New Study: Cannabis Used By Many to Augment Exercise

The research offers some understanding of why athletes and fitness enthusiasts are increasingly using cannabis before, during, and after workouts.

Findings of a new study appear to contradict the stereotype that marijuana users tend to be couch potatoes who are not physically active. Research published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health has found that eight out of 10 marijuana users in states where recreational marijuana is legal acknowledge partaking in the substance shortly before or after exercise.

Researchers from University of Colorado Boulder, led by Angela Bryan, Ph.D., assessed the connection between cannabis consumption and exercise by reviewing survey responses of 605 adults living in Colorado, Washington, California, Nevada, and Oregon—all states with legal recreational marijuana.

Nearly 82 percent of those surveyed responded “yes” when asked whether they had ever used cannabis within one hour before or four hours after a workout. More were likely to use it after a workout than before, but 67 percent acknowledged they did both.

Among those who acknowledged using cannabis around workouts (co-users), 70 percent said it made exercise more enjoyable, 78 percent said it facilitated recovery, 52 percent said it boosted motivation, and 38 percent said it promoted better performance.

“These data suggest that many cannabis users in states with legal cannabis access use in conjunction with exercise, and that most who do so believe it increases enjoyment of, recovery from, and to some extent the motivation to engage in exercise. As these factors positively correlate with exercise behavior, using cannabis with exercise may play a beneficial role in the health of cannabis users,” the study reads.

The researchers’ findings run counter to the generalization that cannabis users are lazy and unmotivated. Those who use cannabis when they work out engaged in 43 more minutes of exercise per week than those who didn’t. Also, co-users tend to work out at a higher intensity, clocking over 30 more minutes of anaerobic exercise every week.

The potential motivating benefits of cannabis identified by researchers are likely not limited to athletes and fitness enthusiasts, but could also encourage periodic exercisers to be more active.

“In other words, sedentary cannabis users, particularly those who attribute low physical activity to concerns about recovery, motivation, or enjoyment, may benefit from co-use, provided that they select low-risk exercise options that do not compromise safety during intoxication,” the study reads.

Why Marijuana as a Workout Enhancer?

While the new paper from CU Boulder doesn’t necessarily answer questions about whether cannabis boosts athletic performance, it does indicate that most athletes and fitness devotees primarily use marijuana because it makes their training and workouts feel better.

The researchers also point to prior evidence of cannabis effectively dampening pain perception and abating inflammation, which could play a role in spurring motivation to exercise.

“Our results suggest that prior findings of cannabis users being more likely to meet official exercise recommendations may be at least partly associated with perceived impacts of cannabis co-use on enjoyment, reductions in pain and inflammation during and after exercise, and to a lesser extent motivation,” the study reads.

Believing their study is the first to examine attitudes and behavior regarding cannabis use before and after exercise, the researchers were hesitant to draw sweeping conclusions or endorse exercising with marijuana. However, they did acknowledge their findings suggest that cannabis may help people be more active.

You can access the full text of the new study, “The New Runner’s High? Examining Relationships Between Cannabis Use and Exercise Behavior in States With Legalized Cannabis,” through the journal Frontiers in Public Health.

More Cannabis Research

Past findings suggests that cannabis consumers have a lower prevalence of obesity and are less likely to gain weight.

Find more cannabis research by visiting the scientific research section of our news page.