Long has the image of the weed smoker — one glued to the couch, Doritos bag in hand — sustained in popular culture. Rarely, if ever, does the stereotype include a pair of dumbbells.
A new study to be published Tuesday by the University of Colorado Boulder in Frontiers in Public Health pushes back on that notion, signaling that 80% of weed smokers mix the drug with their workouts. The same study goes as far as suggesting the mixture may be beneficial for some.
“There is a stereotype that cannabis use leads people to be lazy and couch-locked and not physically active, but these data suggest that this is not the case,” said Angela Bryan, the study’s senior author and a professor in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience and the Institute for Cognitive Science.
Of marijuana users surveyed in states where cannabis is legal, eight of 10 say they partake in the drug shortly before or after exercising, with most reporting that it either motivates them to work out or helps them enjoy it more, according to the study, titled “The New Runner’s High? Examining Relationships Between Cannabis Use and Exercise Behavior in States with Legalized Cannabis research.”
Among the 600 adult marijuana users across California, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon and Washington Bryan and her colleagues surveyed, 82% said they had used cannabis within an hour before or four hours after exercising.
Among those who use cannabis with exercise, 70% said it increased their enjoyment, 78% said it boosted recovery and 52% said it gave them more motivation to work out in the first place. The study also notes that those who combine the two activities got about 43 more minutes of exercise per week than those who didn’t.
“Given that these are all recognized barriers to exercise, it is possible that cannabis might actually serve as a benefit to exercise engagement,” the study reads.
The World Anti-Doping Agency prohibits cannabis use in sporting competitions because of its potential to improve performance, according to a CU Boulder news release sent out in advance of the study’s publication. The study also cites some anecdotal evidence of ultrarunners who sometimes use marijuana to “battle nausea and boredom on long runs.”
However, according to the same study, only 38% of those who use the drug with exercise say it boosts performance, and some previous studies have suggested it may harm it.
The study also implies that certain cannabinoids can “dampen pain perception” and “induce an artificial ‘runner’s high.’”
Researchers also cite cannabis’ anti-inflammatory properties, implying the drug could be used to aid recovery after workouts.
Bryan stops short of endorsing the drug as a supplement to exercise, saying “the evidence is not there yet. But I am also not convinced it is harmful.”
The study has its limitations; researches concede they did not look at which kind of cannabis (edibles, smoked flower, etc.) people use alongside exercise, and the study only gauged those who use cannabis regularly and in states in which it is already legalized.