Sleep, Exercise and Balance: Part II

  In Part 2 of this three-part series, we examine the role of exercise and physical activity and their impact on exam scores.  To read Part 3 of this three-part series, click here. To read Part 1 of this three-part series, click here. Ugh… we all know it. That dreaded 15 minutes on the cardio machine. And the dumbbell weights. While you might feel like these cannot raise that GPA by 0.5%, it turns out they actually can in more ways than one. 

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Working out, whether it be a 10-minute “push up sesh” or a quick run, provides the benefit of clearing your head as getting your blood pumping can help you envision a different perspective on some problems you were battling with. In a new study published by Neuropsychologia, researchers tasked young adults with reading and absorbing a magazine (control group) or doing 10 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise on a stationary bike (the active group). Then, the researchers used eye-tracking tech to examine the participants’ reaction times in a cognitive test. “What was learned from this was that those who had exercised showed immediate improvement,” claims study co-author Matthew Heath, a Professor of Kinesiology and a supervisor in the neuroscience graduate program at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. “Their responses were more accurate and their reaction times were up to 50 milliseconds shorter than their pre-exercise values—that may seem minuscule, but it represented a 14% gain in cognitive performance in some instances.” Doubting the accuracy of this study and not convinced to dig that dusty gym bag out of the closet? Fear not. The University of Michigan also conducted a similar study on 266 students over the course of the academic year. It turns out that students that regularly exercised at least 2-3 times a week had a 0.4% higher GPA in comparison to others that did not. So what does this tell us? This points out that perhaps we should not spend 20+ hours at Koerner’s library binging on Mcdonalds as we revise for our math exam (trust me, we’ve all been there before).    Rather, we can incorporate more physical activity by following a number of simple steps:   Adequate planning

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Some of the best times to be in the gym would be in the morning or evenings, as these sessions help decrease stress levels for the day. While these times aren’t mutually exclusive, you can also take a gym break in the afternoon; in between revision sessions would be an ideal time or late in the evenings before a quick cram! This gives you ample time to sweat the stress out and stretch your mind.         Alternative – Movement breaks or Swimming

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While locating a gym might probably be the hardest thing for most students, an alternative to commuting or stretching those legs for the long walk can be incorporating regular intervals into your work, whether a short walk around campus or a casual stretch, both of these get the blood flowing. Another option is to take a short trip to the UBC Aquatic centre for a swimming session which similarly releases the same amount of calories as going to the gym (slightly unheard of – we know!) Being extremely active is definitely one of the hardest things to maintain especially during a stressful exam season, as the temptation to open that Skip the Dishes, Uber Eats, or Foodora app is immense. Taking 30 minutes out of your study “sesh” for a quick swim or cardio session as described above can definitely translate into a 0.4% increase in your GPA or a potential 10-20% increase in your final exams score! So the next time you feel lazy to be active, remember that GPA is king!   Join us for Part 3 of this series, where Himidan will delve into the topic of balance in the student context.     Reference Cappelen, Alexander W., et al. “Exercise Improves Academic Performance.” SSRN Electronic Journal, 2017, doi:10.2139/ssrn.3033774.

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