Senior stoners are slimmer, fitter

Published on July 9, 2020 by David Wylie

A new study has found that cannabis users who are 60 and older are slightly more fit and active than those who don’t partake.

The study, published in July by researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder, is further evidence pushing back against the stereotype of the lazy stoner.

Researchers at the university say more than half of Americans are not engaging in the minimum amount of recommended exercise; meanwhile, cannabis use is increasing faster among older adults than any other demographic. Taking these factors into account, some of those in the university’s department of neuroscience and psychology set out to discover whether cannabis use had an impact on exercise.

“As cannabis users report that cannabis use increases their enjoyment of and recovery from exercise, the users in our sample may have found their prescribed exercise program, as well as exercise outside of it, more enjoyable and manageable,” says the study published in the American Journal of Health Behaviour.

In the study, researchers measured differences in body mass index (BMI), exercise behaviour, and cardiovascular fitness between more than 150 older adult cannabis users and non-users who participated in an exercise intervention trial for the research.

Cannabis users had significantly lower BMIs at baseline than non-users.

“Although preliminary, these findings suggest that it may be easier for older adults who endorse using cannabis to increase and maintain their exercise behaviour potentially because cannabis users have lower body weight than their non-using peers,” said the study authors.

“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.”

Low-intensity physical activities, such as gardening and light work around the house, all counted as activity.

“Exercise does not need to be strenuous to impart numerous health benefits,” say researchers. “Simply reducing sedentary behaviour may be beneficial, as research has suggested that individuals who exercise are still able to experience some health benefits even when they do not meet the recommended physical activity guidelines.”

The study points the way for future research, with the authors suggesting larger participant groups and more specific questions around cannabis use are needed. For example, researchers didn’t ask whether cannabis use was concurrent with exercise, what method cannabis was used (smoked, vaped, ingested), and whether they used THC, CBD or a mix.

“Our lack of information about frequency and amount used beyond the binary endorsement of current use precludes more nuanced analyses and provides clear avenues for future research,” they said.

The study also did not look at any connection between cardiovascular effects of acute cannabis use and acute exercise, which may pose safety risks to vulnerable people.