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The Effect of Physical Activity on Student Performance in College: An Experimental Evaluation

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  • Fricke, Hans
  • Lechner, Michael
  • Steinmayr, Andreas

Abstract

What is the role of physical activity in the process of human capital accumulation? Brain research provides growing evidence of the importance of physical activity for various aspects of cognitive functions. An increasingly sedentary lifestyle could thus be not only harmful to population health, but also disrupt human capital accumulation. This paper analyzes the effects of on-campus recreational sports and exercise on educational outcomes of university students. To identify causal effects, we randomize ?nancial incentives to encourage students’ participation in on-campus sports and exercise. The incentives increased participation frequency by 0.26 times per week (47%) and improved grades by 0.14 standard deviations. This effect is primarily driven by male students and students at higher quantiles of the grade distribution. Results from survey data suggest that students substitute off-campus with on-campus physical activities during the day but do not signi?cantly increase the overall frequency. Our ?ndings suggest that students spend more time on campus and are better able to integrate studying and exercising, which may enhance the effectiveness of studying and thus improve student performance.

Suggested Citation

  • Fricke, Hans & Lechner, Michael & Steinmayr, Andreas, 2017. "The Effect of Physical Activity on Student Performance in College: An Experimental Evaluation," Economics Working Paper Series 1707, University of St. Gallen, School of Economics and Political Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:usg:econwp:2017:07
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    Cited by:

    1. Lechner, Michael & Fricke, Hans & Steinmayr, Andreas, 2017. "The Effect of Physical Activity on Student Performance in College: An Experimental Evaluation," CEPR Discussion Papers 12052, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Hanying Zhang & Yuke Qin & Sabika Khalid & Endale Tadesse & Chunhai Gao, 2023. "A Systematic Review of the Impact of Physical Activity on Cognitive and Noncognitive Development in Chinese University Students," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 15(3), pages 1-11, January.
    3. Cappelen, Alexander W & Charness, Gary & Ekström, Mathias & Gneezy, Uri & Tungodden, Bertil, 2017. "Exercise Improves Academic Performance," Working Paper Series 1180, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Sports; physical activity; human capital; student achievement; randomized experiment;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior
    • I18 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Government Policy; Regulation; Public Health
    • I23 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Education - - - Higher Education; Research Institutions
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity

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