If you asked the average American what stereotypes come with regular marijuana use, you will probably hear a litany of words like “lazy” or “slacker.” It is well-established in American culture that smoking pot makes you unmotivated to do anything productive. Have you ever wondered how true the stereotype is? Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder did look into this, and their findings don’t mesh up with the popular image of the lazy stoner.
“Body mass index (BMI) of cannabis users was significantly lower than non-users,” reads the study, which was published this month in the peer-reviewed American Journal of Health Behavior. “These preliminary data suggest that current cannabis use status is not associated with a negative impact on fitness and efforts to increase exercise in sedentary older adults.” Not only did the study find that cannabis doesn’t negatively impact fitness, it found that regular cannabis users consistently outperform their non-using peers.
The study in question is limited to Americans ages 60 and older, as “adults over the age of 50 are the fastest growing population of cannabis users in the US and those 65 years and older exhibiting the greatest increase in cannabis use,” the researchers explain. Given the health concerns that accompany old age, especially as senior cannabis users often turn to the drug to help them face the pain of aging, this study aims to better understand the health-related consequences of cannabis use when it comes to weight, fitness and exercise.
Weight is a major factor determining quality of life among senior citizens. Nowadays, more than 71% of Americans are overweight and nearly 40% are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Obesity is one of the leading causes of preventable deaths in the United States; “obesity is also associated with the leading causes of death in the United States and worldwide, including diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some types of cancer,” the CDC warns. Heart diseases killed nearly 650,000 Americans in 2017, cancer killed 600,000, strokes killed nearly 150,000, and diabetes killed 83,000 that same year.
“Interestingly, numerous studies have found that overweight/obesity rates are significantly lower among cannabis users compared to nonusers,” the study says. “For example, Hayatbakhsh et al. found that young adults who reported using cannabis daily were approximately one-third as likely to be overweight/obese at 21 years of age compared with young adults who had never used cannabis.” The study in question, led in 2010 by the University of Queensland, found that “those who had used cannabis were less likely to be categorised in the BMI ≥ 25 [“overweight”] group with the least prevalence of overweight/obesity being observed in every day cannabis users.”
In both studies, the researchers note that cannabis use is associated with heightened appetite, which has been demonstrated to be true in clinical trials. Cannabis users call this “the munchies”; high-calorie foods become far more appealing when under the influence. The Colorado researchers offered the explanation that cannabis users might be significantly more active than people who don’t consume the drug, thus offsetting the consequences of their munchies.
“Research on the association between cannabis and exercise engagement, although limited,
is suggestive of a positive association. A survey of adults 20-59 years of age found that current cannabis users were significantly more likely to meet minimum physical activity recommendations than past users and nonusers,” the researchers write before diving into their own findings.