Trying to reduce complex issues into finite labels is a dangerous game.
Such efforts often birth harmful stereotypes that far outlast their (admittedly atrocious) context. Even the etymology of the term “marijuana” is tied to an early 20th-century smear campaign to associate cannabis with Mexican immigrants. The stigma of cannabis consumers as lazy and unmotivated likely also took root during this period of increased xenophobia focused south of the U.S. border.
The idea of weed consumers as inert, dazed dummies also borrows some unearned legitimacy from the fact that certain methods of cannabis consumption — coupled with potency, tolerance, source flower and so forth — can leave some individuals firmly handcuffed to their couch for a period. Whether it’s a bong rip that backfired, too much of an edible, or just some really strong stuff, there are definitely scenarios in which cannabis consumption leads directly to involuntary inertia.
However, getting too high and settling in for some Netflix is not the same thing as letting your life pass you by as you shelter in a bliss coma of THC. Far to the contrary, many believe in what’s known as “the flow state” — a state of heightened cognitive awareness induced, in part, by cannabis — that some find ideal for exercise, creative expression, or meditation.
Can cannabis be a boon for older individuals when it comes to staying in shape as well? Yes, according to a new study published by the University of Colorado, Boulder, which found that cannabis use actually correlated with increased exercise and a lower Body Mass Index (BMI) score for a majority of older cannabis users.
In findings the authors categorized as “preliminary,” their research found that older Americans who consume cannabis were more likely to exercise or engage in physical activities than their non-consuming peers. Over a period of four months, 164 participants consisting of Americans aged 60 and older were put into one of two training programs.
When all was said and done, researchers were left with some compelling results.
“Compared to older adult nonusers,” the study revealed, “older adult cannabis users had lower [body mass index] at the beginning of an exercise intervention study, engaged in more weekly exercise days during the intervention, and were engaging in more exercise-related activities at the conclusion of the intervention.”
While the data is extremely intriguing, it’s somewhat lacking in detail. For instance, participants were not asked when they consumed cannabis with relation to exercise (before, after, during), nor were they queried on their method of consumption or volume consumed. However, even if the data set is unlikely to be a singular dagger in the heart of the “lazy stoner” stereotype, it’s arguably more than adequate as a final straw.
A study from the same institution published in 2019, for instance, “found that a majority of marijuana consumers reported that cannabis use before or after exercising improves the experience and aids recovery” according to Marijuana Moment. These studies are in good company with other data that points to cannabis as a viable option for encouraging older (if not all) Americans to regularly exercise and stay in shape.
Given the health risks of inactivity, especially for those over the age of 50, it’s important to understand what may be possible when it comes to weed and working out. In addition, as the new CU study points out, this same demographic (adults over 50), “are the fastest-growing population of cannabis consumers in the US, with national prevalence rates estimated at up to 9.1% in 2013.”
So, taken together, what does it all mean? Here’s how the CU researchers summarized it:
“These findings suggest that it may be easier for older adults who endorse using cannabis to increase and maintain their exercise behavior, potentially because cannabis users have lower body weight than their non-using peers. At minimum, the evidence suggests that cannabis use does not hinder older adults’ ability to engage in physical activity, to participate in a supervised exercise program, or to increase their fitness as a result of physical activity.”
Once again, it’s not that weed is the only answer, but rather that it should be taken seriously as a solution to a problem. In this case, it’s one poised to directly affect each of us. Seems worth working it out.