Two things you often don’t associate together: marijuana and exercise. While most marijuana users are not necessarily lazy, the activity of getting high is rarely associated with vigorous exercise. But according to a new study, the connection between a marijuana high and what is known as a “runner’s high” might be closer than you think.
For those of you unfamiliar with the runner’s high, it is the euphoric boost experienced after an extensive workout.
For years, the common belief was that endorphins were responsible for this effect, but after discovering the endorphins cannot pass the blood-brain barrier, scientists have wanted to put it to the test. A likely culprit for runner’s high is a chemical called anandamide.
When anandamide passes the blood-brain barrier, it activates cannabinoid receptors in the brain, which are also responsible for the high felt from marijuana. When an individual experiences a runner’s high, the brain released both endorphins and anandamide.
To study this relationship, researchers from the Central Institute of Mental Health of the University of Heidelberg took mice and split them up into two groups. One group of mice would run for several hours while the other group would not.
The mice that went on the run were found to have a higher pain tolerance and were more relaxed than the mice that did not go on the run.
Next, scientist took two groups of mice on a run, one treated with a chemical that blocks endorphins and one that blocks endocannabinoids. The mice with blocked endorphins showed similar signs of relaxation and pain tolerance while the ones with blocked endocannabinoids were more anxious.
These results seem to suggest that anandamide plays a much larger role in the runner’s high than previously thought and that a marijuana high might not be entirely different. For those that don’t mix marijuana and exercise, that might come as a surprise; for those that do, the results might not be a total shock.
Speaking with Runner’s World, Arne Dietrich, a cognitive neuroscientist and professor of psychology at the American University of Beirut, discussed the relationship between marijuana and the runner’s high.
“When you have runner’s high, you have feelings very similar to those you would feel if you were smoking marijuana: sedation, analgesia, mild happiness, the loss of the sensation of time and a loss of worries,” Dietrich said. “Studies show there’s a performance enhancement when this happens.”
However, just because there is a relationship between the marijuana high and the runner’s high doesn’t mean marijuana will boost your actual ability to run.