*This is the first blog post in a series from our writer friends at The Joy of Cannabis: 75 Ways to Amplify Your Life Through the Science and Magic of Cannabis by Melanie Abrams and Larry Smith, which is available to purchase here and here.
Cannabis is well known as a balm for the mind, but its effects on the body are just as profound.
Growing research shows that cannabis has many health benefits, but it may even keep you moving in the gym longer. In a study from the University of Colorado - Boulder, respondents who said they use cannabis for exercise work out 43 minutes more per week than people surveyed who don’t partake. We could cite studies and bombard you with facts from top medical journals, but you probably aren’t here to read about how a bunch of scientists discovered that cannabinol inhibits the growth of Lewis lung adenocarcinoma cells in animals (go science!). Instead, we’ll stick to broad strokes and tell you why edibles and exercise make wonderful bedmates.
But first a quick lesson on the endocannabinoid system – a system that works so perfectly with the chemical makeup of cannabis that it was named after — wait for it — cannabis! The endocannabinoid system is made up of three core components: receptors, endocannabinoids, and enzymes. The receptors (found in 90% of our bodies and most prevalent in the brain) are not only activated by cannabinoids (like THC), but are also activated by naturally occurring cannabinoids called endocannabinoids (“endo” meaning “within,” as in within the body). When these endocannabinoids react with the receptors in our brains, many things happen, one of which is enhanced mood. And guess what can trigger the production of endocannabinoids? Exercise, that’s what!
That “runner’s high” you’ve heard of? It’s not dopamine or serotonin making you feel that post-run euphoria, it’s the endocannabinoids. Adding a well-timed edible to your workout is thought to give you a double dose of euphoria by allowing your body access to its naturally occurring endocannabinoids and the plant cannabinoids in the edible you ate before lacing up your sneakers. Researchers have also found that activating cannabinoid receptors in mice motivated them to run, and there’s growing evidence that cannabinoid receptors also play a central role in humans’ motivation to seek aerobic exercise.
If that wasn’t exciting enough, cannabis may also stimulate dopamine, otherwise known as the motivation molecule. “Cannabis appears to treat ADD and ADHD by increasing the availability of dopamine,” says cannabis researcher Dr. David Bearman, who has witnessed many breakthroughs with his patients. “It has the same effect but is a different mechanism of action than stimulants like Ritalin and Dexedrine amphetamine, which act by binding to the dopamine and interfering with the metabolic breakdown of dopamine.” That’s great news if you have difficulty rocking out repetitive tasks like pushups and crunches.
Even elite athletes are finding cannabis helps with peak performance. Matt Barnes, who won an NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors, told The Bleacher Report, “All of my best games, I was medicated.” Former Dallas Cowboy Shaun Smith said, “I smoked two blunts before every game.” If the professionals are doing it, shouldn’t we at least try it? The answer is maybe… provided you get some additional professional input first of course. Make sure to talk to your doctor before adding cannabis to your exercise regime as it can cause an increase in heart rate and should likely be avoided if you have coronary heart disease or are at high risk for the development of CHD. And if you’re an extreme sports enthusiast? We highly recommend (and we’re sure your doctor agrees) that you forego any psychoactive dose of cannabis if you’re going to be skydiving, BMX racing, or otherwise putting your life in danger.
Also, who are we to tell a Dallas Cowboy to hold off on the blunts, but we’re of the opinion that your lungs surely don’t want to be inhaling combustibles pre-workout, so we recommend an edible timed to onset at the beginning of your workout. As always, start low and go slow – with the edible that is. Your workout, on the other hand, may reach new heights.
Partially excerpted from The Joy of Cannabis by Melanie Abrams and Larry
Smith. © 2023 by Melanie Abrams and Larry Smith. Used with permission
of the publisher, Sourcebooks, Inc. All rights reserved.