Cannabis and Exercise: Are you curious about how cannabis affects exercise? A recent study conducted by researchers at CU Boulder reveals some interesting findings. While cannabis can make workouts more fun and increase positive mood and enjoyment, it does not enhance performance. The study examined the effects of cannabis on 42 runners and found that using cannabis before exercise can boost motivation and create a heightened sense of euphoria, commonly known as a “runner’s high.” However, participants who used THC reported that the same level of exercise felt more effortful. These findings challenge stereotypes and raise questions about the potential role of cannabis in promoting physical activity. While more research is needed, this study opens up new possibilities for exploring the benefits and risks of cannabis use in relation to exercise.
Background of the Study
Cannabis use and exercise: Exploring the relationship
The relationship between cannabis use and exercise has been a topic of interest in recent years. People are increasingly reporting using cannabis before or after exercise, and researchers are starting to explore the potential effects and implications of this practice. While cannabis has long been associated with a sedentary lifestyle, recent studies suggest that it may actually have some positive effects on exercise.
Previous research on cannabis use before exercise
Despite the increasing popularity of using cannabis before exercise, there has been very little research done on the topic. One previous survey found that 80% of cannabis users reported using it before or shortly after exercise. However, there has been limited scientific investigation into the effects of cannabis on exercise performance and enjoyment. This study aims to fill that gap by examining how legal, commercially available cannabis shapes the experience of exercise.
Study Design and Methodology
Recruitment of participants
The study recruited 42 runners from the Boulder area who already used cannabis while exercising. The participants were selected based on their previous cannabis use and willingness to participate in the study. This sample size was deemed sufficient to gather meaningful data on the effects of cannabis on exercise.
Baseline measurements and survey data
Before the study began, the researchers took baseline fitness measurements and survey data from the participants. This included assessing their fitness level, measuring their heart rate, and collecting demographic information. This information would serve as a reference point for comparison during the study.
Different strains of cannabis used
The participants were divided into two groups: one group received a designated flower strain that contained mostly cannabidiol (CBD), and the other group received a Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-dominant strain. THC and CBD are active ingredients in cannabis, with THC known to be more intoxicating.
Testing on treadmill
On one visit to the lab, the participants ran on a treadmill for 30 minutes at a moderate pace. During this time, they were periodically asked questions about their motivation, enjoyment, perceived effort, perception of time passing, and pain levels. This data allowed the researchers to assess the participants’ experience of exercise.
Use of mobile laboratory
Since federal law prohibits the possession or distribution of marijuana on college campuses, the participants used cannabis at home before being picked up in a mobile laboratory, nicknamed the ‘CannaVan,’ and brought to the lab. This allowed them to use cannabis in a safe and controlled environment.
Effects of Cannabis on Exercise
Increased positive mood and enjoyment
Across the board, participants reported greater enjoyment and more intense euphoria, or “runner’s high,” when exercising after using cannabis. This finding suggests that cannabis may enhance the pleasure and positive mood associated with exercise.
Comparison between THC and CBD use
Surprisingly, the study found that the heightened mood and enjoyment experienced during exercise were even greater in the CBD group than in the THC group. This suggests that athletes may be able to experience some of the benefits to mood without the impairment that can come with THC use.
Impairment of performance
Participants in the THC group reported that the same intensity of running felt significantly harder during the cannabis run compared to the sober run. This may be due to THC’s ability to increase heart rate, which can lead to a feeling of increased effort and fatigue during exercise. The study’s findings indicate that cannabis is not a performance-enhancing drug.
Heart rate increase in THC users
One notable effect of THC use during exercise was an increase in heart rate. This finding aligns with previous research and suggests that THC can have physiological effects on the body, which may impact exercise performance.
Cannabis as a Performance-Enhancing Drug
Contradiction of stereotypes
The findings of this study and previous research contradict the long-held stereotypes that associate cannabis with a sedentary lifestyle. The results suggest that cannabis may have the potential to play a role in increasing exercise motivation and enjoyment.
