Worth Repeating: The Marijuana Exercise Prescription


Worth Repeating
By Ron Marczyk, R.N.
Health Education Teacher (Retired)

A new understanding of the neurobiology of cannabis is emerging, namely the “endocannabinoid induced aerobic bliss state,” or simply the endocannabinoid runners’ high.

For users of medical marijuana, a new use for this miracle plant is at hand: its ability to produce “the psychology of exercise motivation.”
“Recent findings show that exercise increases serum concentrations of endocannabinoids, a result suggestive of a new possible explanation for a number of these changes. The cannabinoids produce psychological states that closely parallel several experiences described as being related to the runner’s high. Compared with the opioid analgesics, the analgesia produced by the endocannabinoid system is more consistent with exercise induced analgesia. Activation of the endocannabinoid system also produces sedation, anxiolysis, a sense of wellbeing, reduced attentional capacity, impaired working memory ability, and difficulty in time estimation. This behavioural profile is similar to the psychological experiences reported by long distance runners.” ~ From Endocannabinoids and Exercise / Br J Sports Med. 2004 October

Gary D. Robson

Experienced users find that the cannabis flow enhanced many daily routine choirs, and people can work and function perfectly well doing a wide range of tasks. People engage in all sorts of activities in this enlighten, focused state of consciousness so why not aerobic exercise? In fact running and marijuana produce very much the same emotional state of consciousness. 
Science has now discovered evidence that the runner’s high evolved in humans to take the discomfort from long distance runners who hunted animals to exhaustion. 
All exercise starts in your brain, sending strong signals to skeletal muscles to contract. These stronger signals of intensity in aerobic exercise cause a spike in a  natural cannabinoid neurotransmitter called anandamide, whose effects  aided early hunter-gather humans to run down game over many miles by blocking pain and inflammation and replacing it with a euphoric “runner’s high.” This hard-wired positive feedback pathway is what THC also activates to produce the same mood state, activating the same CB1 receptor. So can low dose marijuana help jump start exercise habits in a non-exercise population?

Barefoot On 45th

Can certain stains of marijuana (in low dose) be used as an aid to motivate people to want to exercise?  Can low dose marijuana actually make exercise a positive experience for persons who are turned off to exercise? 
Can the mixture of marijuana plus aerobic exercise produce an aroused, energetic, tingly, uplifted, focused, creative, blissful mood state that lasts the whole day, making people want to repeat it over and over again?
Can the positive set and setting of marijuana and exercise make working out fun? Are we seeing only half of the picture, treating marijuana as a multipurpose medicine for very sick patients who need to stay down and heal, and missing the bountiful energetic flow it gives to prevent a sedentary lifestyle?

Fit Tip Daily

Why as group do marijuana users have a lower body mass index and a lower rate of diabetes than the U.S. population as a whole?

“In a checkup of the nation’s health, the CDC founder that fewer than two in 10 Americans get the recommended levels of exercise, and more than a quarter of U.S. adults do not devote any time to physical activity at all!” (Source)
“In the last century something unexpected happened: humans became sedentary. We traded in our active lifestyles for a more immobile existence. But these were not the conditions under which we evolved. Our hunter-gatherer predecessors were long-distance endurance athletes. Aerobic activity has played a role in the evolution of lots of different systems in the human body, which may explain why aerobic exercise seems to be so good for us.”

See The Race – And The Days Between

So can these “feel-good” effects of marijuana motivate and help people to get up, move and experience this evolutionary hardwired pathway that turns on the “runner’s high”?
This is not limited to just running; pick any aerobic exercise from this list:  dancing, a gym workout, power walking, hiking, running, swimming, mountain or road bicycling, and try it for yourself! 
Follow your bliss; find that special aerobic exercise that you intensely enjoy, load up your iPod with the music that defines you, get amped and get your ass in gear!
The key here is that you are not in competition with anyone other than yourself to improve your health, and use marijuana and exercise as the medicines they are that motivate you to get up, get out, and get moving. The big payoff will be in an improved mood state, and that is key to a lifelong habit of exercise.

Shannon’s “Runner’s High”

Americans are raised to view exercise mainly as competitive team sports where there is a winner and a loser; that discourages many people in high school from adopting a lifetime
habit of exercising.  I am discussing non-competitive exercise, not trying to beat someone in a race, but viewing exercise itself as a type of medicine. I am discussing the type of exercise you do for the sheer joy of moving your body at the intensity that feels right for you to get into your personal bliss zone at your own speed. The real race you are in is to live to be 100 years old, and exercise and marijuana are two of your best health assets. 
Can pairing a positive marijuana mood state with aerobic activity establish a new appreciation for exercise, which may jump start and reinforce long-term changes in a sedentary population?
Few medical insurance plans cover exercise cardiac rehab (EKG-monitored exercise), even after a heart attack! But these same plans will pay big bucks for cardiac meds that big phama makes huge profits on.  Exercise? Not so much.  

