The Endocannabinoid System and Exercise

May 16th, 2022

Many factors contribute to why you feel a sense of reduced anxiety and wellbeing after exercising, often referred to as a “runner’s high.” Those sensations aren’t just generated by endorphins—strenuous activity results in increases in the endocannabinoids that can boost your mood as well as improve immune, cardiovascular, and memory function. The anti-inflammatory effects of exercise can also help prevent injury, reduce infections, and slow the breakdown of muscle after activity—all of which aid in the body’s recovery and generate a euphoric emotional reward.

The endocannabinoid system strives to maintain homeostasis

While moderate exercise is key for optimal immune health, too much exercise can cause oxidative stress, inflammation, and muscle breakdown that all suppress your immune system. At the cellular level, the body treats strenuous activity similarly to illness. Since the endocannabinoid system strives to maintain homeostasis by modulating inflammation and stress, supporting it with a range of phytocannabinoids can help athletes and weekend warriors alike perform better and recover faster.

Studies show that oxidative stress markers from cell-damaging free radical oxidants increase as a result of strenuous activity. When free radical production exceeds the body’s antioxidant defense systems, athletes are vulnerable to tissue and muscle breakdown that causes soreness, fatigue, and inflammation. This can overwhelm the defense systems, impacting an athlete’s ability to train. Growing evidence demonstrates how the endocannabinoid system regulates free radical generation and removal, and preclinical studies show that certain cannabinoids (CBD among them) act as powerful antioxidants throughout the brain and body. By keeping the endocannabinoid system well-nourished, athletes can unlock a range of benefits from increased energy production, motor control and aerobic capacity to better vasodilation and bronchodilation for delivering blood, oxygen, and nutrients to muscles.

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