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Just how important is exercise to academic success?

  1. Apr 17, 2012 #1
    When reading tips on various websites of how to "study physics" I always see they bring up exercise as being one of the key things to success. But, is it really that integral to one's success? I'm quite skinny and frail, and I've noticed most of my professors and other classmates aren't in shape either (they are skinny and frail or on the larger side). Would like to hear some input.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 17, 2012 #2
    There is a correlation between academic success and more exercise, especially with kids. However, there is no causation that exercising will help your grades somehow. Exercise is good to get your mind off academic things so that when you exercise after some time of studying and then start studying again, it will feel as if you haven't studied in a while and will be more focused on the task at hand.
  4. Apr 17, 2012 #3
    Correlation doesn't imply causation :tongue2:

    I think that people who are workaholics in academics also have the work ethic to work hard in the weight room. They might have that natural drive to just work hard. Exercise does make you feel better and think more clearly though, from my personal experience (especially if you have been doing it for a while).

    Doing compound lifting movements like heavy squats, bench press and pull ups has been shown to slightly raise testosterone which has also been shown to aid in spatial processing and other mental functions. Endorphins released by exercise also contribute to an overall sense of well-being, which may make studying easier. These are things you have to adapt to though, be consistent with it.
  5. Apr 17, 2012 #4
    I have to disagree with this. I used to train heavy compound movements while on a strict healthy diet, daily running... the whole nine yards for 3 years. This was manageable until the year I took up a full courseload (2nd year undergrad physics) and the only way I managed to survive was by giving up on exercise completely. Intense exercise made me look good alright, but I felt lethargic for most of the day and simply could not concentrate for the solid lengths of time I needed to get through 1 problem at all. So I had to trade my discipline in exercise for some academic discipline. You can't have everything in life. Ymmv.
  6. Apr 17, 2012 #5
    I don't think it's required but when I work out consistently I am less tired and more productive.

    Also, consider the following flow chart.

    Exercise -> fit -> girls -> confidence -> grades
  7. Apr 17, 2012 #6
    How do the first four steps help you get through a solid hard problem sheet?
  8. Apr 17, 2012 #7
    Well, I know when I am more confident I perform better academically.
  9. Apr 17, 2012 #8
    It's simply personal anecdote, but I feel much better when I get regular exercise. It may take about an hour out of my day that I could be otherwise studying, but it adds to my productivity. I am less tired, I can get more done in less time, and I don't sleep over 7 hours.
  10. Apr 17, 2012 #9


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    Same here. Plus, it's physically difficult for me to sit for hours at a time, as was often required in order to get my work done. It's a lot easier if I'm fit, though. When I wasn't fit, I'd really feel it in my back after a couple days of long study sessions.
  11. Apr 17, 2012 #10
    I'm feeling it right now, really badly.

    But I'm forcing myself to stretch vigorously every couple of minutes and at least get some pushups in most mornings to not go completely limp.
  12. Apr 17, 2012 #11


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    I think girls and grades are rather anti-correlated from what I've seen with people :P
  13. Apr 17, 2012 #12
    One could assume he forgot a step:

    Exercise-> fit -> girls -> girlfriend that helps with homework -> grades
  14. Apr 17, 2012 #13


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    From what I've read, there is quite a bit of evidence that suggests a positive correlation between exercise (primarily cardiovascular, but I believe also strength exerise as well) and exectutive function (setting goals, establishing problem-sovling strategies, ignoring distractions, etc.)

    The CBC's "Quirks and Quarks" also did an episode not too long ago that mentioned a correlation between memory and exercise - I believe it was in an Alzheimer's context.

    I suspect that this is one of those generalizations where on average a population that exercises more will perform better on a battery of tests. But there are likely limits. Eventually, you get to the point where running twenty km per day instead of ten isn't going to give you any additional cognitive benefit, but will cut into your study or creative time.
  15. Apr 17, 2012 #14
    there is no causation that exercising will help your grades somehow.http://www.infoocean.info/avatar1.jpg [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  16. Apr 17, 2012 #15
    Except that, there is:

    Tons and tons of peer reviewed papers showing that exercise improves brain function and memory. I think we can all agree that there IS a correlation between brain function/memory and grades.

    Like stated above however, I am sure that eventually you would reach a point where any additional benefit is negligible.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  17. Apr 17, 2012 #16
    Interesting feedback. I usually study for 4 hours a day, but find myself a bit distracted sometimes and I probably get somewhere between 2-3 hours of efficient studying done. I've read a few studies, but they all seem to deal with young children. I have yet to read a study done on professional adults that shows exercise improves their performance on the job.
  18. Apr 17, 2012 #17


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    My experience is similar to lavabug's one. Less than a month ago I stopped to go to gym (been there for 1.5 year, increased my mass by about 10 kg) and running about 5 to 6km 3 times per week and I didn't notice any improvement in my grades nor did I felt more comfortable with solving physics problems, etc. when I was exercising a lot vs 0 sport/physical effort. For the most part it took out time of my studies and would get my brain tired. When in the gym my mind was totally focused on physics stuff like where to place the iron bar so that it doesn't fall, how many newton I was lifting, what was my power output for such and such exercise, where to place my water bottle so that it doesn't warm quickly due to air convection of the several fans, music and lights, etc. If that's what one would call "getting
    as the post #2 of this thread asserts, then I wonder what are the academia things he has in mind.
    Funnily I started gym and running by reading a thread in this very forum section (Academic Guidance) and bought the idea of refreshed mind+benefits on physics studies. Well, it didn't harmed my academic performance, but didn't increase it either. My mind wasn't refreshed but more tired, of this I'm sure.
    If I had more time -okay maybe money too-, I'd probably go back to gym+run though.
  19. Apr 17, 2012 #18
    I've run at least 2 miles a day every weekday since highschool, I think being fit and healthy is important.

    However, the guy I shared an office with in grad school was easily 50 or 60 lbs over weight and had quite literally never exercised a day in his life. We worked for the same advisor, published roughly the same amount in graduate school, etc. These are just anecdotes, but its the only data I have on the subject.
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