JAN 11, 2024 1:35 PM PST

Cannabis and Exercise: A Novel Study Reveals Surprising Findings

How does cannabis influence workouts? Does it serve as a performance enhancer or in other ways? This is what a recent study published in Sports Medicine hopes to address, as a team of researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) and the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus investigated how cannabis influences exercise workouts and regimens, specifically pertaining to the exercise performance. This study comes almost a decade since Colorado legalized the sale of recreational marijuana and holds the potential to help researchers and the public better understand cannabis’ role in our everyday lives.

For the first-of-its-kind study that started in 2021, the researchers recruited 42 participants who were consistent cannabis users ages 21 to 39 to ascertain their responses to exercise after using cannabis and in a controlled laboratory setting. In the end, the participants reported increased enjoyment and “runner’s high” characteristics while also reporting greater levels of exertion during their exercise regimen. Additionally, the participants reported the following when the researchers asked them why they combine cannabis with their workout routines: 90.5 percent said it increases enjoyment, 69 percent said it reduces pain, 59.5 percent said it increases focus, 57.1 percent said it increases motivation, 45.2 percent stated they perceived that it speeds up time, and 28.6 percent said it improves their performance.

Image of Boulder-based ultrarunner, Heather Mashhoodi, exercising on a treadmill as part of the study while first author, Dr. Laurel Gibson (left) takes notes. (Credit: Patrick Campbell/CU Boulder)

“The bottom-line finding is that cannabis before exercise seems to increase positive mood and enjoyment during exercise, whether you use THC or CBD. But THC products specifically may make exercise feel more effortful,” said Dr. Laurel Gibson, who is a research fellow with CU Boulder’s Center for Health and Addiction: Neuroscience, Genes and Environment (CU Change) and lead author on the study.

As noted, Colorado became legalized the sale of recreational cannabis almost a decade ago, and an additional 23 states have since followed suit with legalizing recreational marijuana. Therefore, this study could open doors for other states to conduct similar studies pertaining to cannabis and exercise, as well.

What new discoveries will researchers make about the link between cannabis and exercise in the coming years and decades? Only time will tell, and this is why we science!

As always, keep doing science & keep looking up!

Sources: Sports Medicine, EurekAlert!, Wikipedia, CU Boulder Today, USA Today

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Laurence Tognetti is a six-year USAF Veteran who earned both a BSc and MSc from the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Laurence is extremely passionate about outer space and science communication, and is the author of "Outer Solar System Moons: Your Personal 3D Journey".
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