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Cannabis enhances ‘runner’s high’ during exercise, finds study

New research further supports the role of cannabinoids in the ‘runner’s high’ experience.



Participants who ran after consuming cannabis reported 'greater positive effects'.

Consuming cannabis prior to exercise was associated with a more positive experience and an enhanced ‘runner’s high’, according to a new study.

Despite the ‘lazy stoner’ stereotype often attached to it, recent research has focused on the use of cannabis during exercise or in aiding recovery. 

Some evidence suggests that cannabis is actually associated with positive engagement in exercise, with previous studies showing that cannabis consumers are equally as likely, if not more, to engage in exercise than non-users. 

Scientists have now taken this one step further to investigate the effects cannabis has during the exercise itself.

In a new study, researchers compared participants’ experiences of running after consuming legally obtained cannabis to running without cannabis in a real-world setting. 

Participants were cannabis users between the ages of 21-49 years, the majority of which were male and non-Hispanic White.

All participants ran an average of 3.88 miles. However, those who ran after consuming cannabis reported experiencing ‘less negative effects’ and ‘greater feelings of positive effects’, along with more ‘runner’s high symptoms’.

Participants also reported experiencing tranquillity, enjoyment and dissociation during their ‘cannabis run’ and lower pain levels afterwards. 

How the cannabis was consumed, the cannabinoid content and how ‘high’ the participants’ felt was ‘unrelated’ to their exercise experience, according to the authors.

Could cannabis increase motivation?

Those behind the study say that this positive experience may lead to increased motivation and engagement with exercise among cannabis consumers. 

They concluded: “As feelings of positive affect, dissociation, and enjoyment during exercise are positively associated with an individual’s ability to begin and maintain a regular exercise regimen, it is possible that cannabis use may actually facilitate exercise motivation and engagement among some cannabis users. 

“These findings could explain, in part, why cannabis users are more likely to meet minimum physical activity guidelines and have lower body mass indexes, as well as why cannabis users who use cannabis when they exercise engage in more exercise on average relative to users who do not engage in this behaviour.”

The role of endocannabinoids in the ‘runner’s high’

Some previous research suggests that endocannabinoids [cannabinoids produced naturally by the human body] may have a significant role to play in the ‘runner’s high’ experience. 

Last year, a study published by researchers at Wayne State University, found that acute exercise ‘consistently boosted endocannabinoid levels’ and this was consistent across many forms of exercise including running, swimming and weightlifting, and across individuals with and without preexisting health conditions.

“Exercise reliably increases levels of the body’s endocannabinoids [and] … studies in humans and in animal models are pointing to endocannabinoids — not endorphins — as the star players in the runner’s high,” wrote Hilary A. Marusak, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences at the university. 

“This natural chemical boost may better explain some of the beneficial effects of exercise on [the] brain and body.”

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Sarah Sinclair is a respected cannabis journalist writing on subjects related to science, medicine, research, health and wellness. She is managing editor of Cannabis Health, the UK’s leading title covering medical cannabis and CBD, and sister titles, Cannabis Wealth and Psychedelic Health. Sarah has an NCTJ journalism qualification and an MA in Journalism from the University of Sunderland. Sarah has over six years experience working on newspapers, magazines and digital-first titles, the last two of which have been in the cannabis sector. She has also completed training through the Medical Cannabis Clinicians Society securing a certificate in Medical Cannabis Explained. She is a member of PLEA’s (Patient-Led Engagement for Access) advisory board, has hosted several webinars on cannabis and women's health and has moderated at industry events such as Cannabis Europa. Sarah Sinclair is the editor of Cannabis Health. Got a story? Email / Follow us on Twitter: @CannabisHNews / Instagram: @cannabishealthmag


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