Participating in recreational sports in college may not only help improve grades, but can also keep students from dropping out, a study has found.
Researchers from the Michigan State University (MSU) in the US found that among nearly 1,800 students, those who played sports averaged a 3.25 grade point average at the end of their first year compared to a 3.07 GPA for those who did not play.
Those who participated in recreational sports were also less likely to drop or fail any classes their first year and were 40 per cent more likely to move onto the next year, according to the study published in the Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory and Practice.
It takes 120 credit hours to graduate with a bachelor's degree, and to graduate in four years, you need a total of 30 completed credit hours each school year.
"At the end of the year, students who played sports dropped or failed a total average of six credits compared to 7.7 credits among non-playing students," said Kerri Vasold, who was at MSU at the time of the study.
Vasold said that the almost two credit difference each year can have a big effect overall on the time it takes to graduate, and even more importantly, how much damage the pocketbook takes.
The research brings the most solid evidence to date that sports play an important role in a student's success.
For the study, students were matched based on factors including high school GPA, gender, race, socioeconomic status, if they lived on campus, and if they were a first-generation student. Then they were compared to whether they participated in sports.
According to the researchers, the sweet spot seems to be anywhere between four to seven different activities throughout the year.
Activities can range from playing a sport like ultimate frisbee a few times a month to taking an aerobics class at a fitness centre each week.