5 Science-Backed Reasons to Use Cannabis for Exercise

Photo by Cortney White

When I first started running long distances almost a decade ago, I was immediately enchanted with the "runner's high" that comes with exercise. But when I first ran after smoking cannabis, a 7-miler along the Hudson River, I clocked speedier splits than ever before. Same went for spinning. My total power score is always about 30 points higher when I'm, well, high. And while I'd like to think I'm some sort of super-heroine-immortal-goddess, I'm guessing it was the cannabis that improved my performance. Turns out there's a whole body of scientific evidence suggesting that cannabis along with cannabinoids CBD and THC are workout heroes.

1. THC may reduce pain during workouts.

It's no secret that cannabinoids treat a variety of pain states, but more recent studies are showing exactly the type(s) of pain it works best for. A 2018 study found that vaping THC was efficacious in reducing neuropathic (nerve) pain, for example.

2. Or, may just help distract you from any pain.

Some researchers theorize that it's not so much that physical pain is reduced from cannabis use, but rather that one's mind is distracted from the pain. It's the same idea that cannabis helps boost focus and drive.

3. Infused topicals can reduce inflammation.

Using cannabis topically or transdermally has been shown to improve inflammation—both external, as in dermatitis or eczema per a 2014 patent, for example, and for internal inflammation, such as those with osteoarthirtic pain. Transdermal use is KEY for athletes especially if looking for an NSAID (the pain killer found in ibuprofen) alternative.

4. Overall, cannabis makes workouts more enjoyable.

This goes back to what I was saying before. Because there's a psychoactive effect when using THC specifically, anecdotal evidence suggests using cannabis can heighten the enjoyment of certain activities—particularly ones with repetitive motions. Think: treadmill, spinning, running alongside the river—all that good stuff.

5. Ultimately, it eases workout recovery.

By distracting you from post-workout pain, including DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), which arrives 24-48 hours after a tough sweat session, you'll recover faster and get back out there sooner.

Rachel is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City. She writes about beauty + wellness for The Wall Street Journal, The Business of Fashion, Racked, Well+Good, SELF, Allure, Shape, Glamour, and Teen Vogue. And swears by a good sativa to plow through her assignments.