Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition - A dietetic practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

The New Runners' High? Possible Linkages Between Cannabis and Exercise Participation and Performance

Friday, May 4th
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Session Abstract:

As of this year, 63% and 21% of the U.S. population will live in a state with legal access to medical and recreational cannabis, respectively. Given studies that suggest that cannabis users experience increased caloric intake during acute intoxication, there are particular concerns that higher rates of cannabis use could exacerbate rates of obesity. Paradoxically, however, cross sectional data demonstrate associations between chronic cannabis use and lower body mass index, prevalence of obesity, insulin resistance, waist circumference, and rates of type 2 diabetes, despite data supporting higher caloric intake acutely. One route by which cannabis use may influence these metabolic outcomes is physical activity. There is some evidence that cannabis use may be associated with more frequent participation in physical activity (Vidot et al., 2017), either via psychological influences on motivation or on decreased perceptions of pain during or after exercise (Gillman, Hutchison, & Bryan, 2015). However, the literature is limited by the use of retrospective survey methodology. Dr. Bryan will review the evidence for associations between cannabis use and physical activity, and present data from an ongoing exercise trial with older adults indicating some evidence that cannabis using older adults exercise more frequently over and above their study-based exercise.

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Cannabis has a range of cognitive influences that may influence exercise motivation, but it is not entirely clear whether these influences are positive or negative, and they may depend on population.
  2. Cannabis has known analgesic effects that may allow greater participation in or duration of exercise, or aid in recovery from injury.
  3. Given current knowledge, the influence of cannabis on performance is unclear.


Angela D. Bryan, PhD

Dr. Bryan received her B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and her PhD in Social/Health Psychology with a Quantitative emphasis from Arizona State University. She is currently Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder. The broad goals of her work are to design, implement, and evaluate theory-based behavior change interventions to improve preventative health behaviors including physical activity. Highly innovative aspects of her work involve using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and DNA collection to test key genetic, epigenetic, and neurocognitive moderators and mediators of intervention effects and examine theory-based linkages between biological and social cognitive factors. Her lab’s most recent work involves understanding the implications of the legal cannabis market on health outcomes, ranging from potential harms of high THC potency concentrates to the potential benefits of cannabis with various ratios of THC:CBD on pain, anxiety, cancer treatment symptoms, and physical activity. Her work has been continuously funded by NIH grants for over 15 years.