Working Paper No. 1180

Exercise Improves Academic Performance

Published: September 8, 2017Pages: 49Keywords: Economics of education; Human capital formation; Behavior change; Field experiment JEL-codes: C93; I12; I18; I21; Z20

Exercise Improves Academic Performance Alexander W. Cappelen, Gary Charness, Mathias Ekström, Uri Gneezy and Bertil Tungodden


We report the results of a randomized controlled trial testing whether incentivizing physical exercise improves the academic performance of college students. As expected, the intervention increases physical activity.

The main result is that it generates a strong and significant improvement in academic performance, particularly for students who struggled at the baseline in terms of lifestyle habits. We also provide evidence on the underlying mechanisms: Students who were incentivized to exercise have a healthier life style and improved self-control.

Overall, the study demonstrates that incentivizing students to exercise can be an important tool in improving educational achievements.

Interdisciplinary European Studies

The European Union in a Changing World Order

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This book explores how the European Union responds to the ongoing challenges to the liberal international order. These challenges arise both within the EU itself and beyond its borders, and put into question the values of free trade and liberal democracy. 

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