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August 6th, 2019
Think cannabis is only for relaxation and socializing? Think again. A growing number of people, including professional athletes, are using it as part of their exercise routine. In fact, in a complete reversal of the couch-potato stoner stereotype, recent studies have found that cannabis consumers are in better shape, exercise more and weigh less than their non-consuming peers!
Those who’ve incorporated cannabis into their exercise, especially sativa-dominant strains, report that it makes them feel more energized, gets them more motivated to work out, increases their focus, improves their overall enjoyment of exercising, and reduces pain and inflammation afterwards.
While getting high may have some adverse effect on peak performance, it can be a great aid to everyday exercises that are based on repetitive movement, such as running, bicycling, rowing, or working out on an elliptical trainer. By making them more enjoyable, people exercise longer, and exercise more frequently.
Getting high may improve focus and endurance, but it can also negatively affect reaction time and critical judgment, which means it’s probably not appropriate for things like rock climbing, street cycling and whitewater kayaking.
While the risks of using cannabis during exercise are relatively few, doctors caution those who are out of shape, or have heart issues, to take it slow—getting high reduces blood pressure and increases heart rate, which can increase the chance of a heart attack.
Cannabis and Fitness
Time Magazine reported on a study by Angela Bryan, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, that shows that cannabis users exercise more than non-users. “Now, in new research published in Frontiers in Public Health and her colleagues found that many people do use weed before or after their workouts — and that those who do actually tend to exercise more than the average American. Many people reported that pot motivated them to work out and helped them enjoy exercise more. People who said they used cannabis either shortly before or after exercise actually got more physical activity than users who said they didn’t mix weed and workouts — more than 2.5 hours per week, compared to less than two hours per week.
Forbes magazine expanded on this, noting, “The research seems to indicate that rather than promoting a sedentary lifestyle, cannabis s actually helping to drive some users into participating in physical activities.” They cited the study saying “…participants who use cannabis before and/or after exercise reported that they exercise more, and had positive attitudes about co-use on exercise, which implies cannabis may be a useful tool for exercise among some users. In other words, sedentary cannabis users, particularly those who attribute low physical activity to concerns about recovery, motivation, or enjoyment, may benefit from co-use…”
Forbes noted the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabis may help reduce pain in workouts, making those with chronic pain more likely to exercise, and exercise longer. They added “Given that fact, and the results of the study, researchers think that ultimately it could be used to help older people amongst others, whom often experience a great deal of pain when exercising, the ability to exercise later in life and ultimately live healthier lives.”
A report published this year in the International Journal of Epidemiology suggests that cannabis users have lower body mass indices and are less likely to be obese than the average American.
Boston Magazine reports athletes using cannabis in a variety of ways, especially to help them recover from intense work-outs. Everrett Roscoe, a frequent visitor of Revolutionary Clinics and a first-time runner of the Boston Marathon this year, has been using topical CBD and occasional THC lozenges to help his body recover from rigorous training days. “I was a little skeptical of CBD at first,” he tells me. “But I’ve been using it twice a week on my knee after I started having pain from IT band issues in December and now I have next-to-no discomfort.”
Here’s what one athlete told Greatist about her experience with cannabis and exercise:
“…using a sativa strain of cannabis gives me a boost of energy to work out. Cannabis helps me focus and give my workout my undivided attention. Rather than stressing about what I have to do later in the day or counting down the seconds until the set is complete, I can clear my head and just live in the moment. I move my body and mindfully enjoy the way it feels—kind of like the way you dance to the beat of music without thinking about it.
And it may not be all in my head. A recent study linked the body’s own natural endocannabinoid system to the sensation of ‘runners high.’ Meaning, the euphoric feeling endurance athletes report may not be caused by endorphins but rather is a result of the body’s own natural form of THC. Although more research is needed, I find that weed and exercise enhance one another to increase my own euphoric sensation, possibly because using the plant also increases the body’s pain threshold.”
Tips for Cannabis Workouts
According to Men’s Journal, there are some risks to working out when high. “Cannabis can elevate your heart rate and drop your blood pressure, so for jacked dudes who already have higher adrenaline running around their bodies, working out high can up your chances of getting lightheaded.”
According to Time, "The risks are likely lower for those who use pot after working out, especially since both THC and CBD, two compounds in cannabis, have been shown to lower inflammation and help manage pain.”
International Journal of Epidemiology: “Are cannabis users less likely to gain weight? Results from a national 3-year prospective study”