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Cannabis & Exercise

Most people used to think of cannabis and think about someone lazing around on a couch, eating a bag of potato chips, but times are changing and so is the perception of cannabis and its abilities to affect the human body.

Since recreational cannabis has been legalized in 18 states (plus the District of Columbia) and medical use of cannabis in 36, how people talk about their use of cannabis has changed drastically. Gone are the days when cannabis was just a drug for “hippies” and “stoners.” Now, your average Joe takes some form of it just so he can get a full night’s sleep.  However, one topic that has the medical field buzzing is mixing the use of cannabis with exercise.

How Cannabis Effects the Brain

Dr. Jordan Tisher, an internal medicine physician and the president of the Association of Cannabis Specialists, says that cannabis quiets the part of the brain that feeds the ego and stimulates the brain receptors that generate dopamine. This results in the “go-with-the-flow,” attitude cannabis users can experience. In other terms, cannabis helps the mind de-stress, and find the mundane in life more fun. Once exercise doesn’t feel like a chore you have to do, of course you’re going to want to do it!

How Cannabis Effects the Body

A meta-analysis, published in April 2021, found that cannabis users tend to work out more than their cannabis-free counter parts. Furthermore, another study from 2014, Marijuana and Body Weight, stated that, “as of effects of marijuana on body weight in the general population, use appears to be associated with a lower body mass index.”

Along with weight loss, cannabis also has other health-restoring properties:

  • Reduces inflammation -A study, by Pandey et al., from 2011, found that THC and CBD could trigger an anti-inflammatory response, which would help regulate pain after an intense workout.
  • Eases soreness and pain – A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal in 2010, found that arthritis patients reported lower pain intensity following an inhalation of 25mg of weed with 9.4% THC (that’s much less than most strains found in legal dispensaries)!
  • Treats muscle spasms – Cannabis has shown to have positive results in treating muscle spasms in relation to conditions like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease.
  • Improves sleep – THC induces sleep and can suppress dreams. This is particularly helpful for people who suffer from PTSD. CBD Can ease REM sleep disorder and fatigue. This point is especially important when regarding your health because of how much your overall fitness depends on your body getting the rest that it needs.
  • Improves mental acuity- According to a 2017 study, published in Nature Medicine, low doses of THC restored cognitive function in old mice.

University of Colorado Study

A recent study out of University of Colorado has left scientists and doctors questioning all of their preconceived notions of cannabis. This study looked at the self-reported data of 605 cannabis users in states where the drug is legal. The average was 37.5 and only slightly more men than women submitted their results. 81.7% of the users claimed they used cannabis before and after exercising.

The study showed that, on average, this 81.7% of users completed 43 more minutes of aerobic exercise per week and 30 more minutes of anaerobic exercise per week. They also surpassed the American College of Sports Medicine’s recommendation of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week by 10 minutes. As Dr. Jordan Tisher mentioned, users claimed that it was cannabis that increased their enjoyment and aided in the recovery process.

What Strains Are Best for Exercise?

What strain you pick depends on what type of workout you’re doing. It’s true that, for most people, there is a tried-and-true method. While some people might use a sativa strain to give themselves a boost for the workout and use an indica strain for recovery post-work out, that might not always be the best course of action. What you need for a spin class or a long run, could be different than what you need for something that’s more high intensity.  At the end of the day, it’s a preference.

Cannabis & Exercise Testimonials

After interviewing several people for their article, “‘Stoner-cisers’ say exercising while high has helped them lose weight, be mindful, and maintain energy,” Insider found that those who ingested cannabis before exercising felt less anxious, more consistent, and were in less pain while exercising. One example of a success story came from Morgan English, who told Insider, “I went to my college gym, I got on the elliptical, and everything changed. I wasn’t worried about what I looked like. I wasn’t worried about why I went there to workout. It just took all the stress away. All the obsessive thoughts that don’t ever stop with anxiety, all of that melted way.”

Another participant in Insider’s article, Alex, stated that as an experienced athlete, he has been using cannabis before workouts for the last 12 years. He claims, “it helps me focus on breathing and get to a more meditative or mindful state. It helps me get more in-tune with my body and focus on specific muscle groups.”

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