The potential benefits and pitfalls of mixing cannabis and exercise
With some already incorporating cannabidiol (CBD) oil and cannabis into their workout routine, early research suggests there may be benefits as well as potential pitfalls.
“CBD seems to act on receptors in our body’s joints and peripheral nerves to reduce normal inflammatory signals,” said Robert Laprairie, assistant professor and research chair at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, who says research into CBD oil as a post-workout remedy isn’t conclusive.
“So the amount of inflammation present there is actually being tapered off or decreased by CBD acting on those receptors.”
There’s also evidence it can help to reduce anxiety, which can lead to better sleep.
“In terms of finding ways to reduce pain or to help with say adverse reactions to certain medications, I think okay, if it benefits you the harm is really low,” said personal trainer Florence Scheepers, who owns Superwomen Training in Saskatoon.
She says it’s a positive if people are finding benefits from CBD oil and creams whether it be reducing pain or as an alternative to certain medications, but has a concern over pricing for what could be a low potency drug.
“Someone might buy something over the counter and the potency may be very, very little for what they're actually paying for, and I find that a bit of a problem,” she said.
Scheepers says she tells her clients to do what they enjoy if it means they’re being active - as long as they’re doing it safely.
“It does impair you,” she said, adding she’s seen people become more reckless.
“I find a lot when it comes to people who smoke and work out, they may do things that they wouldn't normally do.”
While CBD and THC are both derived from the cannabis plant, they don’t offer the same benefits.
“There's pretty decent evidence on this actually, from around 15 to 20 clinical trials, that THC consumption actually reduces your ability to strength train,” said Laprairie.
“The amount of weight that you'll be able to lift will decrease, your aerobic performance will decline, and there's also some evidence that individuals that suffer from heart pains or angina will have worse heart pains, if they use THC during the workout.”
The reason, Laprairie says, is because THC is affecting certain parts of your brain that are involved in motor coordination and heart rhythym, and interferes with the normal process.
It could also lead to more intense — and potentially unsafe — exercise.
“There is evidence from a lot of professional sports that if you have THC on board while you're doing some sort of exercise or performance sport, you're going to be less risk-averse,” said Laprairie.
“The classic example is like a snowboarder that's intoxicated with cannabis, and they go and they try the double flip when normally a sober person— they just wouldn't. But that doesn't mean you're performing better, it just means that you're willing to take risks.”
A THC-induced high is also not the same as a runner’s high, which Laprairie says is created by endorphins and endogenous cannabinoids.
“Our body produces these little neurotransmitters, our body’s form of cannabinoids, but they don't have the same magnitude of effect on our body as THC would.”
Cannabis stores CTV News spoke with said they can’t legally advocate for the medical properties and health benefits of cannabis products, and instead encourage patrons to do research on their own.