The stereotype of the lazy stoner is routinely being challenged as legal recreational and medical cannabis markets continue to spread. And while scientific literature on pretty much anything related to cannabis is still minimal at best, there are studies out there. Interestingly — and in direct contrast to that persistent stereotype — research is linking cannabis use with lower body mass index and obesity risk and a higher propensity for exercise. Here’s what the research shows, and why the cannabis-fitness link is kind of a big deal.
A national, three-year study completed in 2019 and published in the International Journal of Epidemiology showed an inverse cannabis-BMI increase association. It was contrary to pre-clinical studies that indicated increased food intake and weight gain as effects of cannabis use. Another study from 2015 linked cannabis to enhanced feelings of motivation and enjoyment in exercise, possibly as a result of activated brain pathways that are associated with the reward/pain response. More recently, research published in Frontiers in Public Health found that a higher-than-estimated number of people use cannabis before or after workouts, and those who do are also more likely to train than the average American.
Researchers surveyed 600 adult cannabis users across legal states about cannabis use and exercise. More than 80% of respondents reported cannabis use within an hour of starting exercise or within four hours of finishing a workout. For many, cannabis was a motivating element to not only begin a workout, but to enjoy it. And for those consuming cannabis to train, it’s working — they got an average of 2.5 more hours per week of exercise than those who don’t use cannabis as a fitness aid.
The Ideal Training Partner?
It’s worth noting that both THC and CBD have been shown to reduce inflammation and manage pain, which makes them useful for post-workout recovery. However, THC in particular can impact balance and motor function in addition to elevating the heart rate. For high-intensity workouts or those that require some level of coordination, THC is probably best enjoyed afterward.
Researchers caution that the cannabis-fitness link may not apply across the board for everyone. The states used in this study share another commonality — not only have they all legalized cannabis use, they’re also among the most physical states in the county. It makes sense that cannabis users living in these areas would also get more exercise, and it can’t be automatically assumed that cannabis is the driver. Still, one of the biggest hurdles to exercising is the physical challenge. If cannabis can prove to be a workaround, that’s a good thing.
We’ve heard a lot of good things from our own athlete ambassadors about both the Kynd balm and the CBD tincture as excellent post-training recovery aids. If you’re interested in testing the cannabis-fitness link yourself, those are a good place to start.