Serious Running

To get into exercise bliss state, runners either engage or disengage in their heads while working out. Engaging involves an hypnotic state of observing every breath, foot strike, and body sensation of the run; the feel good effects while running and the environment blend into a peak experience of movement. Think of Rocky running up the stairs after being out of shape and having that break though day in Philadelphia!
Disengaging while exercising involves going to your “happy place” in your head. It can take the form of thinking/ feeling and working though ideas, plans, problems or getting away from a crazy day.
In either condition marijuana will help you find you personal sweet spot.
The initial rush of cannabinoids locking into CB1/CB2 receptors causes bronchial relaxation, allowing more air to be taken in, and a mild increase in heart rate due to vasodilatation. Both the increased air intake and increased blood vessel diameter deliver increased oxygen and, when channeled into your workout, will help you slip into your cannabinoid zone.
In addition to motivation, marijuana is a runner’s best friend as a natural medicine. It’s an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, sleep aid, bone loss preventer, alternative to over the counter NSAIDs, and a great way to wind down after a big workout along with the hot shower and high-protein fruit smoothie. Ahhhh!
Are all these phenomena related? Are marijuana users more active in general? Can marijuana be used as an exercise performance enhancement supplement to help stem the epidemic of cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and obesity in the US? 
Nothing else seems to be working to motivate sedentary individuals. Why not try something intrinsically fun, where the reward is immediate!
As counter-intuitive as it may seem that the flow that THC/CBD produces helps aerobic exercise, there is a large underground population of followers who use and engage in aerobic exercise on the down low.
In addition, many elite aerobic athletes and action/adventure enthusiasts also use marijuana for this exact purpose. 
“A survey of 392 college athletes and 504 non-athlete students about marijuana use found that one-third of athletes, among men, said they’d used the drug in the past year, versus half of non-athletes; the same was true of 25 percent of female athletes and 48 percent of non-athletes.”
“One thing that stood out is that athletes were more likely to use marijuana because they thought it was pleasurable.” (Source)
More on the Marijuana-Induced Runner’s Bliss


“Like a stoned jazz musician adding more complexity and beats to a song, time slowdown might allow an athlete to more rapidly evaluate different options, more quickly consider moves and maneuvers against competing players.”
“Most marijuana research is done to show some sort of harm from the use of this plant, but not enough is being done to understand how cannabis can actually enhance and improve human abilities. Discovering how toking up possibly helps the world’s greatest athletes to better their performance could also teach us how this plant can better serve us all.”  (Forbes)
Having a hard time believing this? Perhaps the misinformation fed to the public by the prohibitionists for so many years that stoners are not athletes is wrong. Don’t be under control; let self-discovery be your guide to aerobic exercise. In the flow, exercise and marijuana are complementary.
Running and cannabis can be the place where you experience your personal satori of “silent illumination.” 

Who else would be the Buddha but you?

While in the flow, find the harmony in your head between breathing and moving: are they in balance?
Exercise is internal self-work; it is like throwing a piece of ore into the kiln to extract out the gold, for who else would be the Buddha other than you?
P.S. And finally lose the 10 pounds you’ve been carrying around your belly for so long; it may be the one thing that is holding you back!
Some music to rattle your cage and release you back into the wild!:
Never “redline” or push so hard you feel sick. The right effort is like gliding, the right feel is a light movement that makes you so happy, you say, “Yeah! I could do this all day!” 

So here is the exercise prescription. But please check with your medical doctor before starting a workout program for clearance.
If you are new to working out, start slowly! Even light walking will be a great start!
Whatever aerobic workout you enjoy–hiking, power walking, running, bicycling, swimming – take 220 and subtract your age. Then take that number, multiply it by .85 to find your high end, and by .65 for your low end.
You need to be in this target heart rate zone for 20 minutes three days a week minimum, for maximum effect. But start slowly if you are out of shape!
How do you know you are doing it right? Hint: you should be out of breath but not past the point you can’t carry on a conversation with a partner; this is the sweet spot! Start at .50 if very out of shape, but get moving!

