Is there a connection between marijuana and exercise? It might seem like an odd thought to have, but if you’ve ever tried any intense physical activity while using cannabis (or spoken to a few friends who have), you may have noticed a trend.
At least one survey, conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado-Boulder, has found that upwards of 70 percent of individuals who use marijuana before exercising find their workouts to be “more enjoyable.” What’s more, they also tend to exercise for more minutes a week compared to those who don’t indulge in cannabis before working out.
Findings like this beg the question, can marijuana help workouts become more effective? There’s mounting evidence to suggest that this might be the case. Here is what the available information says about the effects cannabis might have on exercise.
Cannabis and Workouts
From novices to experts, there’s a lot of opinions about marijuana’s health effects and what it does to the body during exercise. Stories abound of athletes who use cannabis to aid with training, and one common theme throughout all of their stories is how marijuana helps put them into a more relaxed state.
While relaxed, many athletes report that they are able to lift heavier weights, exercise for longer durations, and recover from workouts with greater ease. If you’ve ever experienced marijuana before, this line of thinking makes sense. So do some of the other anecdotal benefits that cannabis purportedly provides, such as reducing inflammation, allowing users to push through pain, and reducing the tedium of repetitive exercises.
On the flip side, there’s a chance that using marijuana prior to exercise could take a toll on your lungs, impair your motor skills (leading to injury), and increase your heart rate and blood pressure (putting you at risk for a heart attack). So, even anecdotally, you shouldn’t consider marijuana to be a “wonder” workout drug and will need to exercise some common sense in using it.
These potential benefits and risks offer you plenty to think about already, but you should keep in mind that they are all anecdotal. To gain a more complete picture of the links between marijuana and exercise, you’ll need to take a look at some of the hard data that researchers have produced on the topic, which, to date, has yielded mixed results.
What the Evidence on Marijuana and Exercise Shows
There are at least two systematic reviews concluding that THC use has minimal positive impacts on exercise. First, a 2017 review of available evidence by Dr. Michael Kennedy looked at 15 published studies on THC use and exercise.
He found that while cannabis use may inhibit exercise-induced asthma, no studies to date have demonstrated enhanced strength or aerobic performance from their participants. In fact, two studies actually showed participants suffering from adverse effects following cannabis use, including an inability to even complete the exercise routine.
A 2020 review from researchers at the University of Toronto and McMaster University focusing on “elite and university” athletes also found either no impact or negative impacts on performance following cannabis use. This review conceded, however, that literature on the topic is “generally poor,” and that more research is needed to develop conclusions.
Indeed, there are also studies and reviews suggesting different conclusions, such as Cannabidiol and Sports Performance. This review looked at pre-clinical evidence to ascertain potential links between CBD and athletic performance, stating that its anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, and analgesic effects warrant further study to see how they might be of benefit within the context of sport and exercise.
Then there’s The New Runner’s High, a study that looked at the differences between adults who exercised with the aid of cannabis and those who did not. It concluded that individuals who use marijuana and exercise simultaneously work out for longer periods on a weekly basis and feel more motivated to work out.
This study also recognized that marijuana users are more likely to “meet official exercise recommendations” compared to non-users. So, even if THC use has zero physical performance-enhancing benefits, it could still help you conquer some of the mental barriers to exercise and more easily get into the habit of working out on a regular basis.
A 2013 study from the Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence details an effect where cannabis use combined with exercise can diffuse THC accumulated in fat tissues back into the bloodstream, producing effects similar to ingesting small amounts of cannabis and potentially providing an added boost of motivation during workouts.
And beyond all this, there are the general evidence-backed benefits associated with marijuana. This study, published in the American Journal of Medicine, linked cannabis use with reduced fasting insulin levels and smaller waist circumferences, and a similar study from Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience found that marijuana users are less likely to be obese than non-users and have lower average BMIs.
Though data linking marijuana used to improved exercise performance is still sparse, the evidence that does exist, combined with overwhelming anecdotal accounts, is enough for researchers to continue to explore the connections.
It should also be more than enough to get you interested in the topic. Though not all forms of exercise will benefit from cannabis use, some common-sense integration of THC into your routine could be what you need to help find the motivation to work out more regularly or to help you stay in the zone so that you can work out for longer periods of time.
Of course, such experimentation necessitates a regular supply. For those in Florida, cannabis is readily procured from sources like VidaCann. As a Florida medical cannabis provider, we offer an online dispensary as well as several physical locations across the state, making it easy to obtain a wide range of cannabis products. Visit any of our locations to learn more about the world of medical marijuana and get up-to-date information that will help you make the best choices possible.