Finding the right exercise routines for restless leg syndrome (RLS) can be a challenge, especially if you are just starting out.
Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, RLS is a widely common neurological movement disorder that causes an irresistible urge to move our legs.
The health condition occurs due to an imbalance in the regulation of dopamine (a neurotransmitter that is essential for smooth muscle movement). When left untreated, restless leg syndrome can interfere with our daily activities and even lead to insomnia.
That's why many patients opt for a wide range of therapies and activities to feel much better.
One of the most recommended treatment options for RLS is exercise.
Recent studies have found that regular physical activity can help alleviate restless legs syndrome symptoms in both adults and children. To help you get started on your path to a better quality of life, we have put together this post on the best exercises for restless leg syndrome.
Here, you'll find a step-by-step guide on how to find relief from this medical condition, so keep reading.
14 Best Exercises for Restless Leg Syndrome
When it comes to the best exercises for restless leg syndrome, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
Some patients may find relief from light, low-impact activities, while others may enjoy more intense workouts. Let's dive right into the list of the best options for your needs:
Engaging in stretching routines is one of the best exercises for restless leg syndrome.
Gentle stretching can help loosen the muscles in your legs and reduce muscle tension. Here are a few options you can try:
1. Calf stretches
One of the best stretching exercises for restless leg syndrome is the calf stretch.
This light stretching exercise helps target your calf muscles for quick relief from muscle stiffness and strain.
To take part in this exercise, stand in front of a wall and place your hands on the wall. Slowly step one foot backward while keeping your heel on the ground.
Lean forward until you feel a slight stretch in your calf muscles. Hold for 10–15 seconds before releasing and repeating with the other leg. This moderate exercise should be done 2-3 times on each leg for best results.
2. Hamstring stretches
Next on our list of stretching exercises you can do for restless leg syndrome is the hamstring stretch.
This exercise routine helps target the back of the thigh muscles and stimulate better circulation in your legs. To do this exercise, lie down on your back with one knee bent and the other straight.
Grab hold of the straight leg with both hands and pull it towards your chest until you feel a mild stretch in the hamstring muscle. Hold for 10–15 seconds before releasing and repeating with the other leg.
This exercise should be done 2-3 times on each leg for best results.
3. Glute stretches
Engaging in glute stretches is another way to find relief from restless leg syndrome.
This exercise helps target your gluteal muscles - a group of muscles located in the buttocks. The benefits that come with stretching your glutes include improved mobility and relief from tightness.
To do this physical exercise, sit on the floor with one leg bent and the other extended outward.
Place one hand behind the extended leg and use it to push your leg across your body until you feel a mild stretch in the buttocks area. Hold for 10–15 seconds before releasing and repeating with the other leg.
4. Quadriceps stretch
Stretching your quadriceps is a healthy way to release tension and reduce the symptoms of RLS.
Your quadriceps are the muscles located in front of your thigh.
When you stretch these muscles, it helps promote better circulation in your legs and reduces the feeling of restlessness.
Here's a simple way to engage in this exercise. Stand next to a wall and use it for support.
Raise one leg up behind you and grab hold of the foot with one hand. Gently pull the foot towards your buttocks until you feel a mild stretch in the front of your thigh muscle.
Then, hold for 10–15 seconds before releasing and repeating with the other leg.
5. Hip flexor stretch
When it comes to exercises for restless leg syndrome, stretching your hip flexors is one of the best options.
Your hip flexors are located in the front of your hip, and they play a role in how well you move your legs. Stretching these muscle groups helps promote better circulation and reduce muscle tension in the area.
This exercise can be done by standing next to a wall and using it for support. Take one step forward with one leg and bend the knee until a mild stretch is felt in the front of the hip.
Hold for 10–15 seconds before releasing and repeating with the other leg. With regular practice, you'll be able to find relief from restless leg syndrome.
While stretching exercises can be helpful for anyone dealing with restless leg syndrome, engaging in aerobic exercises can provide further relief.
Let's take a look at a few options.
Ever heard that walking 10,000 steps a day is good for your health?
Well, this type of exercise can be especially beneficial for those dealing with restless leg syndrome. The simple act of walking helps to stimulate circulation in the legs and reduce tightness. Aim to walk for at least 30 minutes a day for the best results.
Also, ensure to walk at a slow pace and avoid any high-intensity exercises until your RLS has been managed.
A second aerobic exercise that's beneficial for anyone dealing with restless leg syndrome is swimming.
Swimming helps target all the major muscle groups in the lower and upper body for better circulation throughout. The calming, low-impact nature of this exercise also helps to reduce stress levels.
To get started, simply choose a swimming stroke you're comfortable with and swim for at least 30 minutes a day.
8. Outdoor cycling
Next on our list is outdoor cycling.
This aerobic exercise is especially beneficial for restless leg patients who have a hard time walking for extended periods of time.
The low-impact nature of cycling helps to stimulate circulation in the legs for a better range of motion. Other benefits include improved muscle tone and joint mobility.
Simply get a stationary bike and cycle for 30 minutes a day. Also, ensure to start at a low intensity and progress gradually.
