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Three Things Everyone Should Know About Cannabis and Exercise

October 23, 2013
Women's running shoes and dumbbells for training

Cannabis isn’t thought of as the most stimulating substance in the world, but it may be time to reconsider the lazy stoner stereotype. As it turns out, cannabis and exercise have quite the involved relationship. The Leafly team did some research to find out just how much getting stoned and getting ripped have in common.

Here’s what we found out:

1. Cannabis Gives “Runner’s High” a New Meaning

It’s not news to the medical community that the human body stores tetrahydrocannabidiol (THC), the main psychoactive in cannabis, in fat. However, a study put out this August in Drug and Alcohol Dependence has shown that this storage process can give exercisers an extra boost, even up to 28 days after consumption.

As the body begins to burn off fat, small amounts of THC are released back into the bloodstream, producing an effect similar to consuming a small amount of cannabis. THC blood levels increased by approximately 15% immediately after moderate exercise, yet this increase was no longer present two hours after the workout.

This study also showed a correlation between THC release and BMI. The greater the BMI, the greater the increase in THC reintroduced to the body.

2. Well, Actually, “Runner’s High” and “Stoner’s High” are Kind of the Same Thing

We all know that exercise is good for you. Not only is it key to preventing obesity, which causes heart disease, diabetes, and many other illnesses, exercise is also linked to the creation of new brain cells and decreases in stress.

Yet, contrary to popular thought, it’s not just the endorphins (the compounds which make you feel excited after activities such as exercise and sex) that make physical activity so great. A 2003 study found that exercise actually activates the endocannabinoid system in the same way that the cannabis plant does. The endocannabinoid system is a group of lipids (types of fats) and cell receptors that cannabinoids (compounds like THC and CBD) bind to inside the body. It’s responsible for easing pain, controlling appetite, and influences mood and memory.

Perhaps as a coping mechanism for easing pain, the body naturally produces its own cannabinoids during exercise. In the aforementioned study, researchers found that human-produced cannabinoids increase as you exercise, causing you to feel a little “high.”

3. Muffin Tops Have Found an Enemy in Cannabis

Moderate exercise is helpful for burning off that scone you grabbed along with your latte this morning. But calories burned with exercise isn’t the only thing that helps you lose weight.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Medicine has found that regular cannabis consumers have fasting insulin (insulin in your body before eating) levels 16% lower than non-consumers. The study also found that cannabis consumers had 17% lower insulin resistance levels and lower average waist circumferences.

Insulin is the hormone that tells your cells to take in sugar (glucose) to use for energy. If you have too much unused sugar in your cells, you will gain weight. If your body isn’t handling insulin properly, you may also gain weight. The study’s findings show that the cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant help facilitate metabolic function.

Coupled with the pain-relieving effects of both plant and human-derived cannabinoids, cannabis and exercise seem to go hand in hand if you’re looking to improve your physical health. (Just be sure to cut back on the Taco Bell.)

Photo credits: Thomas Hawk; Sangudo; ccdoh1; Helga Weber via photopin cc

  • Judy Goldstein

    So maybe the insulin connection explains the hungry horrors connection?

  • Iyouwe Iuv

    Thanks for this article.
    great info

  • Tychebla Ninja

    Everyone who works out will tell you that marijuana and exercise are not a good combination. Those who consume marijuana (even the most sativiest of all sativas) before exercise will not be able to perform at the same level as if they don’t consume. And it’s for the better: At least your body will shut down before you could do any harm by overstimulating your heart. If you want to get high while doing some intense activity, other drugs such as classical psychedelics would be a better choice, as they will trick you to think that you are still full of energy after hours on the trail. This, however, could be extremely dangerous for those with pre-existing heart conditions as some people end up in the hospitals with heart attacks. So it’s better to avoid this type of activities.

    • Tyler Payton

      I think you missed the point. The article is linking and explaining the health benefits of individuals who both exercise and consume cannabis on a regular basis. Not once did it mention getting stoned before working out.

      • Candy LaNell

        I smoke and work out and because I smoke I can push threw the pain!! I can work out more cause I’m eased enough to keep going!! So yes the article is right. I am living proof!!😉

        • gabe from statefarm

          Same bro it feeels amazing 💪🏼

        • esnips

          I thought you were full of crap, but one day I tried it and damn with the combination of that and my music playing in my headphones, I literally had the best workout ever. Now smoking a little bit before I train is my new pre workout supplement. I found I get a better mind muscle connection when I lift now.

