Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences

, Volume 71, Issue 14, pp 2681–2698 | Cite as

Physical activity and the endocannabinoid system: an overview

  • Mirko Tantimonaco
  • Roberta Ceci
  • Stefania Sabatini
  • Maria Valeria Catani
  • Antonello Rossi
  • Valeria GasperiEmail author
  • Mauro MaccarroneEmail author


Recognized as a “disease modifier”, physical activity (PA) is increasingly viewed as a more holistic, cost-saving method for prevention, treatment and management of human disease conditions. The traditional view that PA engages the monoaminergic and endorphinergic systems has been challenged by the discovery of the endocannabinoid system (ECS), composed of endogenous lipids, their target receptors, and metabolic enzymes. Indeed, direct and indirect evidence suggests that the ECS might mediate some of the PA-triggered effects throughout the body. Moreover, it is now emerging that PA itself is able to modulate ECS in different ways. Against this background, in the present review we shall discuss evidence of the cross-talk between PA and the ECS, ranging from brain to peripheral districts and highlighting how ECS must be tightly regulated during PA, in order to maintain its beneficial effects on cognition, mood, and nociception, while avoiding impaired energy metabolism, oxidative stress, and inflammatory processes.


Adaptive responses Endocannabinoids Exercise Health benefit Physical activity 



We apologize in advance to all investigators whose research could not be appropriately quoted due to space limitations. We wish to thank all colleagues who have contributed over the past 15 years to our studies of the endocannabinoid system and its impact on human health and disease. Financial support from Fondazione TERCAS (Grant n° 2009–2012), Ministero dell’Istruzione, dell’Università e della Ricerca (grant n° PRIN 2010–2011), Fondazione Italiana Sclerosi Multipla (FISM grant 2010), to M.M., and from Regione Lazio (grant n° 00011377/2010–2013) to M.T. is also gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Basel 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mirko Tantimonaco
    • 1
  • Roberta Ceci
    • 1
  • Stefania Sabatini
    • 1
  • Maria Valeria Catani
    • 2
  • Antonello Rossi
    • 2
  • Valeria Gasperi
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mauro Maccarrone
    • 3
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Movement, Human and Health SciencesForo Italico University of RomeRomeItaly
  2. 2.Department of Experimental Medicine and SurgeryTor Vergata University of RomeRomeItaly
  3. 3.Center of Integrated ResearchCampus Bio-Medico University of RomeRomeItaly
  4. 4.European Center for Brain Research/Santa Lucia FoundationRomeItaly

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