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Cannabis Makes Exercise More Tolerable, Study Finds

By Leo Bear-McGuinness

Published: Jul 21, 2023   
A person with glasses smokes a cigarette.

Image credit: iStock

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Cannabis can boost a runner’s high, according to a new study.

Published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, the study asked 49 participants to run while high and, on separate occasions, run sober.

The runners reported feeling more tranquil, joyful, and euphoric during their cannabis-runs.

The researchers say these positive feelings could help runners maintain their exercise regimes and could explain, in part, why cannabis consumers are more likely to meet minimum physical activity guidelines and have lower body mass indexes than non-consumers.

Jogging and joints

Cannabis consumers aren’t normally thought of as outgoing exercisers; even in 2023, the lazy stoner stereotype looms large.

But recent surveys have challenged this cliched image. One poll conducted by the University of Colorado, Boulder, in 2019 found that most cannabis consumers surveyed (81.7%) used the drug before or during exercise.

To find out more about this kind of cannabis activity, some of the same researchers recruited 49 participants (32 men, 17 women) from the Boulder/Denver area who had comfortably used cannabis before.

The participants completed a pre-run survey to measure their attitudes towards running (noting their levels of “enjoyment”, “motivation”, “discomfort/pain”, and other feelings). They then consumed cannabis at their own leisure, went for a run, and filled out another survey. On another day, they did the same survey-run-survey routine without consuming cannabis.

After looking through the results, the researchers found that participants reported significantly fewer negative effects during their cannabis-runs compared to their sober-runs; the runners were more tranquil, experienced less pain, and felt a stronger runner’s high.

Cannabis didn’t seem to have an effect on the actual exercise, though; there were no significant differences between the two runs when it came to the distance the runners ran and their pace.

While the researchers recognize the limitations of their study – they didn’t measure the dose or THC:CBD ratio of the cannabis used, for instance – they maintain that their findings fill “an important gap” in the literature on cannabis and exercise. Nonetheless, they say further, more rigorous research (lab studies, etc.) will be needed to bolster their conclusions.

Cannabis, exercise, and Colorado

The present study is one of a number of cannabis-exercise studies being carried out by the team at the University of Boulder, Colorado (CU Boulder).

Announced in December 2021, their SPACE study (Study on Physical Activity and Cannabis Effects) aimed to enlist more than 50 paid adult volunteers for another cannabis-fitness study. This project planned to be more direct, and measure the heart rates of the participants as they ran on a treadmill. The results of this study are forthcoming, according to a source from CU Boulder. 


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