Trend: combining cannabis with exercise
American athletes are discovering cannabis. Or is it the other way around, and are cannabis users discovering sports? Whatever. In the states where cannabis is legal, 8 out of 10 cannabis users combine cannabis with exercise, psychologists at the University of Colorado Boulder discovered. Cannabis speeds recovery after training and makes exercise less unpleasant, cannabis users say.
Cannabis for athletes
Cannabis is on WADA's Prohibited List, but doping hunters only test for cannabis during competitions. If there is more than 150 nanograms of THC in a sample, there is a doping violation. This means that in the most extreme case you can still test positive 4 weeks after you have used cannabis. That is why doping authorities advise athletes not to use cannabis at all.
Cannabis is on WADA's Prohibited List, but doping hunters only test for cannabis during competitions. A doping violation occurs if a sample contains more than 150 nanograms of THC per milliliter.
This means that in the most extreme case you can still test positive 4 weeks after you have used cannabis. That is why doping authorities advise athletes not to use cannabis at all.
Yet, since US states have started to legalize cannabis, media are increasingly reporting on the use of cannabis by athletes. In 2015, for example, in the Wall Street Journal, Frederick Dreier published a report on the use of cannabis by ultra-runners. [wsj.com Feb. 9, 2015]
"The person who is going to win is someone who can manage their pain, not puke and stay calm," says ultra-runner Jenn Shelton in that article. "Pot does all three of those things."
"If you can find the right level, [marijuana] takes the stress out of running", ultra-runner Avery Collins adds. "You're running for 17 to 20 hours straight, and when you stop, sometimes your legs and your brain don't just stop. Sometimes [pot] is the only way I can fall asleep after racing."
Partly as a result of this type of reporting, the psychologists at the University of Colorado Boulder decided to interview 605 cannabis users, who lived in American states where cannabis is legal, about how they think about cannabis and physical activity.
No fewer than 81.7 percent of marijuana users said they used cannabis 1 hour before training, during training or for 4 hours after training. They mainly used cannabis after their workouts. However, two-thirds of users took cannabis before and after training.
The two main motives for combining cannabis with exercise were that cannabis accelerated recovery, and that cannabis made movement less unpleasant.
"There is evidence to suggest that certain cannabinoids dampen pain perception, and we also know that the receptors cannabis binds to in the brain are very similar to the receptors that are activated naturally during the runners high", says co-author Arielle Gillman in a press release. [sciencedaily.com May 1, 2019] "Theoretically, you could imagine that if it could dampen pain and induce an artificial 'runner's high,' it could keep people motivated."
"These data suggest that many cannabis users in states with legal cannabis access use in conjunction with exercise, and that most who do so believe it increases enjoyment of, recovery from, and to some extent the motivation to engage in exercise", write the researchers. "As these factors positively correlate with exercise behavior, using cannabis with exercise may play a beneficial role in the health of cannabis users."
That could be especially true for the elderly, says researcher Angela Bryan in a press release. "As we get older, exercise starts to hurt, and that is one reason older adults don't exercise as much. If cannabis could ease pain and inflammation, helping older adults to be more active that could be another benefit."
Front Public Health. 2019 Apr 30;7:99.
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