You won’t be surprised to hear that cannabis goes well with all kinds of activities, from socializing to working to hooking up. If you like weed, you probably know it makes good things better and the boring things more exciting—or at least, more tolerable. And for cannabis consumers, that includes working out. So whether you’re begrudgingly lacing up those running shoes or counting down the minutes ’til your next lift, there’s a very high chance you’ve made cannabis part of your exercise routine. Because according to researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder, 82 percent of cannabis users consume before and after workouts if weed is legal in their state.
New Research Busts Old Stereotypes
Age-old reefer madness stereotypes are dropping like dominos these days. And if anyone still buys into the munchie-crazed, couch-ridden image of the cannabis smoker, it’s definitely not anyone who has very many friends. Even the World Anti-Doping Agency knows there’s no truth behind it; they’ve always included marijuana on their list of potential performance enhancers.
But while the jury is still out on the question of whether weed actually makes you run faster or jump higher, UC Boulder researchers have some compelling data points to suggest that cannabis does help motivate people to exercise more.
Study Suggests Cannabis Removes Barriers to Physical Activity
Amid conservative fears about marijuana legalization sparking a national public health crisis—as if the U.S. weren’t in the middle of an opioid crisis—research that shows how cannabis use can help improve wellness presents a strong rebuttal. And in one of the few studies to look at how legal cannabis use impacts physical activity, UC Boulder researchers with the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and the Institute for Cognitive Science provide exactly that.
According to their survey of 600 adults who regularly consume cannabis in weed-legal states, 82 percent consume cannabis within one hour before or four hours after exercise. The result stunned researchers, who asked followup question to find out why.
Of those 82 percent who “co-used” cannabis with exercise, 70 percent said they did so because it increased the enjoyment of working out. An even higher percentage, 78 percent, said it boosted their recovery. And about half said it heightened their motivation.
Researchers say boredom, recover pain and lack of motivation are three major barriers to exercise engagement. “It is possible that cannabis might actually serve as a benefit to exercise engagement,” the study says.
In addition to those qualitative responses, researchers also got quantitative data to back it up. The “co-use” group, according to the study, got an average of 45 more minutes of exercise per week than those who didn’t consumer cannabis during a workout.
What About Performance?
This study didn’t measure and compare workout performance between the co-use and non-use groups. But just 38 percent of the co-users surveyed said their workout cannabis use boosted performance.
The study’s authors also mapped their data onto other studies about cannabis use and physical activity. The fact that only 38 percent of co-users reported performance boosts aligns with small studies that suggest cannabis use harms athletic performance.
Other previous studies corroborate UC Boulder researchers’ conclusions that cannabis use removes barriers to exercise engagement. There are many studies suggesting cannabinoids like THC and CBD can block pain receptors. Others have found links between the endocannabinoid system and the chemicals that stimulate the famous “runner’s high” long-range runners experience.
There are also many studies about the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids. The ability to reduce nerve and muscle inflammation may aid post-workout recovery. No wonder consuming cannabis was more popular among the study participants than before. Although, 67 percent said they consumed both before and after working out.
These intriguing connections led researchers to hypothesize that cannabis use can help individuals exercise more as they get older. “If cannabis could ease pain and inflammation, helping older adults to be more active that could be another benefit,” said senior author Professor Angela Bryan.