Do Exercise and Cannabis Mix?

Researchers exploring why athletes use cannabis urge caution in doing so

Researchers are trying to determine how many athletes are using cannabis products as part of their workouts and why. The results indicate it's more common than was intially thought.

Derek Kingsley

Two Kent State University researchers conducted a study that sheds light on the relationship between cannabis and physical exercise. Associate Professor J. Derek Kingsley, Ph.D., and graduate research and teaching assistant Anthony Pinzone created the study, which explored how cannabis, particularly THC and CBD, affects exercise and recovery.  

The private 2023 study was inspired by a lack of information on the topic, according to the researchers. They wanted to understand the motivations behind using cannabis during exercise and previous research was lacking.

“We tried to nail down motivations or why people were using CBD or THC specifically before, during or after workouts, athletic events or other physical activity,” Pinzone said. “We found that many athletes were using it for recovery.”

The study collected data from a diverse pool of respondents across the United States and a few other countries.

Kingsley said there is a larger presence of cannabis use among athletes than we may think, including ultramarathon runners who opt for edibles over traditional pain relievers like Advil.

"I think it’s important to understand what we’re talking about here, and that is cannabis as an ergogenic aid,” Kingsley said, which can be defined simply as something that assists with performing sports and physical activity.

Kingsley is a member of a cannabis consortium group that meets regularly to share new cannabis findings and discuss cannabis-related research.  

A recent trend on TikTok suggests that individuals are using cannabis as a pre-workout supplement. Pinzone said users claim heightened sensory perception and increased muscle awareness. However, concerns were raised regarding potential alterations in form and technique while under the influence of cannabis.

When it comes to using cannabis, Kingsley and Pinzone stressed safety, particularly concerning interactions with medications and underlying medical conditions.  

"There's no one-size-fits-all recommendation," Kingsley said. “There is no research saying how it can react with different medications, and everyone can react differently.”

For Kent State students considering using cannabis before, during or after exercise, Kingsley and Pinzone advised starting with small doses, preferably CBD products with minimal psychoactive effects.  

"CBD serves as a safer entry point," Kingsley said. “It’s important to monitor individual reactions and adjust consumption accordingly. Maybe you start with half of a gummy, or just do a little less than what is recommended.”

As the research continues to evolve, Kingsley said he remains committed to expanding knowledge and dialogue in this area of study.  

Kingsley was also recently featured in an article from Verywell Health, “How Does Cannabis Affect a Workout?”

Kingsley and Pinzone said they are grateful for the opportunity to research in this emerging field, especially with the complexity surrounding cannabis use in the exercise landscape.

"We're just scratching the surface, there’s so many questions to be answered and I feel so lucky to be able to research this subject,” Kingsley said.  

Learn more about the School of Health Sciences.

POSTED: Wednesday, May 1, 2024 11:16 AM
Updated: Wednesday, May 1, 2024 12:06 PM
Macy Rosen, Flash Communications