        • alex adam

          Me too Candy😉

    • Moses Rebel

      Not only do you seem to have missed the point of what’s written, but your also just flat out wrong on all counts. It seems that if you’ve actually talked to anyone at all on the subject it was people who just “exercise” and must have zero knowledge or experience with real training or consuming marijuana.

      Although it’s not really the point of the article, I can speak from experience, from speaking to people who partake of marijuana and very intense training, as well as being to point to powerlifters, bodybuilders, etc. who not only consume marijuana in their downtime away from training but also many who consume it in the pre-workout to focus or for their after workout to relax. Pretty much the only people who would have trouble with this are people who have little experience with both.

    • Miko Tiko

      its clear that you’ve have never smoke pot

  • Janice Warfield-Russo

    I ran 10 marathons, 9 of which I was smoking pot. Not that I was particularly “high” in the sense of being altered so much, but I think
    it helped to boost the excitement and take the edge off of the reality of what I was about to endure. I am not proud of my pot use. To me it is a crutch for some void deep inside me. BUT The challenge was that my 10th marathon, at 50 years of age, was done without pot. Maybe there was some in my system, stored in my fat, but psychologically it was a triumph because I did it all on…music in my headphones, and my own personal ego…plus my tribute to the power of God within me. That’s my truth. The human mind and body are amazing things.

  • James Marshall

    Great article this finally explains completely what I’ve been trying to understand. I’m 61 years old and was quite athletic thru high school and college – started smoking in college to this day. I work in technology and about 20 years ago I started running – I’ve created a protocol that works quite well and has only been shared with close friends due to social stigma. I vape before I exercise – whether weight training (2-3 times per week – 1 hour) or running (3X per week 4-5 miles) – I have an Ipod with 1500 songs from my music library , programmed playlist for running – uptempo and sync running rhythm to base drum beat – over years I’ve adjusted to song list – With a slight buzz + endorphin’s + meditation to music ; your running body goes into autopilot , with over 20 years I have incredible stamina outrunning almost everyone on the track – matter of fact the 1st person to overtake me in 15 years a couple weeks ago – was 1/2 my age and 4 inches taller ; he couldn’t fathom when I told him my age. His comment “A lot of young people can’t do what you do”. The process of burning fat which is inevitable = THC release into blood stream which equates to an increase in energy, brain stimulation and also boost to the auto immune system. I run a the 6.30 min avg in a 5K race – also find a better metabolic balance. I’m also nationally ranked here in the US in the top 10% of runners over 60 years. So much for the stoner, slacker image ….LOL

    • Carlos C. Alsina Batista

      This is also my experience. I’m a happy THC resistance and endurance exerciser. The trance in which one gets in is also perfect…

  • Keena Kelli

    https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=keena+kelli
    Great resource for anyone who is currently pursuing or thinking about cannabis and exercise. Specific rules and guidelines for working out on weed.

  • Irfan Siddike

    hi my self irfan, one day i had smoke weed and after that i did 68 push ups, after that actually what happens to me i cant able to explain to you but all i remember was i could able to here people what they are thinking in there mind. i know what you are thinking about me,that i am mad but its true. also i could able to see smallest things every thing was like horrible to me. and i was also thinking at that time that i cant stop my self heard berating even i stooped doping push ups half hours before. i drink a lot water but same think was going on with me. also my room become very small to me i felt i like room filled by me.
    some buddy can help me to understand what was going on with me even when ever i smoke weed i felt the same moment at a time.
    does some buddy have any suggestion for me that what sell i do.
    please mail me irfansiddike@gmail.com

    • alex adam

      It sounds like you are having a delusional experience with Cannabis Are you smoking a Sativa
      Try a Hybrid with an Indica dominate

    • Chron

      Make sure it’s Cannabis & not Spice!!!

  • Myrna Snow

    Hi guys I used harlequin today for a Crossfit class which was abs the 20 minutes it was my first time I felt great and also ran with a partner who runs like hell and I kept up with here . what are strains are available that I can use with the no high effect , no hunger issues either . btw I used it as pre work out bad ass but Im also looking for a strain for the soreness Kind of new on the medical cannabis can you guys share some pointers . thanks hellos from Puerto Rico

  • catnips

    Working out would go down 80% for me, without vaping beforehand. For me, it doesn’t impair performance and can enhance it by providing the motivation to start, the focus and endurance during, and the pain afterwards. I like it with coffee as a preworkout and have found it to be a very effective combination when using the proper strain, method, and dosage. Finding that can be tricky.