There isn’t a lot of scientific literature around the relationship between cannabis and exercise, however, research suggests that regular marijuana consumers tend to have lower body mass indexes than non-users. A 2015 research paper from the University of Colorado found that users of marijuana generally held more positive feelings towards exercise. It has been proposed that this may be related to the brain’s pathways involved in reward responses to exercise.
New research in the Frontiers of Public Health review has found that many people do use weed before or after their workouts, and that those who do actually tend to exercise more than the average American.
The pathways in which cannabis is purported to positively correlate with exercise are those of increased enjoyment, reduced inflammation, and increased motivation to engage in exercise.
Potential Benefits of Marijuana Consumption with Exercise
- Reduced Inflammation
Many studies have found that CBD, the non-psychoactive cannabinoid in marijuana helps ease inflammation. Researchers have even begun to explore how this anti-inflammatory property may help with diseases like Crohn’s disease, lupus and even psoriasis.
Adam Brous, founder of Ganja Guru Yoga in Colorado, suggests that athletes try tinctures or topicals containing CBD can be incredibly beneficial for locally targeted recovery.
2. Eases Soreness and Pain
Marijuana has long been used for its pain alleviating properties for diseases like Multiple Sclerosis, and this analgesic effect goes hand in hand with its anti-inflammatory properties. Cannabis can be an excellent natural substitute for potentially habit-forming opiates.
3. Treats Muscle Spasms
The treatment of muscle spasms has been another area of medical application where cannabis may have benefits. Cannabis has already shown positive results in diseases like MS and Parkinson’s and its benefits could extend to athletes suffering from muscle spasms, too.
4. Improved Sleep
One of marijuana’s well-known benefits is that of THC, its psychoactive cannabinoid inducing sleep. However recent studies have also found that it can help with sleep apnea and even suppress dreams, which may sound terrible for some, but can be very beneficial for those suffering from PTSD. CBD has also been shown to ease REM sleep disorder, a disorder where people act out their dreams, as well as daytime fatigue.
There are however risks that need to be weighed out when considering adding THC or CBD to your workout regimen, which will be discussed below:
Risk 1: Damage to Lungs
Smoking marijuana may hurt athetotic performance significantly, which is why many athletes prefer to use oils instead of smoking the substance.
Risk 2: Impaired Motor Skills
Marijuana may have a negative effect on motor skills. Cannabis use can acutely impair decision making and motor coordination which may make certain activities requiring a lot of coordination more difficult.
It is for this reason that smoking or use of cannabis is recommended after a workout for its anti-inflammatory and recovery benefits, without impaired motor skills.
The safe recommendation is that THC should not be used prior to resistance training as it decreases reaction speed as well as global stability, neither effects that you would want when lifting heavy objects.
The strain of marijuana being used matters. Junella Chin, an MD of integrative medicine says that consuming high-end specialized strains that help an athlete concentrate are necessary to improve focus. “Then, my patients who are yogis are using a totally different strain to help with ligamentous strain, laxity and poses, relaxation, and getting them to meditate in a whole new level of awareness.”.
If you’re a regular gym goer, smoking may impair your performance in the short term. However, if you’re a weekend warrior trying to get into a regular exercise routine, cannabis may help overcome the initial discomfort of starting a training program.