exercise and cannabis

A new body of research is blowing the “lazy stoner” myth out of the water.

A new study on marijuana and exercise habits—the first of its kind—suggests that pot and working out may go better together than you’d think.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, found that about 70 percent of people who imbibed before or after a workout believed that it made their exercise more enjoyable. Some 80 percent felt it enhanced their recovery, while more than half reported that it helped motivate them to get out and be active. A smaller segment of the study’s participants even reported that it actually enhanced their performance.

Although these findings don’t suggest that smoking a joint will turn anyone into an elite athlete overnight, they do imply that we need to rethink some outdated stereotypes on cannabis users and their lifestyles. The old cliché about getting high, lying on a couch and overeating has become an outdated portrayal of the modern cannabis consumer.

Run For It

Twenty-five-year old ultra-marathoner Avery Collins talks candidly about how smoking pot before race aides his performance, saying, “It allows me to be very present and not to worry as much about overall times and what’s going on with the run.” Obviously, the strategy works for him. He has a 140-mile-a-week regimen and in 2018 won sponsorship from an edibles company. While Collins has courted some controversy for his public promotion of running while high, he claims that cannabis has long been part of the trail running scene. What’s changed is the public interest—particularly as marijuana has entered the wellness market and become accessible to a much wider swath of people.

Other runners in earlier studies also claimed that cannabis and cannabis products make distance running more enjoyable, and researchers say there may be some scientific support for this. Marcel Bonn-Miller from the Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine studies cannabinoids and says that from a physiological standpoint, there is overlap between the parts of the brain activated during exercise—the “runners’ high” and those triggered by THC. “Both of those involve activation of the endocannabinoid system, so it’s not too surprising that THC might be used to enhance the runner’s high that’s gained from endurance exercise.”

CBD and Recovery

Moreover, many runners studied said that cannabis products help them to recover from hard workouts and races faster, and other researchers studying cannabinoids have echoed these claims. “One [reason for cannabis use] is to enhance your ability to train. The other is recovery oriented,” says Bonn-Miller.

Indeed, CBD has been celebrated in recent years for aiding recovery through pain relief and inflammation reduction, among other benefits. Runner’s World magazine touted it as a natural alternative to ibuprofen, an antidote to anxiety, a sleep aid, a post-workout recovery booster and report that a growing number of athletes consider it a key part of their regimen. Dr. Orrin Devinsky, director of the Comprehensive Epilepsy Center at NYU Langone Health says that CBD “…lowers the amount of many, many pro-inflammatory cytokines — things that our body makes naturally in response to any inflammation response,” – yet another contribution to the growing consensus about the overlapping benefits of cannabis products and exercise.

So there you have it. Run wild, Arizona.

Christina Rock is a Seattle-based writer and photographer who loves to break a sweat.