When many people picture cannabis enthusiasts, there’s a stereotypical image of someone sunken into the sofa, surrounded by snacks. Weed is commonly known to increase appetite and enhance relaxation. This is often perceived as unhealthy binge eating, lethargy, and lack of motivation but further research conducted over time has revealed quite the opposite for frequent users.
Smoking weed and working out don’t seem like natural partners, but social psychologist Angela Bryan dug into the health trends, surveying over 600 cannabis users living in the United States about their health and exercise habits. Results showed that four out of five surveyed reported regularly smoking weed before a workout as well as after, and those same respondents spent more time per week engaging in exercise than users who opted not to mix the two activities!
How Does Smoking Affect Your Workout?
To date, there is very little science behind the effects of cannabis on exercise. Industry professionals and researchers often turn to surveys and consumer narratives in the hopes of determining the biological role cannabis plays in physical activity. However, how smoking affects sports performance and the body during a workout is also largely dependent on each individual, the type of exercise they engage in, and the end goal at hand.
In Angela Bryan’s survey, nearly 70 percent of participants who use weed before a workout claimed that it made the activity much more gratifying. The act of exercising is proven to release chemicals in the brain called endorphins. These endorphins interact with brain receptors that reduce perception of pain and trigger a pleasurable feeling in the mind and body, similar to that of morphine. So, one can only assume that when combining smoking weed and working out, there might be some kind of chemical interactions at play, creating a unique sort of runner’s high (no pun intended) – that same euphoric feeling that‘s triggered during the peak of the workout –– only amplified.
The common runners high typically minimizes distractions, helping to prolong the workout because the endorphins kick in, and suddenly, it’s thoroughly enjoyable. Naturally, when something feels good, you’re bound to do it again, so enjoying the combination of weed and exercise once is likely to bring you back to try it again. With weed becoming legal in more markets, we could see headlines like “Is Marijuana a Gateway Drug to Exercise?” cropping up in the media soon.
An alternative suggestion for understanding the majority that enjoys smoking weed and working out is that marijuana can aid recovery. Physical activity puts immense stress on the body and the brain, inflaming and wearing out the muscles, causing tension, soreness, and exhaustion. Who wouldn’t want some natural leaf relief??
Some studies show that THC –– the psychoactive component in cannabis –– can help prevent discomfort, manage pain, and boost overall recovery. Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most prevalent of the known active cannabinoids, and it can be derived directly from marijuana’s close relative, the hemp plant. CBD is known to help limit soreness and pain and contains anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is one of the core reasons the body can only exercise for so long or so consistently – most often soothed by popping an over the counter pain/inflammation reliever like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Thus, smoking weed and working out can reduce physical setbacks people often face following strenuous exercise and ultimately get them back out there sooner – in a more natural form rather than a pharmaceutical.
Due to a lack of hard scientific research, it’s a tough call determining which activities are marijuana-friendly and the ones where you should forego the grass. Ultimately, most evidence suggests that smoking weed may heighten the overall enjoyment of certain activities, motivate you to exercise longer or more often, limit recovery time significantly, and may even promote repetition and focus. So, as long you exercise caution when combining cannabis with physical activity, we say it’s high time you give it a try.