Many people who consume cannabis report that it makes exercise more enjoyable and motivates them to be more active, according to the first large study of legal marijuana and workout habits.
Published in Frontiers in Public Health, the research looked at 605 adult cannabis users in states where the drug is legal for recreational use and 81.7 percent of them reported that they used cannabis concurrently with exercise. Those who endorsed using weed shortly before or after working out said that it,
enhances their enjoyment of and recovery from exercise, and approximately half reported that it increases their motivation to exercise.
About 70 percent said it increased the enjoyment of their workouts, nearly 80 percent felt it enhanced their recovery, over half said it motivated them to be more physically active, although just 35 percent felt it actually improved their performance.
When explaining why the study was necessary in interviews with Time and The New York Times, psychology and neuroscience professor Angela Bryan, who oversaw the study, pointed out the elephant in the room: that this doesn’t quite fit the lazy stoner stereotype.
The stereotype is the kid on the couch eating Doritos, not being physically active (…) if that was the impact of cannabis on physical activity, that [would be] a big problem. (…) Our concern going in was that cannabis use would be detrimental to physical activity. Our evidence does not support that idea.
More and more states are legalizing its use for the general population so if it’s contributing to the public health problem of inactivity, that’s an issue. But it doesn’t appear to be the case. In fact, another study published this year in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that over three years, weed users were less likely to gain weight.(1)
A 2015 study also found that pot might enhance the positive mood you get from exercise by activating brain pathways involved with reward responses, and Bryan suggested to The New York Times that changes in pain sensitivity, along with responses to inflammation, might help to explain her findings.(2) Indeed, cannabinoids have some pretty strong links with reducing inflammation — read our guide to CBD supplements for athletes to learn more.
Bryan also noted that the states that have legalized pot also happen to be the most physically active states, so it’s unclear if these results would be the same across the board. The study is also limited by the fact that it uses data from self-assessments by self-selected volunteers. Now that cannabis use is becoming legal in more and more states, we’re looking forward to more research in this area.
Featured image via Handatok/Shutterstock
1. Alshaarawy O, et al. Are cannabis users less likely to gain weight? Results from a national 3-year prospective study. Int J Epidemiol. 2019 Mar 16.
2. Gillman AS, et al. Cannabis and Exercise Science: A Commentary on Existing Studies and Suggestions for Future Directions. Sports Med. 2015 Oct;45(10):1357-63.