Running High: Cannabis Users' Subjective Experience of Exercise During Legal Market Cannabis Use Versus No Use in a Naturalistic Setting

Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2023 Jul 13. doi: 10.1089/can.2022.0338. Online ahead of print.


Background: The use of cannabis with various forms of exercise (e.g., running) has received increased media attention in recent years, contradicting the popular stereotype that cannabis is associated with sedentary behavior. Although cross-sectional evidence suggests a positive association between cannabis use and exercise engagement, to date, the acute effects of cannabis on exercise remain unclear. Methods: The present within-subjects crossover study compared participants' experiences of running after ad libitum use of legal market cannabis (cannabis run) to running without cannabis (non-cannabis run) in a real-world setting. Participants (n=49) were cannabis users between the ages of 21 and 49 years (mean=30.82, standard deviation [SD]=6.21). The majority of participants were male (61.5%) and non-Hispanic White (81.6%). Results: Participants (n=49) ran an average of 3.88 miles (SD=2.28) during their cannabis and non-cannabis runs. Although participants ran an average of 31 seconds/mile slower during their cannabis run, this difference was not statistically significant (p=0.12). Participants reported experiencing (1) less negative affect (p=0.03), (2) greater feelings of positive affect (p<0.001), tranquility (p=0.004), enjoyment (p=0.004), and dissociation (p=0.001), and (3) more runner's high symptoms (p<0.001) during their cannabis (vs. non-cannabis) runs. Participants also reported lower pain levels after their cannabis (vs. non-cannabis) run (p=0.03). Perceived exertion did not differ between runs (p=0.33). Cannabis form, cannabinoid content, and feelings of "high" were largely unrelated to participants' experience of exercise while under the influence of cannabis. Conclusions: Results suggest that acute cannabis use may be associated with a more positive exercise experience among regular cannabis users. 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.

Keywords: cannabis; free-living exercise; marijuana; obesity; physical activity; tetrahydrocannabinol.