In addition to aerobic exercises, engaging in anaerobic exercises is also beneficial for anyone dealing with restless leg syndrome.
These exercises help to improve muscle strength and reduce the feeling of restlessness in the legs. Let's take a look at some of the best options.
Yoga is an excellent exercise for those dealing with restless leg syndrome.
This low-impact exercise helps to improve circulation in the legs and promote better muscle flexibility. It's also a great way to reduce stress levels and relax your body.
For best results, be sure to practice hot yoga poses that target the lower body, such as Child's pose, supported bridge pose, and downward-facing dog pose.
Any of these poses can be held for 10–15 seconds before releasing and repeating.
Another great anaerobic exercise for restless leg syndrome is Pilates.
This full-body workout helps to improve posture, strengthen the core muscles, and promote better circulation throughout.
It is important to start slowly and make sure you are using the correct form when doing the exercises. Pilates focuses on breathing and controlled movement, which can help reduce tightness in the legs and improve range of motion.
To get started, try doing a few basic Pilates exercises such as the plank, bridge, and single-leg circle. Aim to do these exercises for 10–15 reps each day.
Strengthening exercises for restless leg syndrome can be a great way to relieve symptoms and improve your overall wellbeing.
Here are a few exercises that you can do at home or in the gym.
11. Leg presses
Leg presses are a great way to strengthen your leg muscles, particularly those that support you when standing and walking.
This exercise can help reduce the symptoms of restless leg syndrome by stimulating blood circulation and improving flexibility. To perform a leg press, begin in a seated position with your feet flat on the surface.
Place your hands at your sides for support.
Push down through the heels of your feet and lift the weight off the floor. Hold for a few seconds before releasing back to a seated position. Repeat 10 times and aim for 3 sets.
Squats are another great strengthening exercise that can help you manage restless leg syndrome.
Squats target your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, which are all important for improving mobility and balance. To perform a squat, stand with your feet hip-width apart and extend your arms out in front of you at shoulder height.
Lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Make sure to keep your back straight and push back up to a standing position.
Repeat 10 times and aim for 3 sets.
If you're looking for an exercise to target your leg muscles, look no further than lunges.
Lunges help to strengthen the muscles in your thighs and glutes, as well as improve flexibility and balance. They also help to promote better blood flow in your legs, which is important for alleviating symptoms of restless leg syndrome.
Here's how to perform a lunge:
Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart. Step one foot forward, keeping your weight on the back heel. Bend both knees to lower your body until the front thigh is parallel to the floor and the back knee is almost touching the ground.
Push off with your front foot and return to your standing position. Repeat 10 times and aim for 3 sets.
14. Leg curls
Leg curls are another great exercise for restless leg syndrome.
This exercise helps to strengthen your hamstrings and glutes, which are important for better muscle control and balance.
To perform a leg curl, lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Raise one leg off the floor and use a resistance band to pull it up towards your chest. Hold for a few seconds before slowly releasing back to the starting position.
Repeat 10 times and aim for 3 sets.
These are just a few exercises that you can do at home or in the gym to help manage restless leg syndrome. Whether you're opting for aerobic workouts or strengthening exercises, make sure you focus on proper form to get the most out of your workout.
Next, we'll look into how engaging in these exercises can help you manage your restless leg syndrome.
Benefits of Exercises for Restless Leg Syndrome
From improved blood circulation to better muscle control, the benefits of taking part in exercises for restless leg syndrome are numerous.
Here are just a few of them:
Improved sleep quality
Perhaps one of the best benefits of engaging in exercises for restless leg syndrome is the improved quality of sleep you can experience.
Exercises for restless leg syndrome can help improve your sleep habits by reducing the frequency and severity of restless leg syndrome symptoms. Regular exercise can help boost the body's production of endorphins, which are hormones that promote relaxation and a restful, regular sleep schedule.
Strengthening the muscles in your legs can also help reduce tension and improve overall circulation, helping you get a better night's rest.
Proper blood flow
Proper blood flow is another thing you stand to benefit from engaging in exercises for restless leg syndrome.
Poor blood flow to your legs can worsen the uncomfortable sensations you experience. This usually occurs because your muscles aren't getting the oxygen and nutrients they need to function properly.
Exercises such as leg presses, squats, and lunges can help stimulate blood flow in your legs and alleviate symptoms like cramps and pain. This way, you can enjoy a better night's rest for improved overall health.
Increased dopamine levels
Wondering what dopamine has to do with restless leg syndrome?
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in controlling muscle movement. With low dopamine levels, anyone suffering from restless leg syndrome can experience spasms and jerky movements in their legs.
That's why exploring ways to boost dopamine levels is important. Exercises such as yoga and Pilates are great for this, as they help stimulate the release of dopamine in your body, which can alleviate your symptoms.
Reduced stress levels
Anyone who's dealing with restless leg syndrome can tell you how stressful and overwhelming it can be.
Thankfully, exercises for restless leg syndrome can help reduce stress, making it easier to cope with restless leg syndrome.
Studies have found that aerobic exercise is particularly effective for reducing stress as it releases endorphins, which elevate your mood and help relax your body. So, go out for that walk or hit the gym and reap the whole host of physical and mental benefits that come with it.
