man exercising by jogging

Cannabis Use Impacts Exercise Behaviors

To date, little has been known about the effects of cannabis on exercise behaviors and motivation. Historically, marijuana usage was thought to decrease motivation, including motivation to exercise. However, several athletes report using cannabis for training, performance, and recovery, and an international rugby team has even launched a line CBD-based products for athletes. In fact, the World Anti-Doping Agency includes natural or synthetic cannabinoids (excluding CBD) as prohibited during competition, partly because it’s thought that they may enhance sports performance. Yet, it was unclear if cannabis use before or after exercise affected performance.

A recent survey study from the University of Colorado examined attitudes and behaviors regarding cannabis use and exercise among current cannabis users living in states with full legal access. In particular, the authors were interested in examining differences between users who consume cannabis shortly before or after exercise compared to those who do not, and exercise performance, motivation, and recovery.

More than 80% of participants supported use of cannabis while exercising. Cannabis users reported engaging in more minutes of aerobic and anaerobic exercise per week. In addition, those who endorsed cannabis usage before and/or after exercise reported more enjoyment of and improved recovery from exercise. Approximately half of the cannabis users also perceived an increase in motivation to exercise. Only a small subset of participants reported that cannabis enhanced performance.

These results suggest that many cannabis users in states with legal access use cannabis in conjunction with exercise. Most who do so believe that cannabis increases enjoyment of and recovery from exercise. Individuals who reported using cannabis before and/or after exercise reported that they exercised more, which suggests that cannabis may indirectly play a beneficial role in the health of cannabis users. However, additional research is necessary (including safety studies) before cannabis use can be recommended along with exercise.

Citation: York Williams SL, Gust CJ, Mueller R, Bidwell LC, Hutchison KE, Gillman AS, Bryan AD. The new runner’s high? Examining relationships between cannabis use and exercise behavior in states with legalized cannabis. Front. Public Health. 2019; 7: 99.

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