Addiction to exercise is frequently associated with marijuana use. The belief that marijuana has positive effects on exercise is not supported by science.

Some people use marijuana in conjunction with exercise in the belief that it allows them to push through pain and discomfort and helps them recover from injuries faster. People with an exercise addiction may use marijuana for those reasons.

Exercise addiction is somewhat different from other behavioral addictions (process addictions) and substance addictions because it is an excessive behavior and its adverse effects might not be readily apparent.

Article at a Glance:

  • Exercise is usually a healthy activity, but it becomes an addiction when it is compulsive and consuming, despite negative consequences
  • It is a common belief that marijuana enhances exercise performance, but it actually impairs it
  • Exercise addiction is a dysfunctional coping mechanism for the stress of mental health disorders
  • People with exercise addiction are especially prone to substance use
  • Treatment of exercise addiction and marijuana use is possible for anyone, with the right help

Do People Use Marijuana and Exercise?

A 2019 study showed that using cannabis before or after exercise is common. The study showed that among people who combine exercise and marijuana use, most believe that it enhances their enjoyment of exercise, recovery from exercise and even motivation to exercise.

A 2013 study published in “Nutrition and Metabolism” pooled all the available scientific evidence concluded that marijuana has no physiologic benefits for exercise. The study found that using marijuana:

  • Increases resting heart rate and blood pressure, thereby reducing heart output and physical work capacity by 25%
  • Reduces muscle capacity and time to exhaustion
  • Causes a decrease in general performance, balance, reaction time and muscle performance for about five hours

The belief that marijuana improves motivation to exercise appears to be flawed as well. A well-designed study showed that dopamine is reduced in marijuana users. This effect reduces motivation, often resulting in “amotivational syndrome.”

Interestingly, marijuana is not banned from sports by the World Anti-Doping Association (WADA) because it is performance enhancing. It is banned because of safety concerns.

The Relationship Between Exercise Addiction and Marijuana

People with exercise addiction are more likely than the general public to have a co-occurring substance addiction (15 to 20%) or another behavioral addiction (25%). They are even more likely to smoke cigarettes, which are well known to have significant, detrimental health effects. Such addictions co-occur because the addictive behaviors and substance use are associated with the release of brain chemicals that improve mood and counteract the negative feelings associated with stress, or the symptoms of mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

It is characteristic of people with addictions to rationalize drug use, often using reasons that are illogical or irrational. As such, some people may use their belief that marijuana improves their exercise performance as a way to excuse their marijuana use.

While marijuana has no role whatsoever in the treatment of exercise addiction, it has been established that healthy, controlled exercise may be an effective adjunct treatment for cannabis use disorder.

Dangers of Using Marijuana with Exercise Addiction

The sedating effects of marijuana use, as well as its negative effects on balance, muscle coordination and reaction time make people more likely to injure themselves during exercise, especially in activities that require attentiveness and dexterity, such as sports or weight-lifting.

People with exercise addiction are especially vulnerable to injury because they tend to exercise for long periods at a high intensity. The analgesic effects of marijuana can block the pain from an injury so that the individual continues the injurious activity, unaware of the damage sustained.

The individual with an exercise addiction is also susceptible to the usual risks involved with using marijuana, including:

  • Impaired memory and judgment
  • Paranoia, psychosis
  • Altered brain development
  • Poor educational outcome and reduced IQ
  • Reduced life satisfaction
  • Lung problems
  • Motor vehicle accidents

Exercise Addiction and Marijuana Treatment

Exercise can have psychological and physical benefits, but when it becomes an addiction it becomes harmful. Addiction is usually a symptom of underlying psychological issues that should be explored and treated. Adding marijuana use to exercise addiction can greatly increase the addiction’s adverse effects.

Treatment of exercise addiction involves learning healthy coping strategies and removing the need for compulsive exercise or drug use as a way to mask life’s stressors.

If you or a loved one live with an addiction, contact The Recovery Village today to speak with a representative about how addiction treatment can work for you. You deserve a healthier future, call today.

Thomas Christiansen
Editor – Thomas Christiansen
With over a decade of content experience, Tom produces and edits research articles, news and blog posts produced for Advanced Recovery Systems. Read more
Andrew Proulx
Medically Reviewed By – Dr. Andrew Proulx, MD
Andrew Proulx holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, an MD from Queen's University, and has completed post-graduate studies in medicine. He practiced as a primary care physician from 2001 to 2016 in general practice and in the ER. Read more

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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.