Advice & Hacks

How Your Next Workout Will Improve Your Grades

Ben HaywardSeptember 18th
2019

Hopefully by now we all know that regular exercise is important for your health in all sorts of ways. 

From controlling weight to helping you avoid a whole host of unpleasant illnesses, hitting the gym has a multitude of physical benefits - but did you know it can also improve your academic performance?

With that in mind, TOTUM have teamed up with Xercise4less - the UK's number one student gym - to get you ship-shape for everything this year has to throw at you. TOTUM members don't have to pay a joining fee, get their first month's membership for just £1 and get a free session with a personal trainer. Oh, and we'll chuck in a free tastecard too!

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So, as the academic year really hits its stride it's important that you do too, as a number of recent studies have shown that regular physical activity leads to all kinds of brain-boosting benefits

From improved concentration to greater creativity, here are all the ways that exercising will help you push your grades to the next level. 

Exercise will focus your mind

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This one is especially important when it comes to tests and exams.

In order to perform at your peak, it’s obviously important that your concentration is tip-top, and studies have shown that exercising before a test actually helps to increase the volume of the basal ganglia - an important part of the brain that helps with executive control, function and attention.

This means a bit of exercise pre-exam will have your mind so sharp you'll have to be careful not to cut yourself...

So why not head down to an Xercise4less class to get your mind - as well as your body - in sahpe?

Derren Brown eat your heart out...

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Research has shown that physical activity improves our memory, specifically the ability to recall facts and concepts quickly which again, is extremely useful when it comes to exams.

There have been a number of studies into the effects of exercise on the hippocampus - a part of the brain involved in the formation of new memories and associated with learning and emotions - with some evidence showing an increase in hippocampi size associated with greater physical activity. 

Get those creative juices flowing

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Depending on what you’re studying, your ability to think creatively will have varying degrees of importance - but let’s face it, being able to change, adapt and come up with new and efficient ways of approaching a subject are never really going to be a bad thing! 

With this in mind, physical activity has also been shown to improve convergent and divergent thinking, and has been linked to a notable increase in people’s creative problem solving ability.

Stuck for inspiration? Hit the gym! 

It’s not just physiological

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As well as affecting our cognitive skills, exercise also improves academic performance in other, more subtle ways. 

Speaking to ThoughtCo Dr Niket Sonpal, assistant professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, outlined three ways in which an increase in physical activity can be a catalyst for improvements that will indirectly help students achieve better results. 

Get a PHD in time management

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Dr Sonpal believes that students who don’t schedule a time to exercise have a greater tendency to be unstructured in other aspects of their lives including - you guessed it - their studying.

“That is why gym class in high school was so important; it was practice for the real world,” says Dr Sonpal.

“Scheduling personal workout time forces students to also schedule study time, and this teaches them the importance of block timing, and prioritisation of their studies.”

Set sail on the 'Sea of Tranquility'

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A number of studies have demonstrated a proven link between increased exercise and lower stress levels.

“Vigorous exercise a few times a week reduces your stress levels, and likely reduces cortisol, which is a stress hormone,” Dr Sonpal says. 

This is really important - especially for students - as stress hormones are proven to inhibit both memory production and your ability to sleep, which are both key when it comes to learning, particularly when exam season rolls round.

As well as this, exercise classes such as Yoga and Tai Chi - both of which are available through Xercise4Less - are great ways of taking some time out of your busy schedule to calm your mind, reduce stress, and improve your focus.

Sleep like a baby...

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Cardiovascular exercise is directly linked to improved sleeping, with better quality sleep meaning the things you've spent all that time learning will be moved from your short term to long term memory during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, which is the stage of sleep during which your brain is most active.

“That way, on test day you remember that teeny tiny fact that gets you the scores you need,” said Dr Sonpal.

Things just keep on getting better...

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While you’ll see many of the effects of physical activity straight away, it turns out the longer-term mental health benefits are even greater. 

Over time, exercise has been shown to increase your neuroplasticity - the brain’s ability to change - allowing you to form new pathways.

Ultimately an increase in your brain’s neuroplasticity will enable you to become a faster learner, which again, has got to be a good thing when you've left your revision until the last minute..

It doesn't take much

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It’s tempting to think you’re too busy to exercise, but we’re not talking about an intense two-hour workout every day.

Even a few five or ten minute bursts of activity throughout your day could make a big difference in your academic performance.

It’s got to be worth a go hasn’t it!?

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