Ron Marczyk

A 60 year old senior athlete! My motto: You only grow old on the days you don’t exercise! The best days of your life will be the days you are working that body in the flow! Guidance is internal; maintain. Love from here, Ron
Part 2: Evolutionary Psychology and Marijuana- stay tuned!
1.    New York Times / What Really Causes Runner’s High? / Feb 2011 
The new runner’s high positive mood state hypothesis has been tested, and it showed that aerobic exercise causes a natural spike in anandamide levels in the brain. When this endocannabinoid locks into the CB1 receptor in the amygdale, instructions are turned on inside the neural cells to produce a state of consciousness called bliss.
Conclusions: “Inactive people may not be fit enough to hit the exercise intensity that leads to this sort of rewarding sensation; optimism exists that inactive individuals can be helped
to build up their exercise tolerance until they cross the threshold where they become motivated to exercise by endocannabinoids.” This study suggests that exercise could be a cheap solution to many medical conditions, improving our mental state through the endocannabinoids and our cardiovascular and pulmonary condition through good old-fashioned exertion.  
4.   American Journal of Epidemiology / “Obesity and Cannabis Use: Results from 2 Representative National Surveys” / March 2011 
Conclusion: “A new study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology finds an intriguing connection between marijuana use and body weight, showing that rates of obesity are lower by roughly a third in people who smoke pot at least three times a week, compared with those who don’t use marijuana at all.” 
Conclusion: Marijuana use was independently associated with a 42 percent lower risk deduction prevalence of diabetes mellitus. It was hypothesized that the prevalence of DM would be reduced in marijuana users due to the presence of one or more cannabinoids because of their immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory properties.
6.    Journal of the American College of Cardiology / “Cannabidiol attenuates cardiac dysfunction, oxidative stress, fibrosis, and inflammatory and cell death signaling pathways in diabetic cardiomyopathy” / National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health / Dec 2010
“In this study, we have investigated the effects of cannabidiol (CBD) on myocardial dysfunction, inflammation, oxidative/nitrative stress, cell death, and interrelated signaling pathways, using a mouse model of type I diabetic cardiomyopathy and primary human cardiomyocytes exposed to high glucose.”

Conclusions: Collectively, these results, coupled with the excellent safety and tolerability profile of CBD in humans, strongly suggest that it may have great therapeutic potential in the treatment of diabetic complications, and perhaps other cardiovascular disorders, by attenuating oxidative/nitrative stress, inflammation, cell death and fibrosis.
7.    The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse / “Cannabis use and obesity and young adults” / November 2010
This study aimed to examine the association between cannabis use and overweight/obesity in young adults. Data were from a 21-year follow-up of mothers and their children.
Conclusions: Analysis showed that those who had used cannabis were less likely to be categorised in the BMI ≥ 25 group with the least prevalence of overweight/obesity being observed in every day cannabis users. The existing data suggest lower prevalence of overweight and obesity among young adult cannabis users.
The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of an organic cannabis extract on β-cell secretory function in an in vivo diet-induced obese rat model, and to determine the associated molecular changes within pancreatic tissue. Results suggest that the cannabis extract protects pancreatic islets against the negative effects of obesity.
9.      American Journal of Physiology / “Cannabidiol, a nonpsychoactive Cannabis constituent, protects against myocardial ischemic reperfusion injury” By Mechoulam, R. / December 2007
This study shows that CBD induces a substantial in vivo cardioprotective effect from ischemia that is not observed ex vivo. Inasmuch as CBD has previously been administered to humans without causing side effects, it may represent a promising novel treatment for myocardial ischemia.
This study highlights the impact of endocannabinoid signalling on voluntary wheel running in mice and discusses potential mechanisms involved, such as hippocampal neurogenesis. Running-induced short-term and long-term alterations of emotional behaviors are scrutinized with regard to the question how endocannabinoids might be involved. Endocannabinoids seem to contribute to the motivational aspects of voluntary running in rodents.

Photo: Ron Marczyk
Mr. Worth Repeating: former NYPD cop, former high school health teacher, the unstoppable Ron Marczyk, R.N., Toke of the Town columnist

​Editor’s note: Ron Marczyk is a retired high school health education teacher who taught Wellness and Disease Prevention, Drug and Sex Ed, and AIDS education to teens aged 13-17. He also taught a high school International Baccalaureate psychology course. He taught in a New York City public school as a Drug Prevention Specialist. He is a Registered Nurse with six years of ER/Critical Care experience in NYC hospitals, earned an M.S. in cardiac rehabilitation and exercise physiology, and worked as a New York City police officer for two years. Currently he is focused on how evolutionary psychology explains human behavior.