Does Cannabis Use Affect Exercise Levels in Adolescents?

31st March 2020

Many studies have found that the majority of adolescents around the world do not get the 60 minutes of exercise per day, recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). However, a recent study shows that those that use cannabis may be even less likely to meet this recommendation. 

Although most past studies have focussed solely on US populations, this is not a new area of research. In this study, researchers focussed on low and middle-income countries where cannabis use appears to be on the rise.

How was Cannabis Use Measured?

The data used in the study was gathered through the use of Global school-based student health surveys. The survey, designed to assess the risk and protective factors of major diseases. was developed by WHO and the US Centre for Disease Control and was distributed in 21 countries around the world. A total of 89,777 students, aged between 12-15, completed the survey.

The 21 countries assessed in the study were categorised as either low-income, lower middle-income, or upper middle-income. In order to assess cannabis use in participants, researchers asked: “During the past 30 days (or during your life), how many times have you used marijuana?”

Responses to the survey revealed that 1% (approximately 897) of participants had used marijuana in the past. In comparison, 2.9% (approximately 2,604) of respondents claimed to currently use marijuana.

Measuring Cannabis Use Against Excercise

In order to assess levels of exercise among participants, researchers asked about their physical activity over the last seven days. Participants who reported at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day were considered to be getting enough exercise. The data showed that only a small proportion of respondents (16.6%) were getting sufficient exercise in line with WHO recommendations.

However, the percentage of adolescents who got enough exercise was even lower among those who had used marijuana. The data showed that only 7.3% of respondents that had used marijuana in the past, were getting enough exercise. This rate fell even lower among students who reported current use of marijuana (6.9%).

What is the Relationship Between Cannabis and Exercise?

While the relationship between cannabis use and exercise has been touched upon in the past, researchers are yet to draw definitive parallels between the two factors. Researchers have speculated that cannabis use may lead to a lack of motivation, caused by the effect cannabis has on dopamine production and reward sensitivity. Cannabis use may also increase feelings of lethargy, meaning that users are less likely to exercise.

Although this research offers an interesting insight into the effects of cannabis use on physical activity, it may not reveal the full picture. For example, many young people may be unwilling to admit to cannabis use, particularly in a school survey.

This method of research is also unable to tell us what kind, strength, and quality of cannabis is consumed. Furthermore, it is unclear that cannabis use causes a lowered desire to exercise. It could equally be speculated that students who exercise less may be more likely to partake in cannabis use. However, this study does echo the findings of past studies in the same area. Namely, that cannabis use may affect exercise levels.


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