Challenging Stereotypes: Cannabis as a Fitness Companion
The image of cannabis users as sedentary snack enthusiasts is being challenged by a groundbreaking study from the University of Colorado Boulder. This research, published in Sports Medicine, delves into the relationship between cannabis and exercise, particularly focusing on its role in enhancing the fitness experience.
The Study's Approach and Findings
The study involved 42 runners who participated in treadmill sessions under different conditions: baseline, sober, and after consuming cannabis. They had the choice of strains high in either CBD or THC, the latter known for its psychoactive effects. The study's findings were revelatory: a staggering 90.5% of participants reported increased enjoyment of exercise post-cannabis consumption. Additionally, many noted a decrease in pain (69%), heightened focus (59.5%), and improved motivation (57.1%).
The Role of Cannabis in Enhancing Exercise
Angela Bryan, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at CU Boulder, spearheaded the study. Her findings suggest that cannabis, particularly CBD-dominant strains, can induce a state of euphoria akin to the famed 'runner's high'. Contrary to enhancing physical performance, less than a third of participants felt an improvement in their abilities, aligning with Bryan's previous research indicating a slight decrease in performance post-cannabis consumption.
Endocannabinoid System and Runner's High
Recent studies suggest that the runner's high, traditionally attributed to endorphins, might actually be linked to the body's endocannabinoid system. This connection could explain why cannabis enables runners to tap into positive feelings during exercise.
Cannabis and Athletes: An Open Secret
Journalist Josiah Hesse, in his book "Runner's High," explores the widespread use of cannabis among athletes, from ultramarathon runners to professional sports players. This cultural norm has influenced policy changes in major leagues like MLB and NBA, where cannabis is no longer a banned substance.
Shifting Perceptions in Professional Sports
Despite these changes, stigmas around cannabis use persist, as highlighted by the suspension of running phenom Sha’Carri Richardson from the Tokyo Olympics for cannabis use. This incident underscores the ongoing debate about cannabis in sports and its perceived impact on the spirit of competition.
Cannabis: A Tool for Healthy Habits
Bryan's interest in the intersection of cannabis and exercise was piqued by the early days of legalization in Colorado. Her research dispelled misconceptions about cannabis users being less healthy, revealing that they are often more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than non-users.
Reconsidering Cannabis in Exercise
Bryan's stance on cannabis as an adjunct to exercise has evolved, now viewing it as a potential tool for promoting physical activity. However, she cautions against over-reliance, especially concerning high-THC concentrates and their potential impact on addiction and mental health.
Future Research and Changing Attitudes
Bryan plans to continue exploring different consumption methods and sports beyond running. Both she and Hesse hope that such studies will encourage a more open-minded approach to cannabis, recognizing its potential beyond mere intoxication.