If there is one thing that students should not give up during school and college, it is regular exercise! In fact, I would go so far as to say that in Third and Sixth year, regular exercise should be increased.

This seems counter-intuitive. Shouldn’t more time be given to studies and less to extra-curricular activities? Well, yes and no!  If those activities are TV, social media and computer games then reducing them is fine. If the activities are sports and exercise, these should continue.


Experts have found that there is a connection between being physically healthy and delivering strong academic performance. This is because low-intensity exercise can give our energy levels a much-needed boost, which is perfect for when you’re studying after school and the fatigue kicks in.

The ERSI/Sport Ireland report Keeping Them in the Game 2013 found that there is a very high rate of drop-out from sport and exercise among students in exam years. They also concluded that participation in sport is unlikely to affect exam performance negatively and may well, in fact, tend to have a positive impact.

Some parents and teachers may be surprised by this finding given the perceived conflict between participation in sport and exercise and obtaining good exam results.

Girls Give Up

Girls are more likely to give up sport during exam years than boys. There is a myriad of reasons for this from peer pressure, the points race and the reduced number of female role models in Irish sport compared to males. This imbalance has been highlighted by 20×20 If She Can’t See It, She Can’t Be It, an initiative by the Federation of Irish Sport to increase & retain participation in sport by girls and women.

Participation in sport is beneficial for all children. General research shows that those who play sports do better in school. This is probably because exercise improves memory, concentration and learning.

We take for granted that playing sports is a healthy thing to do because it improves fitness and helps to maintain a healthy weight. But there are other benefits too. Children who play sports are less likely to smoke, for example.

Sports are also a great way to learn about teamwork. We know that “cliques”, can be difficult environments for many youngsters. The skills of teamwork that sports provide can cut across some of the more negative aspects of this, as students learn about problem-solving and working with others.

Playing sport competitively gives opportunities to learn about goal setting, dealing with disappointment and enjoying success and the feeling of achievement.


Taking part in sport & exercise is linked to an increase in self-confidence. The direct experience of achievement, allied with feeling fit, making friends and being part of a natural social group, leave students who play sport feeling better about themselves in terms of their self-esteem.

Probably the biggest benefit of sport is its ability to help students to deal with pressure and stress. Exercise has long been linked to a more positive mood overall and is a known way to relieve stress and help combat things like depression.

So, if sport and exercise are so beneficial, shouldn’t we give up giving it up in exam years? Instead have a good study routine that allows for both, making a winning combination.

Contact elaine@hummingbirdlearning.com 0872996054 for more on their popular Study Success Program™, a one to one study skills course for second and third-level students.

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