Cannabis Boosts Enjoyment In Exercise But Not Performance, Study Finds

Cannabis Boosts Enjoyment In Exercise But Not Performance, Study Finds
Cannabis Boosts Enjoyment In Exercise But Not Performance, Study Finds

Sporty Asian Mid man running and jumping against shutter. Health and fitness concept.


Using cannabis before exercising may enhance motivation and increase enjoyment during physical activity, but if performance is the goal, it might not be recommended.

As the relationship between the use of cannabis and physical activity is one of the new fields that scientists are exploring due to the ongoing legalization reforms in the United States and beyond, researchers from the University of Colorado recently published a study in the Sports Medicine journal aimed to investigate the immediate effects of commercially available cannabis on individuals’ subjective responses to exercise in a laboratory setting, marking it as the first study of its kind.

The findings suggest that combining cannabis with exercise can influence both positive and negative aspects of the exercise experience among regular cannabis users.

The authors of this study selected 42 participants who underwent tests involving exercises both with and without the use of cannabis. For the cannabis products, researchers selected both a THC-dominant and a CBD-dominant flower product.

The study aimed to evaluate the immediate effects of cannabis use versus abstention on measures like perceived exertion, pain, and enjoyment during a 30-minute treadmill session. Additionally, it compared the effects of a THC-dominant flower product to a CBD-dominant one on these outcomes.

The study had three parts: a talk test, an exercise session with cannabis, and another without cannabis. The main goal was to see how using cannabis affected feelings like effort, pain, mood, and enjoyment during a 30-minute workout. Another part looked at how THC-dominant and CBD-dominant products might change these feelings. Additionally, it was checked how cannabis influenced resting heart rate before the exercise and heart rate during the workout.

In order to evaluate the results, the researchers looked at different factors, such as whether cannabis was used or not, the type of cannabis, and how feelings changed over time during the exercise.

Most participants said that using cannabis made exercise more enjoyable (90.5%), reduced their pain (69.0%), helped them focus (59.5%), and boosted their motivation (57.1%).

However, fewer felt it made the time fly faster (45.2%) or improved performance (28.6%), suggesting that cannabis doesn’t work as a stimulant for sports performance.

When using cannabis, participants generally felt more exertion, especially those using THC.

Both THC-dominant and CBD-dominant cannabis users reported feeling more positive during their cannabis-exercise sessions compared to non-cannabis ones, and feelings of being alert and reactive (affective arousal) didn’t differ whether they used cannabis or not.

Furthermore, participants reported more enjoyment during cannabis-enhanced exercise sessions. This was especially true for those using CBD.

Participants generally felt more of a “runner’s high” when they exercised with cannabis compared to those without it. This feeling was stronger for those using THC but didn’t differ much for those using CBD. Additionally, participants’ resting heart rate was slightly higher when they exercised with cannabis than without.

While using cannabis before exercise generally made the experience feel better in terms of mood, enjoyment, and the “runner’s high,” it also made participants work harder. According to researchers, the type of cannabis mattered: those using THC felt more effort and alertness, while those using CBD reported more enjoyment.

Interestingly, researchers found that pain levels were similar whether participants used cannabis or not. This contrasts with other studies that suggest cannabis helps manage pain during exercise recovery. However, researchers note that pain levels were generally low in both scenarios. As a result, any potential influence of cannabis on exercise-related pain may have been difficult to detect.

Like any other study, this one presents several limitations that need to be taken into account.

Among them, researchers couldn’t use a placebo due to current federal laws that require clear labeling of THC and CBD content on all legal cannabis products. These regulations also stopped them from using a standardized administration procedure to give cannabis, making it hard to determine cause and effect. Furthermore, participants had to use their cannabis at home before coming to the lab, leading to a delay of about 32 minutes before exercising, and the monitored lab setting where people ran on treadmills might not match how people typically do physical activity with cannabis in their everyday lives.

Researchers emphasize that this study represents a significant initial effort in a developing field. So far, most studies in this area have been cross-sectional surveys or examinations of the immediate impacts of cannabis on exercise and sports performance.

“As recreational exercisers tend to use cannabis for non-performance-enhancing reasons (e.g., enjoyment, pain management) and generally agree that cannabis does not improve their exercise performance, continued research into the impact of cannabis on the subjective experience of exercise — both positive and negative — is critical,” the study concludes.



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