Studies increasingly show a close connection between exercise and higher academic achievements. Classic teen movies would have you believe you can’t have it all – being keen on sports whilst also acing your academic subjects. But studies show that there’s a close connection between being physically active and making high achievements in your other subjects.
From primary school children running around at break, to university students joining the local gym, regular exercise increases attention span, memory, and the capacity to learn. It’s also a fantastic way to release the stress that comes from mounting deadlines and looming exams. So joining the sports teams doesn’t mean surrendering your dreams of becoming a quantum theorist… Or, wherever your studies are leading you.
It’s not completely clear to researchers how exercise benefits intellectual performance. What has become obvious is that it pumps blood around your body more efficiently, including to your brain – which nourishes your brain tissue (perhaps a bit of a stomach-churning phrase, but it’s a positive thing nonetheless).
A Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology report in 2007 compared the physical performance of young students against their scores in maths and reading tests, with a steady upwards correlation between the two. The study suggests that activity at break time leads to children returning to class relaxed, more attentive and ready to learn. And this positive effect continues as you grow older and go on to higher education.
Tips for Student Exercise:
1. Be prepared to try it all. University it a time to try new things, and meet new people. The beauty is that you can be whoever you want to be, which means not worrying about what other people think. You are now in an environment where anything goes, and there’s potential to meet cool people in any activity.
2. Decide on a focus. Not everyone wants to join in with a different sport every evening. Concentrating on one or two will allow you to become skilled and passionate about the activity.
3. Get your friends involved. It can be a lot more fun going for a run with a friend, and opens up the possibility of sociable activities afterwards, like going for a coffee.The more cynical of us might also suggest that when you are hungover and can’t think of anything worse than hurtling around a football pitch, the guilt of everyone else doing it might just twist your arm.
4. Fit in exercise whenever you can. Halls of residence and student areas are usually not far from campuses – instead of being herded around town on the bus, why not walk? Once you start, the busy commute on public transport will become unthinkable.
5. Just like when you are tackling a mammoth essay, set yourself targets and short-term goals. Once you’ve achieved them, give yourself a reward. Maybe clothing or a dinner out that your budget doesn’t usually allow?
Of course you are already aware that exercise is generally a very advisable thing to do. A lack of sleep, constant partying and the choice of a lie-in can make it difficult – but try it out, and see how your attention in lectures and performance in exams and coursework can improve.