Can Cannabis Help You Reach Your New Year’s Resolutions?

In life, as in business, success is measured by weighing the pluses against the minuses. With this entry, we’re primed to let you know just how many pluses cannabis has when it comes to helping you reach your New Year’s resolutions. Let us explain what cannabis can (and cannot) really do for you.

Vowing to increase exercise in 2020 but enjoy it more? How about a little THC? 

If you are like many Americans, making New Year’s resolutions means promising yourself that you will finally use that expensive gym membership and lose those holiday pounds. Or maybe you already exercise but have promised yourself that this year you are going to finish that marathon. As you ready yourself for your chosen activity, have you ever considered eating an Alice B. Toklas brownie or vaping while you dress? If the answer to either of those questions is yes, you are not alone.

A recent study from the University of Colorado-Boulder surveyed 600 cannabis users that were age 21 and older. The survey participants lived in Colorado, California, Nevada, Washington, and Oregon. The study results were impressive:

  • Eight in 10 cannabis users said they used the recreational drug before or after their exercise regime.
  • An astounding 67% of study participants said they used both before and after exercising.
  • Those who used cannabis an hour before and about four hours after starting physical activity reported that they exercised more than those who did not use cannabis. As a matter of fact, they reported exercising 43 minutes more per week than those who did not partake.
  • 52% said cannabis made them more motivated to work out.
  • 70% said cannabis made exercising more enjoyable and 78% reported that the use of cannabis helped them recover afterwards to reduce the body’s post-stress inflammatory reaction.
  • Another 38% said using cannabis before exercising improved performance.

The American College of Sports Medicine advocates that Americans should exercise for 150 minutes each week. Apparently, less than half of us do even 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day. Cannabis reportedly provides a solution for all of the rationales we use to skip the gym: no motivation, no enjoyment, and painful recovery.

Is there empirical evidence of cannabis’ usefulness to help with physical activity?

Scientific evidence exists that cannabinoids (CBD and THC) relieve pain and inflammation. Cannabis also heightens the effects on the brain of the body’s natural endorphins and dopamine released during exercise so it gives a good impression of the runner’s high.

The one area the University of Colorado-Boulder study did not address is whether use of cannabis during exercise led to more injuries. Consider that driving while under the influence is illegal even in states where cannabis use is legal. That is precisely because of the effects cannabis has on brain perception and reaction time. In addition, each person’s brain reacts differently to chemical substances. Drug interactions will come into play for those who take other pharmaceutical medicines. For these reasons, then, the jury is out on any experts recommending cannabis use during exercise.

Recreational cannabis is now legal in 10 states and medicinal cannabis is legal in 21 others. The trend continues and observers expect 15 states to legalize cannabis by 2020.

Resolving to reduce stress in 2020? Maybe try a little CBD? 

Unfortunately, stress is increasingly a consequence of our digital age. In the American Psychological Association’s “2015 Stress in America” survey, the Association noted that the elevation to extreme stress is related to the manifestation of stress-related physical symptoms and poor health. As physicians struggle with pharmaceutical solutions to lower our higher stress levels, researchers study natural solutions like medical cannabis.

Washington State University conducted a study of 12,000 people who used medical cannabis to relieve stress. The study concluded that the study participants achieved significantly lower stress levels after they ingested cannabis. And the lower stress levels were felt in the long term as well as immediately. The positive results were consistent across all age levels and genders.

The credit for stress reduction is usually given to the psychoactive element in cannabis, THC. THC lowers anxiety and makes people calm. CBD, on the other hand, releases hormones that help lower stress levels. Harvard Health says that doctors write thousands of prescriptions for medicines to reduce stress. Both CBD and THC explain why doctors prescribe medical cannabis to relieve patients who suffer from PTSD, stress, and depression.

Need Better Sleep in 2020? 

It’s unclear whether anyone ever makes a New Year’s resolution to sleep better but one thing is certain. We all need better sleep. Some of us go to bed but can’t get to sleep; others go to sleep but don’t stay asleep. According to a survey undertaken by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a third of all Americans don’t get a healthy 8 hours of sleep.

When we are sleep-deficient, bad things happen in the brain. The brain’s endocannabinoid system is an expressway between the amygdala (emotional center) and the prefrontal cortex (where the brain makes decisions). During times of stress, the connection between the two centers becomes stronger and together they produce neurochemicals that produce high anxiety.

Many people use medical cannabis to combat anxiety. Cannabinoids like CBD and THC produce their therapeutic effect by working through the endocannabinoid system receptors in the brain to disrupt the strong connection between the two centers thereby reducing the high anxiety stressors. CBD studies have shown it is beneficial at all dosing levels. THC, on the other hand, is helpful at lower doses but causes anxiety at higher doses. THC also leads to tolerance under regular use which leads to a reduction in its benefits.

If you seek a sleep aid, you want to look for special strains that affect sleep such as Indica, Sativa, or hybrids of the two. You want a strain of cannabis that has more THC. THC is what causes cannabis users to get drowsy. Be aware that research makes it clear that cannabis changes the sleep cycle. The question is whether that change is always for the better. THC interrupts the REM dream cycle which can be good for people with nightmares. On the other hand, the brain does most of its repair work during sleep. You will want to discuss the issue with your physician.

To learn more about cannabis and sports, read the March 2019 article in entitled “Cannabis in sport: a friend or foe?”

To learn more about cannabis and sleep, read the article from entitled “The Top 10 Best Cannabis Strains for Sleep.”


This content is not intended as medical advice. The information provided is meant to encourage cannabis education, not replace direct patient-healthcare professional relationships. Always consult your primary care physician or other healthcare provider prior to using cannabis products for treatment of a medical condition.  Any statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products referenced are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Products are only available where the consumption of cannabis is legal.