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Running While High: Good or Bad?

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Runner on the treadmill.

Intro

For as long as we’ve known, running and smoking has never been considered a good mix. (Perhaps since the practice of long-distance running was invented?!) We’re about to give the term “Runner’s High” a whole new meaning.

A new study by University of Colorado Boulder has given us a new outlook on lung health and smoking– smoking cannabis, that is. The study found that marijuana is associated with an enhanced exercise experience. It makes running more enjoyable while reducing pain. With cannabis, one can spend more time running trails than tending to injuries.

Researchers at UC Boulder surveyed 49 runners, asking them to rate various aspects of runs after consuming cannabis and without using it.

The Results

The study found that participants experienced “less negative effects and more runner’s high symptoms during their cannabis (vs. non-cannabis) runs.” The runners also reported greater feelings of positivity, tranquility, enjoyment, and dissociation. Perhaps dissociation doesn’t sell you on this concept, but when you’re 4 miles into your jog and struggling to push forward, dissociation is a nice way to take your mind off it.

“Participants also reported lower pain levels after their cannabis (vs. non-cannabis) run,” the study reports. “Perceived exertion did not differ between runs.” It’s perplexing to hear that running can finally be the smoker’s choice in terms of physical activity, but exciting nonetheless.

The study concluded by confirming that acute cannabis use may be associated with a more positive exercise experience among regular cannabis users. It ends by stating, “Research using varied methodologies, a range of exercise modalities, and diverse populations is needed to establish the long-term harms and benefits associated with this behavior, as well as the generalizability of these findings to other populations and settings.”

 

The Downside of Exercising While High

The only downside to the study was that the runner’s did seem to run a bit slower after consuming cannabis. Researchers observed that they ran 31 seconds slower per mile. While that makes sense, but the study is about lung health, not mile speed. This downside is statistically irrelevant for the purposes of this study.

 

Similar Studies

The positive effects that the runners reported is consistent with a study done in 2019 which reported that those who use cannabis to enhance their workout tend to get more exercise. It’s also known that older folks who consume cannabis are also more likely to engage in physical activity at all, according to another 2020 study.

Similarly, in study that didn’t serve stereotypes that was published in 2021, researchers found that frequent marijuana consumers are actually more likely to be physically active compared to their non-using counterparts.

 

But Isn’t Smoking Bad for your Lungs?

In a new longitudinal study published in Respiratory Medicine, smoking cannabis was not associated with impaired lung functioning for young adults.  Researchers established that smoking cannabis alone is not tied to reduced airflow or impaired lung function.

To investigate this, researchers followed a cohort of 1,173 young adults from age 21 to age 30, testing their lung capacity at the beginning and end of a 9 year period. Researchers also tracked whether the members of the cohort smoked cannabis, tobacco, both, or none of the above over the 9 years.

The results showed the expected association between tobacco smokers and reduced airflow. Those who smoked cigarettes alone, or cigarettes with cannabis, had reductions in their airflow 9 years later.

Cannabis did not add to these reductions, over and above what was already found for tobacco only smokers. Most surprisingly, smoking cannabis alone did not reduce airflow or seem to impact lung functioning. Even after 9 years of use, cannabis smoke exposure did not seem to impact the lungs.

And… You Don’t Even Have to Smoke!

Benefiting from the effects of exercising after cannabis consumption does not have to be limited to smoking. There are so many different ways in which you can partake nowadays. Smoking is always an option, but if you’re extra cautious about lung health, try tinctures or capsules. While research proves smoking cannabis is okay, that never means you have to. Just check out our website for even more options!

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Fairwinds THC and CBD capsules.

So fret not; there is no need to consult a lung doctor if you’re smoking cannabis while running. Throw on your white running shoes and search “running track near me” to get started today!

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