Understanding the Connection between Cannabis and Exercise

cannabis and exercise

The stereotype of the “lazy stoner” has been one of the most prevalent images of marijuana users in the popular imagination for decades, but this norm is rapidly changing as cannabis becomes more accessible and widely accepted across the United States. 

In fact, a new study published by the University of Colorado Boulder reports that nearly 82% of legal cannabis users smoke up either immediately before or after exercise. 

Now, there isn’t currently any scientific evidence that getting high before a workout will make you stronger or faster. A 2017 study conducted in Australia found that THC didn’t significantly improve aerobic performance, and most of the UC Boulder study’s participants felt that smoking up didn’t especially affect their athletic abilities. 

For the most part, study participants said that taking in weed helped make their workouts more enjoyable and facilitated faster recoveries afterward.

Curious about incorporating weed into your own workouts? Wondering if it’s really safe to exercise while high? Read on for an in-depth exploration of the possible connections between cannabis and exercise, as well as some ideas on how you can use your next cannabis delivery to get the most out of a big sweat session.

cannabis and exercise

Why Do People Work Weed into Their Exercise Routines?

The self-reported nature of the UC Boulder study makes it difficult to draw hard conclusions on a possible causal relationship between cannabis use and increased physical activity. However, participants’ experiences do offer some interesting insight into the potential uses of the herb. 

It bears remembering that THC and CBD, the main compounds found in cannabis, have muscle-relaxing, pain-relieving, and anti-inflammatory effects. These properties help relieve muscle spasms, soreness, and arthritic joint pain, which may help athletes recover more quickly from intense workouts.

The study also posits that the psychoactive effects of THC help produce an artificial “runner’s high,” which could help increase marijuana users’ motivation to exercise. It’s first important to note that exercise activates the body’s endocannabinoid receptors, which are connected to the brain’s dopamine and reward pathways and tend to produce feelings of euphoria when active. 

Since cannabinoids also trigger these receptors, consuming THC might cause users to crave more of that euphoric feeling—cravings that they then sate by going out for a run or engaging in some other form of exercise.

Dr. Angela Bryan, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at UC Boulder and one of the authors of the study, also notes that it’s possible that people who used cannabis in conjunction with exercise were simply disposed to find exercising more fun. 

Individuals who actively enjoy exercise, after all, will likely be more motivated to spend more time working out and also to challenge themselves with higher intensity workouts.

How to Best Incorporate Weed into Your Workout

Athletes who use cannabis before training or exercise typically do so to help with endurance. This is, in part, due to the artificial runner’s high mentioned above, as the combination of exercise and THC only amplifies the triggered euphoric feelings. 

THC’s pain-relieving abilities also have a part to play, as you’ll naturally find it easier to run for longer periods if you don’t have to worry about muscle aches. 

As cannabis relaxes the muscles, boosts concentration, and alters the user’s perception of time, it can also help users get through long, repetitive workouts they might otherwise find dull or boring to do. Long stationary bike rides or runs on a treadmill, for example, may feel more manageable under the influence of cannabis.

One important tip for exercising while high, especially if you’re doing it for the first time, is to consume cannabis on low-risk training days. Every user responds to cannabinoids differently due to their unique biology, so you may or may not experience the heightened enjoyment, and motivation others do. 

It’s also important to bear in mind that your goal is to maximize your workout rather than to get high. As such, you’ll want to find the smallest amount of cannabis possible that achieves the effects you’re looking for.

As far as methods of consumption are concerned, vaping may be preferable to either smoking or edibles. It’s safe, lasts only a few hours, and takes effect almost immediately, which means that it will be easy to control your dose. Try taking just one puff and then waiting five minutes to see how it hits you, then take another puff only if you find you need a bigger boost.

Safety Concerns for Exercising While High

Of course, one shouldn’t simply take the emotional or psychological effects of cannabis into account when determining whether they want to try using it in conjunction with exercise. Users should also consider the physical effects of consuming weed and choose the activities they do while high wisely.

For instance, cannabis research has long shown that THC reduces strength and speed as well as diminishes balance, coordination, reaction time, and spatial perception. THC is also likely to impair judgment and risk assessment. All told, this means that it’s not ideal to consume THC before any sort of exercise that requires extensive mental alertness and motor control. 

Engage in activities like rock climbing, outdoor cycling, lifting, and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) only when sober to avoid injuring yourself and other people.

While there’s no conclusive evidence that cannabis use directly boosts physical activity, exercising under the influence of the herb may prove beneficial to some users. Choosing safe, low-risk forms of exercise will help weed users avoid injury and maximize the benefits of cannabis.

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