By Gabe Sanders PhD, NSCA-CSCS
For centuries, cannabis was used to create hemp for sails on boats, ropes, and even paper products. In addition to these uses, cannabis was also used for medical treatments and pain medications and it was even a legal cross-border import. Yes, let’s be honest, cannabis was used recreationally for centuries as well, however, it was not a big deal because it was not considered a criminal act.
Then in 1937, cannabis was criminalized in the United States due to the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937. To this day, the criminalization law is considered by many to be the result of inaccurate, anecdotal observations, pseudoscience, and the pretentious agendas of a couple of high-ranking men in power trying to boost their career. This criminalization was not based on science. In fact, the criminalization of the plant has made it nearly impossible to study in the United States until recently.
Exercise and Cannabis linked to positive behavioral outcomes
Interestingly, exercise in addition to cannabis may be linked to various positive behavioral outcomes. Recent research suggests that exercise and cannabis may have its benefits, especially as it relates to enhancing a person’s motivation and enjoyment of exercise.
A study published in Frontiers in Public Health surveyed 605 people and found that people who exercised while under the influence of cannabis reported more minutes of aerobic and anaerobic exercise. This means they completed more cardio and lifted more weights. These people reported greater enjoyment of exercise, more motivation to exercise, and they felt it helped them recover from exercise more effectively.
There may be caveats
While these findings are interesting and may reveal a potential behavior benefit, there are still caveats that must be considered when discussing recreational cannabis use and exercise. First, exercising (cardio or strength training) when high may not be safe. Second, research has found that increased cannabis use is strongly associated with depressive symptoms and a negative mood state and that exercise did not appear to help moderate or negate the feelings.
In summary, much more research in this field is needed. Low-to-moderate amounts of cannabis along with exercise may not be harmful to most people. In fact, in many cases, medicinal cannabis use and safe exercise may be beneficial.
*Before starting any exercise regimen, consult with a physician and/or medical healthcare provider and exercise physiologist
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Buchowski, Maciej S., et al. “Aerobic exercise training reduces cannabis craving and use in non-treatment seeking cannabis-dependent adults.” PloS one 6.3 (2011): e17465.
YorkWilliams, Sophie, et al. “The New Runner’s High? Examining Relationships Between Cannabis Use and Exercise Behavior in States with Legalized Cannabis.” Frontiers in Public Health 7 (2019): 99.
Wade, Natasha E., et al. “Assessing Aerobic Fitness Level in Relation to Affective and Behavioral Functioning in Emerging Adult Cannabis Users.” International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction (2019): 1-14.