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The Benefits of Cannabis and Exercise

Cannabis and Exercise

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The first thing that comes to mind before working out might not be lighting a joint, but what if cannabis was the perfect motivator? Yes, that sounds a bit like an oxymoron, since cannabis gets a bad rap for promoting lazy, forgetful behavior. But that’s old news, and it’s time to shift the paradigm when it comes to set and setting for using cannabis.

The medicinal benefits are becoming more and more well-known as states are legalizing across the nation, and recreational use is on the rise. Perhaps an often overlooked bonus to smoking weed (or eating edibles) is the benefit of cannabis and exercise when used hand in hand. 

Cannabis Consumption and Exercise

Cannabis research is a fascinating topic of study. While clinical trials and federal legalization are not yet unleashing the floodgates on cannabis research, there is still a ton of information available about the benefits of cannabis. Anecdotal evidence points to a myriad of physical and mental aspects that couple perfectly with exercise and workouts. 

“Cannabinoids have the propensity to heighten what is already happening in the body; exercise releases endorphins, and patients may feel even better or more positive after exercising when they ingest cannabis substances.”

-Dr. Dayna McCarthy specializes in sports and regenerative medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital

Studies have also shown that cannabinoids can actually provide motivation and inspire creativity, contrary to decades of propaganda stating the opposite. In a 600 person survey across California, Nevada, Colorado, Oregon and Washington researchers explored the relationship between cannabis consumption and exercise. The results were in favor of lighting up.

Those who reported using cannabis before working out or within fours of activity said they exercised for 43 minutes longer than those who did not use cannabis. Further, 52% of those promoting cannabis and exercise together said they were more motivated to exercise overall. Seventy percent said the activity was more enjoyable than it would have been without weed, and 78% reported faster recovery time.

What Happens to Your Body When Smoking Weed and Working Out

Cannabinoids like THC and CBD work on the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to modulate a variety of bodily functions, including mood, sleep, inflammation, pain and motor control, among others. The ECS is responsible for helping the body stay in a state of homeostasis. In addition to helping ward off inflammation before it begins, one must also consider the physical and mental effects associated with getting high. 

The body relaxes and feels an almost calm, floaty feeling that can provide a sense of weightlessness when doing something like running long distances or hiking on an incline. Physical relaxation can be an asset to yoga, martial arts, and swimming.

The mental effects of cannabis can produce mild euphoria, where thoughts may drift, and time does tend to blur just a touch when under the influence of some good weed. This is a massive bonus for working out when sometimes the inclination is to count the clock and try to get it over with. But, when stoned, it’s easier to slip into the zone and just enjoy the moment. 

While the above research indeed points to the fact people tend to enjoy working out while high, there are some cautions to be aware of when it comes to when to use it and how much is right for you. The same survey reported that 40% of people combining cannabis and exercise said that their heart rate was higher than usual, to the point that they felt they couldn’t safely continue their workout.

Cannabis can cause tachycardia — an increased heart rate that might feel particularly overwhelming when stoned. For people with any kind of heart condition, extreme caution should be taken. While no one has ever overdosed on cannabis, there is still very little scientific research on cannabis and exercise, so caution is advised. 

Additionally, be sure to stay hydrated with extra water if planning to work out while high. Aside from perhaps spacing out and forgetting to drink, cannabis can accelerate glucose metabolism, which may lead to dehydration. Having fresh water on hand will also prevent that obnoxious side effect of cottonmouth. 

Cannabis as a Pre-Workout

It seems logical to consume cannabis after an intense workout to promote relaxation, decompress and reduce inflammatory pain in joints and muscles. But how exactly does using cannabis before or during an exercise provide any benefits? For endurance sports like long-distance running and biking, try consuming cannabis before working out, to allow some time for effects to kick.

Is it the runner’s high or the weed? Well, both! Cannabis and exercise not only work together to help get into the zone, but the pain-relieving effects associated with cannabinoids can lighten the load on joints and muscles. 

When it comes to dosage, no two bodies are alike. For someone who regularly smokes weed, stick with an amount that produces a comfortable high that doesn’t cause impairment. Getting stoned to the bone and trying to perform a complicated workout or one that requires precision and agility might not be the best way to use cannabis and exercise.

Since many people report longer workouts when high, it might be beneficial to incorporate cannabis into an after-workout routine as well. Topicals are popular for on-the-spot treatment, and innovative products like infused bath bombs and transdermal patches can work wonders for stiffness and sore muscles. Cannabidiol (CBD) is excellent for this kind of recovery.

What Kind of Cannabis Products Are Best Before Exercise? 

Method of consumption is all about personal preference. However, there are few things to note about delivery mechanisms. For people who do not regularly smoke, ripping a bong might not be the best thing to do before a high-intensity cardio workout. For even the most seasoned lungs, smoking can cause some irritation when followed up with heavy breathing and an increased heart rate. But if flower is the best contender, try a vaporizer, such as the Volcano or a vape pen. Vaporizing weed tends to be a little more gentle on the lungs than incinerating weed or dabs. 

Edibles are a popular choice for many athletes because of their longevity. Eating a light dose 20-30 minutes before working out can amplify energy and help time pass much more quickly. Again, runner’s high coupled with cannabis high is a pretty powerful combo. For those not familiar with edibles, it’s always best to start with a small dose, such as 5-10mg THC. Or even a combination of THC and CBD for a 1:1 effect. A hefty dose of edibles can stop just about any kind of activity in its tracks, so be cautious not to overdo it.

Capsules are another easy way to consume cannabis before exercise. Since they are so convenient to travel with, pack a few extra in case the first dose wasn’t enough to stay elevated throughout the workout. Many companies make capsules with other added ingredients, like turmeric or adaptogens for added benefits.

Infused beverages are a fun way to consume cannabis a bit more slowly. The effects come on over time, especially when sipped or savored. An infused lemonade, tea, or even bubbly water makes for a nice pre-workout sip. 

For quick delivery, try a tincture or sublingual strip

Calling All Weed Warriors

Do you get high before, during or after a workout? If so, what’s your magic formula? If not…maybe now is the time to give it a shot! We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so leave us a comment below. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter and receive updates on all new cannabis trends and other psychedelic nibbles.

RS Contributing Author: Holly Crawford

Holly is a lover of the written word. She enjoys using language to tell stories about people, products, and ideas. With her roots deeply entrenched in the cannabis industry, she gravitates towards all things psychedelic with open-minded curiosity. If she isn’t musing in one of her journals, you can find her talking to her plants, studying business and spirituality, and performing all kinds of kitchen witchery. Holly lives in Oregon with her husband, three dogs and a cat named Bob. You can follow her on Instagram @m_sungreen.

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1 thought on “The Benefits of Cannabis and Exercise”

  1. It should be called out that marijuana can elevate one’s blood pressure and heart rate– which is exactly what exercise will do. This can have a detrimental effect on anyone attempting to exercise under the influence because they are already at elevated blood pressure and heart rate.

    I’m a regular runner and cyclist, but I have had to stop my bike rides before because I felt like my heart rate was just a little too uncomfortable after inhaling some herb. It is very uncommon, but has happened before!

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