Gym data shows GPA bump for fitness-inclined students

Tracking software also helps schools with planning

Colleges are using data-mining to track gym usage so they can use facilities more efficiently and learn about the relationship between working out and academic success, USA Today reports.

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) recently began using the service Gymflow to monitor usage of its workout facilities. Students are able to use an application on their phone to see how crowded the gym is in real-time and estimate how crowded it will be the in the future.

“I think we all know that whether you are a student or an employee, time is a precious commodity… [GymFlow] created a perfect solution to the need and allowed us to deliver an enhanced service in an easily accessible app," says Mick Deluca, assistant vice chancellor of campus life at UCLA.

Deluca says the school is using the service to track usage, make fitness programing decisions, and adjust scheduling to optimize the use of facilities.

Purdue University is using similar technology to track gym usage, but administrators have also used the data to gain insights about how gym use relates to overall student success.

How one institution identified where to focus their advising efforts—and retained 400 additional students

“Recent data continues to show a positive relationship between grades and visits to [the sports center],” says Michelle Blackburn, assistant director of student development at Purdue. The trend held for all students, but was more pronounced among new students:

  • Among all undergraduates, students who visited the gym on average 16 times per month averaged a 3.2 GPA, compared with a 3.1 GPA for non-users.
  • Among new students in fall 2013, students who visited the gym at least 15 times that semester averaged a 3.08 GPA, compared with 2.81 for non-users.

Earlier this year, Michigan State University (MSU) conducted a similar study and found that gym visits correlated not only with higher grades, but also with better retention. The group of students with gym memberships:

  • Had a 3.5% higher two-year retention rate (a difference of about 1,575 students on MSU's campus);
  • Held GPAs that were 0.13 points higher; and
  • Saw 74% sophomore retention, compared with 60% for non-members.

One author of the study notes that while these benefits may seem small, they could be "the difference to those students on the cusp of getting into graduate school or even advancing to the next academic year."

Many students seem to have grasped the correlation intuitively. "An active life makes you feel healthier physically, which is the first step to good academic performance," says UCLA sophomore Jackie Adelsberg (Gleason/Pivarnik, Science Daily, 7/10; Neubert, Purdue News, 9/3; Winer, USA Today, 11/11).

Read this next: Think a sophomore with a 3.0 GPA won't drop out? Think again.

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