Use of Acute Vigorous Exercise Intervention to Improve Academic Success on Exams in Undergraduate STEM Students

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Virginia Tech


This study aimed to determine if an acute bout of exercise could improve academic performance when compared to sedentary behavior within a 2-hour window before a college exam. The participants of this study completed two bouts of an intervention on two separate occasions, exercise and sedentary, then completed each of the two class exams, followed by a short survey to gain insight on motivation and anxiety. A 2-way ANOVA was used to determine a time or group effect as this study was completed over a 15-week semester and found no significant difference between the group’s exam scores over time, as well as no group effect of the acute bout of exercise on their exam performance. Pre- and post-surveys, as well as post-exam surveys collected data relating to IPAQ, MSLQ, and GRIT which found significant correlations between IPAQ and perceived exam preparedness with P=0.041. As expected in academia, each exam’s scores were positively related to final course grades with P=0.0275 on exam 1 and P=0.0179 on exam 2. Finally, a P=0.048 was found between final course grades and scores from the extrinsic motivations section of the MSLQ on the post-study survey. Results and lessons learned from this pilot study should be used towards creating a larger-scale study in the future.