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  • Getting high may help motivate people to exercise regularly, according to cannabis journalist Josiah Hesse.
  • By tapping into the body's natural reward system, cannabis can make exercise more fun and easier to stick to he says in his book, "Runner's High."
  • Playful, THC-fueled exercise can prompt a more positive relationship to fitness, athletes and research data suggest.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

We all know exercise is good for our health and mental wellness, whether you lift weights or go jogging, but most of us struggle to find the time, energy, or motivation to stick with a fitness routine.

For a growing number of people, getting high, before, after, or even during a workout may be the secret to sustained exercise.

Cannabis can make exercise more fun, and can help keep people motivated to do it, according to Josiah Hesse, a cannabis journalist who interviewed athletes, researchers, and experts for a new book aptly named "Runner's High."

Hesse told Insider that reluctance to exercise can be linked to stereotypes that working out needs to be uncomfortable, intense, or time-consuming to be effective. Some of the most successful athletes in the world, he said, are people who enjoy moving their bodies, often with a little help from THC to boost the good vibes.

"People have a toxic image in their head of what exercise is, what people who exercise look like, and see it as a chore," he said. "Cannabis helps with that."

THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, is chemically similar to natural compounds our body produces during exercise, and using cannabis properly may enhance the benefits of working out while easing side effects like aches or fatigue.

Our bodies are designed to get physical and emotional pleasure from exercise, and THC can help

The titular phenomenon in Hesse's book refers to the sensation of energy, pain relief, and euphoria that many people experience during or immediately after a workout. Despite the name, you don't have to do cardio to experience it - any physical activity that ramps your heart rate up for at least 30 minutes can trigger it, Hesse said.

But "runner's high" isn't just a figure of speech. The experience is chemically similar to the effect of THC.

"If you've ever had runner's high, you know what cannabis high feels like, even if you don't think you do," Hesse said.

THC stimulates receptors in our brain that exist because our body naturally produces similar chemicals, known as endocannabinoids, research suggests.

"The most surprising thing about writing this book was learning about the evolutionary reward system," Hesse said. "It made me realise I wasn't tacking it on to exercise as a modern phenomenon but we have this system in our body that's intrinsically related."

Cannabis isn't a miracle exercise supplement, but may make exercise more fun

As cannabis becomes more widely available, people have found it can benefit workouts in a variety of ways. Cannabis-assisted workouts can help some yogis hyper-focus on a pose, it can help relieve anxiety about a heavy weightlifting attempt, or help bikers feel "rainbows and unicorns" on a stoned Peloton ride.

However, cannabis won't automatically make you an athlete, Hesse said. Its potential lies in increasing your enjoyment of exercise, which evidence suggests will make you more likely to work out.

"Will marijuana make me healthier and stronger? Not really, it's not that kind of aid to exercise," he said. "When you look at your running shoes, you'll think of your last experience. If it was positive and you enjoyed it, you're more likely to do it again."

For the best possible experience, experts recommend starting with a low dose, a calm activity, and a familiar environment.

Done right, cannabis can refresh your perspective around negative connotations to exercise, like feelings of guilt, fitness burnout, or dread about your workout routine.

"Abandon that, take a little cannabis and go for a long walk in a nearby park. You can build from there," Hesse said.

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