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University students who do sports achieve better academic results

UC3M Study


University students who take part in sports activities during their academic careers earn grade point averages that are approximately 9 percent higher than those students who finish their degrees without having participated in such activities, according to a study carried out by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (UC3M).

Los universitarios que practican deporte tienen mejor rendimiento académico Estudio de la UC3M

The main objective of this research project was to analyze the influence of regular, official physical-sports activity on the academic results of UC3M university students. “Although there are previous studies that have indicated that taking part in sports activities has negative effects on academic performance, the most commonly accepted belief is that the impact of sports is far from being negative and is, in fact, remarkably positive,” comments one of the authors of the study, María José Sánchez Bueno, Associate Professor of Organización de Empresas (Business Organization) at UC3M.

The researchers selected a sample of 3,671 students who started undergraduate degree programs beginning in 2008 and finished their degrees before 2015. “Our final results show that participation in regular, official physical-sports activity positively affects the academic performance of UC3M students,” the study concludes.

Specifically, those students “who participated in sports activities earned grade point averages that were 9.3% higher than those of students who completed their undergraduate degrees but did not take part in any sports activities,” points out another of the study’s authors, Fernando Muñoz Bullón, Associate Professor de Organización de Empresas (Business Organization) at UC3M.

“This study shows the value of sports as an official activity at UC3M and in the university environment in general,” highlights the third author of the study, Antonio Vos Saz, who had been connected to the former Espacio Estudiantes service at UC3M and who is currently the financial director of the Club de Campo Villa de Madrid (Villa de Madrid Country Club).

The data that were used for this study come from UC3M databases on academic performance and students’ sports activities. Different variables were also taken into consideration when the relationship between sports activities and academic performance was being evaluated; these include: gender, time taken to complete the degree, age when beginning the degree, the area of the degree (Engineering, Social Sciences and Law, or Humanities), whether or not the student received a grant or came from a large family (with 3 or more children).

The researchers noted certain differences in the relationship between academic performance and the type of sports activity practiced, a subject they propose examining in subsequent studies. “Perhaps the impact on academic performance is not the same if the sport practiced is individual rather than a team sport,” notes Fernando Muñoz Bullón, who suggests the challenge of carrying out a similar study with data from other universities in order to analyze whether the results obtained at UC3M can be extrapolated to the Spanish university environment in general. 

The authors conclude that sports activities, beyond the indisputable health benefits for those who take part in them, also enable the practitioners to achieve the results that educational institutions are seeking.