Elite athletes and cannabis use
It is worth noting that numerous elite athletes, including U.S. sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson, have been prohibited from competing after testing positive for cannabis. Despite the potential benefits reported by some athletes, current regulations and policies regarding cannabis use in sports still consider it a banned substance.
NCAA’s stance on cannabis use
In recent years, there has been a growing debate about the use of cannabis among collegiate athletes. In response to this, an NCAA committee has recommended removing cannabis from its list of banned substances. This recommendation reflects the changing perceptions and understanding of cannabis use within sports.
The Science behind the Runner’s High
Endorphins vs. endogenous cannabinoids
For a long time, natural pain-killing endorphins were thought to be responsible for the famous “runner’s high.” However, newer research suggests that this may be a myth. Instead, it is believed that naturally produced brain chemicals known as endogenous cannabinoids are responsible for the euphoria and alertness experienced during and after exercise.
Role of CBD and THC in tapping into the runner’s high
By consuming CBD or THC, which bind to the same receptors as the cannabinoids produced naturally by the brain, athletes may be able to tap into the runner’s high more easily or enhance its effects. This offers a potential explanation for the reported increase in enjoyment and euphoria experienced by participants in this study.
Risks and Considerations of Cannabis Use
Potential risks and side effects
It is important to acknowledge that cannabis use can come with risks and potential side effects. These may include dizziness, loss of balance, altered perception of time, impaired coordination, and potential legal and regulatory implications. Athletes and individuals considering cannabis use should be aware of these potential risks.
Not suitable for high-performance goals
For individuals aiming for high-performance goals, such as setting personal records in races or competitions, using cannabis before or during exercise may not be advisable. The impairing effects of THC, such as increased heart rate and perceived effort, may hinder performance in these scenarios.
Exploring its potential benefits for certain individuals
Despite the limitations for high-performance athletes, cannabis may have potential benefits for individuals who struggle with exercise. For those who find it difficult to get motivated, experience pain during exercise, or simply do not enjoy physical activity, low-dose cannabis use might hold promise. However, further research is needed to determine the specific contexts and individuals for whom cannabis may be beneficial.
The Impact on Exercise Motivation
Potential benefits for individuals struggling with exercise
One area of interest in the study of cannabis and exercise is its potential to aid individuals who struggle with exercise. For those who find it challenging to get motivated or experience pain during physical activity, cannabis may offer a solution. The reported increase in enjoyment and motivation associated with cannabis use could help individuals overcome barriers to exercise.
Can low-dose cannabis aid in motivation?
Exploring the use of low-dose cannabis as a tool to enhance exercise motivation is an area worthy of further research and exploration. While it is too early to make broad recommendations, early findings suggest that cannabis may have a role to play in increasing exercise participation and helping individuals develop a more active lifestyle.
Potential for further research and exploration
The study discussed here represents just the beginning of a field of research that holds significant promise. As the understanding of cannabis and its effects on exercise continues to evolve, further research with larger sample sizes and diverse populations will be necessary to fully understand the potential benefits and risks associated with cannabis use in the context of exercise.
In conclusion, the study findings suggest that cannabis use before exercise can increase positive mood and enjoyment, but it is not a performance-enhancing drug. Cannabis, specifically CBD, may have some benefits for mood and enjoyment without the impairment associated with THC use. Cannabis use during exercise is not suitable for high-performance goals but may have potential benefits for individuals struggling with exercise. Further research is needed to explore the specific contexts and individuals for whom cannabis may be beneficial in terms of exercise motivation and participation.
The intersection between cannabis use and exercise is an emerging field of study that challenges long-held stereotypes and offers new possibilities for enhancing the exercise experience. As attitudes and regulations regarding cannabis continue to evolve, it is important for researchers, athletes, and the general public to stay informed and engaged in understanding the potential impacts and implications of cannabis use on exercise.