By Sierra Waldrop –

Many people think that when you smoke marijuana, you are stuck stoned on the couch, watching TV and eating junk food. But cannabis legalization is showing the world that the “stoner” stereotype just isn’t accurate.

Although the occasional veg out on the couch may occur, millions (yes millions, estimated to be over 2 million in the United States alone) of people use marijuana to provide symptomatic relief from a variety of ailments to help lead productive, healthy lives.

Although it may be surprising to some, cannabis goes a step further in healthy living by going hand in hand with exercising. As marijuana is becoming more available, users are constantly finding more amazing applications for the world’s most magical plant. An increasingly popular use is using cannabis before and/or after workouts.

Let’s find out why this rising trend has some merit.

How Cannabis Can Improve Working Out

Putting the Fun in Exercise

Not everyone loves going for a run or going to the gym. The struggle to find motivation is real. Most people live busy lives with packed schedules and doing a workout after a long day is often the last thing on their minds. Especially with a comfy sofa and Netflix calling their name.

Enter cannabis.

Marijuana is known for it’s feel-good, euphoria-inducing mood enhancement, and what better way to finally be able to enjoy exercise, than with a little cannabis infusion. A little dose may be enough to push you through a grueling exercise, or even a light run. The results will be a healthier body with less push back from a tired mind.

A True Exercise High

Tetrahydrocannabinol, better known as THC, is the psychoactive cannabinoid found in marijuana that causes the “high” feeling. It is stored in fat cells throughout the body and during exercise, can be released. A 2013 study concluded that in frequent cannabis users, “Exercise may elevate blood THC levels by releasing dormant THC from fat stores”.

In simpler terms, this occurs when the body burns fat during exercise, which then releases small amounts of THC into the bloodstream, making you feel a light high. This mini-high tends to be short-lived though, lasting no longer two hours after working out. This was discovered to happen even in those who hadn’t used cannabis in up to 28 days.

It should be noted that there was a distinct correlation between the THC release and Body Mass Index (BMI). The same study found that the higher the BMI, the larger increase in THC was released.

Post Workout Perfection

Using cannabis may not be helpful for every type of workout, but it can be extremely beneficial in recovering from most types of exercise. Marijuana has been proven to have effective anti-inflammatory and pain relief properties, which can be beneficial for your body after a workout.

Anyone who does a substantial workout may experience muscle soreness, along with a kind of “good burn” feeling in targeted muscle areas. But when the euphoria caused by the exercise subsides, muscles tend to feel stiff and sore, especially the following day. This reaction is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, also known as DOMS.

DOMS takes effect 6 to 8 hours after exercise (or any new activity that uses your muscles) and is caused by inflammation in the muscle itself. This inflammation and soreness may last up to 24 to 48 hours after exercise and can be somewhat helped by doing gentle exercises such as light stretching or walking. Ice is generally used to decrease any swelling and inflammation.

This is where cannabis can be helpful. Marijuana will not only ease pain from soreness, but reduce the inflammation, eliminating the root of the problem.

Apart from reducing soreness, cannabis is perfect for soothing the body and mind after a workout. It helps to calm you down from the adrenaline rush and enhances complete relaxation. This may be good for people who do late night workouts, to further enhance sleep quality.

Other Fitness Benefits of Marijuana

Although there have been few studies done on the relationship between cannabis and fitness, there have been some very interesting results discovered so far. One 2011 study concluded that the occurrence of obesity was lower in cannabis users than in non-users.

Recent data found that there is a positive relationship between cannabis use and measures of metabolic health, including smaller waist circumference, lower levels of fasting insulin and reduced incidence of type II diabetes.

Possible Downsides and Risks

It’s important for our bodies to know our limits while we are working out, so we don’t strain or hurt anything by overdoing it. If you use too much cannabis before a workout, the analgesic (pain relief) properties may numb any sort of natural response by the body warning of strain. Because of this, if you are planning on using marijuana pre-workout, it is best to use a light amount.

Cannabis may elevate heart rate or disrupt balance, so it is recommended to avoid using cannabis before intense workouts or workouts that necessitate high amounts of coordination.

Additionally, if you are trying to be healthy, eat good foods or follow a strict diet or eating schedule, the appetite stimulating properties of cannabis can become an annoyance. The “munchies” can be very strong in some strains, and you might find that your post workout “snack” caused by a stimulated appetite just added a whole lot of calories that did not fit into your plans.

To keep this from occurring, try keeping healthy, pre-made snacks available such as fresh fruit and or pre-sliced vegetables and hummus. Some strains are more prone to stimulating the appetite than others; so speak with your budtender if you want to avoid that in your cannabis strains.

Best Workouts to Use Cannabis

Yoga – A mixture of exercise, breathing techniques and meditation, yoga is known to be beneficial both physically and spiritually. Marijuana can enhance the sense of calm, leading to a more peaceful meditation and it can also relax the body, leading to deeper poses and stretches.

Due to cannabis effecting balance and coordination, it would safer to practice low intensity yoga like Restorative or Hatha yoga, instead of the higher intensity Vinyasa or Ashtanga yoga.

Running – Cannabis can make running a more enjoyable experience for those who may not particularly find the activity fun. Not only does the re-release of THC into the bloodstream further the so-called “runners high”, but it can also alleviate boredom that may occur with long runs.

The Effects of Different Strains

There are three types of marijuana strains that all produce different effects. Depending on the type of exercise you are wanting to do, choosing the right type of strain can be very important.

Sativa

Strains of this type create an energetic high that has a pronounced cerebral buzz. Certain types of Sativa strains also create a sense of creative focus. Sativa may be a good option for more energetic activities, such as running.

Indica

The polar opposite to Sativa strains, Indica strains produce a calming body high, instead of the strong head high. Indica strains may be better for relaxing activities, such as yoga or Pilates. Indica can cause sleepiness, so be careful not to get too relaxed!

Hybrid

The best of both worlds, hybrids take characteristics of both Sativa and Indica strains to create a simultaneous body and mind high. Hybrids may be Indica-dominant and take on more Indica like full body relaxation with a slight cerebral buzz. Or they could be Sativa-dominant and lean more towards head high that is followed by a lighter full relaxation.

Some hybrids can even be a perfect 50% Indica and 50% Sativa mix, having equal effects from both types.

Even though there isn’t a lot of scientific data concerning fitness and cannabis at the moment, it’s very likely that we will begin seeing more studies and surveys on the correlation between exercise and the world’s most beneficial plant.

From the few studies we do have available, it is clear to see that cannabis has begun to prove itself as a tool for a healthier and more active lifestyle.