Of all the things we thought we’d be writing today, we didn’t think it would be about smoking pot. However, a recent study has suggested that cannabis can make exercise more enjoyable.
Probably not the Quaver multi-pack munching stoners from back in high school.
Does Cannabis Make Exercise More Enjoyable?
A study published on the Frontiers Health website by University Colorado Boulder, looked at 600 people living in areas of the United States where cannabis use was legal. Researchers asked about exercise and were surprised to find that 80% of respondents said they smoked pot either before or after exercising. 67% admitted to using it as part of both their pre and post-workout regime.
Men’s Health Magazine, reporting on the study, wrote that those who timed their drug use around their workouts logged ‘47 minutes more activity’ than those who didn’t. The article goes on to reveal that some users believe that the drug makes exercise more enjoyable and helps with recovery time.
Dr Arielle Gillman, who worked on the study, is quoted by the Standard Media website as saying
“There is evidence to suggest that certain cannabinoids dampen pain perception, and we also know that the receptors cannabis binds to in the brain are very similar to the receptors that are activated naturally during the runner's high...Theoretically, you could imagine that if it could dampen pain and induce an artificial ‘runner’s high,’ it could keep people motivated.”
One month earlier, a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that people who smoke weed are less likely to be overweight.
Using a drug to mimic runner’s high, to reduce pain during exercise and to aid in recovery, could be touted as one potential way of encouraging people to improve their fitness. The study’s authors admit that one of the biggest reasons that most Americans don’t exercise is a lack of motivation beforehand and a lack of enjoyment during. And it’s easy to see why that might be the case.Even those of us who regularly exercise (and who regularly feel and see the benefits of exercise) will have felt at times that same lack of motivation, have been unhappy or frustrated during a workout and will have hurt mercilessly afterwards. Could something like cannabis then be the answer to encouraging people not only to start exercising but — just as importantly — to keep it up and to enjoy it.
Currently, the World Doping Agency (WADA) lists both marijuana and cannabinoids on its banned substances list because of the drug’s performance-enhancing capabilities both as a pre and post-workout inflammatory.
Interestingly, however, according to the US Anti-Doping Agency, there are other reasons that marijuana is banned:
“It can also decrease anxiety and tension, resulting in better sport performance under pressure. In addition, cannabis can increase focus and risk-taking behaviors, allowing athletes to forget bad falls or previous trauma in sport, and push themselves past those fears in competition.”
Medicinal marijuana usage is allowed by the WADA but only where it has been prescribed by a doctor and where the circumstances have been approved via a Therapeutic Use Exemption application.
You may not find professional athletes whose sports operate under the WADA banner taking marijuana, but plenty of other people participating in sport do.
The New York Times quotes one study published in the American Journal of Addictions that suggests marijuana is the most commonly used drug amongst athletes second only to alcohol.
The drug appears to be particularly popular with long-distance runners, many of whom say that it helps them to run further and to enjoy the experience of running more.
Taking the drug during an event, however, probably won’t do you any favours. Marijuana is known to reduce hand-eye coordination as well as diminishing spatial awareness.
During the study, only 38% of those surveyed said that they thought it improved their performance.Beautifully quoted in another New York Times article was a semi-professional Ultra-Marathon runner (who swears by the drug before and after a race) who’d smoked a joint mid-race but said it left him “lost and hungry”.
The mental image of that is just too good not to share.
What’s the Difference Between Medicinal and Recreational Marijuana?
Medicinal marijuana is taken for medical reasons — to alleviate pain and inflammation, for example. Recreational marijuana (which you may or may not be familiar with), is traditionally used for its psychedelic effect.
A marijuana plant has around 100 chemicals in it. These are known as cannabinoids and the two best known of these are
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD). Medicinal marijuana is CBD.
In the UK, marijuana is not legal. CBD oil sold in health stores and online may not, according to the NHS, always be of good quality or of any benefit to most people. Medical cannabis is only prescribed to treat extreme forms of epilepsy in adults and children or to help patients suffering from acute nausea following chemotherapy. The UK Government has no intention of relaxing the law on cannabis, so it will be in studies such as the one undertaken by the University of Colorado Boulder that will help us understand more about the impact of cannabinoids on the body and mind during exercise and whether there will be any practical application.
The results are only preliminary with the authors admitting that far more research is required. It’s an intriguing study, however. One that turns a stereotype on its head.
It’s important to note that whilst the researchers are convinced that CBD isn’t harmful, they are not endorsing drug use.
And incidentally, neither are we. Music is known to increase athletic performance so the one thing that we always endorse is wearing sweat-proof headphone covers during exercise.