Scientific Study Finds Cannabis Makes Exercise More Enjoyable

New research out of Colorado challenges the ‘stoner’ stereotype by suggesting that cannabis could actually enhance the enjoyment and subjective experience of exercise among regular users.

Full story after the jump.

The long-standing stereotype that cannabis use leads to inactivity is being challenged by new research suggesting that cannabis might actually make working out more enjoyable. The study, titled “Acute Effects of Ad Libitum Use of Commercially Available Cannabis Products on the Subjective Experience of Aerobic Exercise: A Crossover Study” conducted by researchers Laurel P. Gibson, Gregory R. Giordano, L. Cinnamon Bidwell, Kent E. Hutchison, and Angela D. Bryan, sheds light on the relationship between cannabis use and exercise, potentially changing the narrative surrounding cannabis consumption.

The study aimed to examine the acute effects of legal-market cannabis on regular users’ subjective responses to exercise in a controlled laboratory environment. The research team compared participants’ experiences of exercise without cannabis to their experiences after using commercially available cannabis flower products, either THC-dominant or CBD-dominant.

The study recruited 42 volunteers from the Boulder, Colorado area who regularly incorporate cannabis into their running routine. Initially, the researchers established a baseline by measuring fitness levels and gathering survey data. Participants were then instructed to obtain either a CBD-dominant or THC-dominant cannabis strain from a dispensary. During a follow-up visit, volunteers ran on a treadmill for 30 minutes at a moderate pace. Throughout this exercise, they were asked to report on various factors including motivation, enjoyment, perceived exertion, time perception, and pain levels to assess the subjective impact of cannabis on their workout experience.

The results were intriguing. Participants, all regular cannabis users, reported a more positive affect, increased enjoyment, and heightened “runner’s high” symptoms during their cannabis-influenced exercise sessions compared to non-cannabis sessions. However, they also experienced more exertion. Notably, pain levels remained low and consistent across both scenarios. The study observed that effects varied depending on the cannabinoid content, with people who consumed CBD showing a larger difference in enjoyment and a smaller difference in exertion compared to THC consumers.

While the study did not find cannabis to be performance-enhancing in a way that might give competitive athletes an unfair advantage, it highlights its potential to positively influence the subjective exercise experience for regular users. This insight is particularly relevant as many sports leagues, recognizing the medical value of cannabis and its role in recovery, have relaxed their policies on cannabis and CBD. Notably, the UFC recently removed cannabis from their banned substances list, with numerous other professional sports leagues relaxing policies in varying degrees.

The research team’s findings suggest that cannabis, when used in conjunction with exercise by regular users, may lead to an increase in both positive and negative aspects of the subjective exercise experience. However, they caution that more research is needed to establish these findings, calling for diverse samples, exercise modalities, and methodologies, including placebo-controlled trials.

This study stands as the first to investigate the acute effects of commercially available cannabis on subjective responses to exercise in a laboratory environment. It opens the door to a new understanding of how cannabis can interact with physical activity, challenging the stereotypical classification of cannabis consumers as sedentary. As the legal landscape and public perception of cannabis continue to evolve, this research provides a timely insight into how it might be used to enhance rather than hinder an active lifestyle.

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