Cannabis and Exercise: Navigating Pain Relief and Performance Enhancement – A Personal Journey by Samantha O’Brien

When Samantha O’Brien first stepped into a boxing class at her building’s gym, she was met with overwhelming anxiety. The instructor’s loud and intimidating demeanor created a boot camp-like atmosphere, where falling behind meant everyone had to work harder. Ms. O’Brien, 36, left the class feeling discouraged, convinced she wouldn’t return.

However, a few days later, her partner brought home some cannabis gummies, suggesting they might provide her with a burst of energy. Recalling the boxing class and her desire to overcome her initial fear, Ms. O’Brien consumed half a gummy and mustered the courage to attend the class once again. This time, the shouting didn’t faze her. She felt brighter, lighter, and the small dose of cannabis kept her going through the session.

Ms. O’Brien’s experience is just one example of how some individuals are turning to cannabis as a complement to their exercise routine. While scientists have refuted the idea that marijuana acts as a performance enhancer for competitive athletes, many amateurs are finding that it helps ease chronic pain and anxiety, or simply makes working out more enjoyable.

Alex Friedrichs, 30, a manager of a chiropractic clinic in Vancouver, Canada, attests to the mindfulness-enhancing effects of cannabis during exercise. She finds that it allows her to fully appreciate her body’s capabilities and the surroundings, making activities like running in beautiful areas more enjoyable.

In a small 2019 study, researchers found that the top reasons people used cannabis before exercise were to increase enjoyment and focus, with pain relief closely following. Dr. Alan Bell, a physician and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, notes that cannabis can help alleviate chronic pain for some individuals, leading to increased functional ability.

Dr. Deondra Asike, an anesthesiologist and pain medicine specialist at Johns Hopkins University, explains that cannabis may bring muscle relaxation and a sense of ease, allowing people to engage in physical activities they previously avoided due to fear of movement.

Despite these benefits, Dr. Bell emphasizes that cannabis should not be considered a first-line treatment for pain and should only be explored when milder medications are ineffective. Joanna Zeiger, an epidemiologist and former Olympic triathlete, echoes this sentiment, emphasizing that cannabis is just one tool in her pain management toolkit.

As attitudes towards cannabis continue to evolve, more individuals are integrating it into their wellness routines, finding relief and enjoyment in its therapeutic effects. While further research is needed to fully understand its impact on exercise performance and pain management, for many, cannabis has become a valuable ally in their journey towards health and wellness.


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