU. “These results provide a compelling argument to universities that a higher student retention rate could be enhanced just by having adequate recreational and fitness facilities for students.”

The study, led by Pivarnik and MSU doctoral student Samantha Danbert in the Department of Kinesiology, can be found in the most recent issue of the Recreational Sports Journal.

The research supports previous theories suggesting that by creating an environment that connects students to an institution, in this case a university recreational facility, an increase in academic success and retention can occur.

During the project, Pivarnik’s team analyzed data from a sample of freshmen and sophomores, totaling 4,843 students, and compared the GPAs of those who purchased a fitness facility membership and those who did not. Results showed that after four consecutive semesters, the students with memberships obtained higher cumulative GPAs. They also had more credits completed by the end of their first year in college.

“We found that these students’ cumulative GPAs were 0.13 points higher,” Pivarnik said. “Although this number may not appear to be significant, in the end, that amount could mean the difference to those students on the cusp of getting into graduate school or even advancing to the next academic year.”

Pivarnik noted that 74 percent of those with memberships successfully gained their sophomore status while only 60 percent reached that goal in the nonmember group.

“The results of this study are important because not only are we retaining more students, but we’re retaining those that have higher GPAs which is good for everyone,” Pivarnik said.

Abstract of the research:

This study evaluated the role of a university recreational sports and fitness center, in students’ academic success. Study participants included freshmen at a large Midwestern university (= 4,843; 56% women; 67% white). Recreational sports fitness facility members (students who purchased a recreational sports fitness facilities membership in their first semester; = 1,138) were compared with nonmembers (students who did not purchase a recreational sports fitness facility membership in their first semester; = 3,705). ± SD and percentages were calculated for all variables of interest. Differences between groups were analyzed using ttests and percentages. Members had significantly higher high school grade point averages (GPA) (= .002). After four consecutive semesters, members had significantly higher cumulative college GPA (≤ .0001) and cumulative credits completed (≤ .0001). Significantly more members than nonmembers were enrolled in school after two completed years, 89% and 85%, respectively. Results show recreational sports fitness facility membership is associated with, and may be beneficial to, college students’ academic success.

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