With the proliferation of hemp-derived products and the increasing trend for legalizing cannabis, adult marijuana use is rapidly growing, and the demographics of users are also changing. California-based cannabis delivery company, Eaze, observed a 140% increase in first-time buyers, 25% increase in consumers 50+ years of age, and 92% increase in women customers in 2018; all of which coincides with the legalization of adult recreational cannabis use in California1. With this normalization of cannabis use, the non-medical therapeutic applications of cannabis, such as use of CBD/THC with exercise, are also being explored.
For example, the anti-inflammatory and pain management effects of cannabis can improve the post workout recovery period. Cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, especially cannabidiol (CBD), have been shown to engage the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) to relieve pain and reduce inflammation2. Even the NFL has agreed to examine the use of cannabis in pain management3. A recent study surveyed 605 participants in states that have legalized recreational cannabis, to evaluate their cannabis use 1 hour before and 4 hours after exercising4. Surprisingly, 68% of the participants used it both before and after exercising and observed it to soothe post workout pains. Cannabis use prior to working out also appeared to increase the motivation to exercise. Participants reported working out for 43 minutes more per week for aerobic, and 30 minutes more per week for anaerobic exercise, compared to individuals that do not incorporate cannabis into their workout routine. While limited by the nature of self-reported data, this study demonstrates the potential applications of cannabis for improving motivation to, and recovery from, exercise opposed to the stereotypical characterization of cannabis users being ‘stoners’ who are lazy and inactive.
Exercise not only stimulates endorphins, but also the ECS, to contribute towards the well-known ‘runner’s high.’ Engagement of the ECS by exercise or cannabinoids is also associated with benefits in mood. Physical or emotional stress in humans increases the level of circulating anandamide, an endocannabinoid that has a similar chemical structure as tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and is thought to lessen associated pain5,6. Named after the Sanskrit word ‘ananda,’ anandamide is considered the ‘bliss molecule.’ More intense aerobic activity will increase anandamide levels. Consuming cannabis will also help stimulate the ECS to achieve the bliss associated with the body’s own anandamide, which additionally helps improve the motivation to initiate and to continue a workout.
While there appears to be benefits associated with using cannabis to improve the enjoyment from repetitive activity such as exercise, it should be noted that cannabis, particularly THC-containing strains, are mind-altering. Similar to other pain management options, one should not further damage any injury by ignoring it or masking the pain, which could continue to aggravate a physical injury.
Combining cannabis use with exercise may help to overcome the boredom many feel during a workout, as well as help an individual focus on a repetitive exercise. Caution should be observed when first combining cannabis and exercise since you don’t know how you’ll react. In addition to some of the fitness products offered by Pathway Genomics, our newest at-home DNA test, CannabisDNA, will help you understand your predisposition to common cannabis-related traits. Learn more about how this test can help you personalize your cannabis experience and order your test today!
- Eaze Team. State of Cannabis 2018 in Eaze Insights 1-14 (2019).
- Burstein, S. Cannabidiol (CBD) and its analogs: a review of their effects on inflammation. Bioorg Med Chem 23, 1377-85 (2015).
- Mark Maske. NFL and players’ union to study potential use of marijuana for pain management. in The Washington Post (2019).
- YorkWilliams, S.L. et al. The New Runner’s High? Examining Relationships Between Cannabis Use and Exercise Behavior in States With Legalized Cannabis. Frontiers in Public Health 7(2019).
- Hillard, C.J. Circulating Endocannabinoids: From Whence Do They Come and Where are They Going? Neuropsychopharmacology 43, 155-172 (2018).
- Raichlen, D.A., Foster, A.D., Gerdeman, G.L., Seillier, A. & Giuffrida, A. Wired to run: exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling in humans and cursorial mammals with implications for the ‘runner’s high’. J Exp Biol 215, 1331-6 (2012).