Despite the cannabis stereotypes of lazy stoners wasting days on video games and junk food, many who enjoy the plant are active and even pro athletes at the top of their game.
Thirty-four-year-old UFC champion Conor McGregor has publicly consumed cannabis. Olympic-level sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson won the 100-meter dash in the 2020 Summer Olympic Trials but was disqualified because she tested positive for THC in a urinalysis. Olympic champion swimmer Michael Phelps smoked cannabis. And former NFL stars Ricky Williams, Calvin Johnson, and Marshawn Lynch have all confirmed their cannabis use — Williams while in his prime — and now all have their own weed brands.
The World Anti-Doping Agency considers cannabis a potentially performance-enhancing drug. And there’s a growing body of evidence that the famed “runner’s high” results from the natural boosting of endocannabinoid levels during intense exercise. Endocannabinoids are simply cannabinoids produced within the body rather than introduced into the body via consumption.
According to Harvard Medical School, the endocannabinoid system is a network of densely packed cellular receptors and chemical signals throughout the human brain and body. It’s “essential and mysterious,” they say, as it is newly discovered and not fully understood. What is understood is that cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant interact with this system.
And to top it off, a 2019 University of Colorado Boulder survey showed that about 80% of regular cannabis users consumed the plant shortly before or after exercise (or both).
‘High’ Exercise Do’s and Don’t’s
So, is a plant with a reputation for making people slow and lazy good for exercise? Thanks to federal prohibition, studies are limited, but more and more evidence points to one answer: Yes.
Still, experts warn that cannabis users should limit their exercise to an activity they’re familiar with that doesn’t require heavy lifting or complicated workouts. They should also obey all traffic laws when under the influence of the drug.
In other words: Don’t go rock climbing or hit OrangeTheory Fitness when you’re stoned — but consider yoga or running.
University of Pennsylvania professor and researcher Marcel Bonn-Miller gave Men’s Journal these tips:
- “Use it if you’re thinking of skipping today’s training” because the CU Boulder study showed that many cannabis consumers use the plant for exercise motivation. That’s quite a shift from the pop culture stereotypes.
- “Turn to THC for repetitive, long workouts” due to the purported pain relief offered by THC, CBD, and other cannabinoids. It also may “amplify” the natural runner’s high.
- “Stay sober for heavy or complicated workouts” since some studies show that cannabis may affect judgment, coordination, spatial perception, and other factors critical to a safe workout.
- “Save it for your long runs” since it appears that THC could help with endurance exercises that are low risk.
Ideal Exercise Match
Several gyms have popped up across the country to specialize in cannabis-themed workouts. However, the trend hasn’t really taken off.
A bigger trend? Yoga and cannabis.
“One of the main benefits of combining weed and yoga is that cannabis — when the dose is correct for the person, the ingestion method [is correct], and even the strain is correct for the person — really does facilitate relaxation,” Dee Dussault, the founder of Ganja Yoga in San Francisco told Yoga Journal.
The same article includes insight from the founder of Colorado-based Marijuasana. According to its website, the business is a “cannabis-centric yoga company that produces nationwide pop-ups,” among other things. Stacy Mulvey, the founder, says cannabis can serve as a supplementary regulator for the body.
“The endocannabinoid system works with various other systems—circulatory, regulatory, nervous, et cetera—to keep the body in homeostasis. Cannabis, Mulvey says, “acts as a supplement to the endocannabinoid system,” the article explained.
So light up, pop that edible, or hit the vape if you feel like supplementing your workout. You should feel pretty good about it — as long as you know your limits and don’t go too hard. Namaste.