Whether you are suffering from restless leg syndrome or not, adding a simple exercise program is key to a healthy and balanced quality of life.
From improved sleep quality to reduced stress levels and more, engaging in exercises for restless leg syndrome can help you better manage your condition. So, take the time to explore different exercise options today and make sure you're taking care of yourself inside and out.
Let's dive into just how you can maximize these benefits for improved health and a better quality of life.
How to Maximize Exercise Benefits for Restless Leg Syndrome
Taking part in exercises for restless leg syndrome sure has its benefits, but there are certain measures you must take to maximize their effects.
Here are some tips and tricks to help:
A major step you can take to maximize the benefits of engaging in exercises for restless leg syndrome is staying hydrated.
Water helps to lubricate your muscles, making it easier to perform movements with greater ease. It also helps to keep your body temperature at an optimum level, allowing you to exercise for longer with fewer breaks.
With dehydration also comes fatigue and slower muscle recovery, so it's important to stay hydrated before, during, and after your workouts.
Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. You can also supplement with electrolyte drinks or coconut water for added hydration.
Eat something light
In addition to staying hydrated, you should also make sure to eat something light before taking part in exercises for restless leg syndrome.
Eating heavy meals can leave you feeling bloated and sluggish, making it difficult to perform your exercise routine properly. Instead, opt for a snack that's high in complex carbohydrates and protein, such as a banana and a handful of almonds.
This will help fuel your body with the energy it needs to perform the exercises and aid in muscle recovery after the workout.
Take regular breaks
Taking regular breaks is also essential to making the most of any regular exercise program for restless leg syndrome.
When you don't get enough rest, it can be harder for your body to heal and repair itself, making it more difficult to exercise effectively and with greater ease. That's why it's important to take regular breaks throughout your workout to allow your body time to recover and prepare for the next set of exercises.
Not only will this help your body rest and recover, but it will also give you a chance to stretch out tight muscles and joints.
So aim to take breaks every 15–20 minutes. During these breaks, you should focus on stretching and other relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visualization.
Avoid triggers such as caffeine or alcohol
Are you one to indulge in a cup of coffee or an alcoholic beverage before your workout session?
While they may help in the short term, these substances can actually worsen your symptoms over time. That's why avoiding such triggers is important for managing restless leg syndrome.
Caffeine is a stimulant that increases your risk of experiencing spasms and jerky periodic limb movement disorders in your legs. Alcohol, on the other hand, can disrupt your sleep hygiene patterns through the movement of sleep while interfering with natural muscle relaxation.
So, try to limit your intake of caffeinated drinks and alcohol before bedtime or when dealing with restless leg syndrome if you can.
You'll see the world of difference it can make.
Get a massage
While engaging in exercises for restless leg syndrome can help reduce painful symptoms, getting a massage can also be beneficial.
Massages are known to improve circulation, reduce muscle tension, and minimize inflammation. This, in turn, helps you feel more relaxed and decreases the chances of experiencing spasms or cramps in your legs.
So, if you have access to a masseuse or massage therapist, try to schedule regular appointments to get the most benefit from the treatment right after your exercise routine.
Apply warm or ice packs
Last on our list of measures you can take to reap the benefits of engaging in exercises for restless leg syndrome is to apply warm or cold therapy.
This recovery method is especially helpful for those prone to developing intense muscle spasms right after an exercise session.
Take heat therapy as an example.
Heat helps to increase blood circulation to the area and relax your muscles, reducing the intensity of involuntary movements. On the other hand, an ice or cold compress can help reduce inflammation and numb the area for temporary relief from discomfort.
Common options for heat therapy include using warm towels, taking a hot bath before bed, heating pads, or hot water bottles. For cold therapy, you can use a wet towel that has been stored in the freezer or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth.
Whichever therapy you choose, be sure to apply it for no longer than 20 minutes at a time.
Frequently Asked Questions
After going through this article, you may still have some questions about exercises for restless leg syndrome. We've got you covered.
Here are some of the most common questions we come across:
How often should I engage in exercises for restless leg syndrome?
How often you engage in exercises for restless leg syndrome is up to you and depends on your individual case. It's best to start off with short, light exercises and increase the intensity gradually over time.
You should aim to exercise at least 3–4 times a week for 20–30 minutes each session. If you feel any pain or discomfort during a workout, stop immediately and take a break.
Stick to the exercises that feel comfortable, and don't do any movements that cause pain.
What other treatment methods can I combine with exercises for restless leg syndrome?
In addition to exercises, there are a few other treatment methods that can help you manage your restless leg syndrome.
Take massage therapy as a classic example. Massages can help relax your muscles and improve circulation, reducing the physical and psychological symptoms of restless leg syndrome.
You can also try taking medications or supplements to help alleviate symptoms, or even physical therapy for some relief. Options like magnesium or iron supplements have been found to be helpful in some cases.
As iron deficiency is one of the most common causes of restless leg syndrome, boosting your levels of iron can be beneficial. Other treatment options that have been found to be helpful include compression stockings, dietary changes, and acupuncture.
Whichever method you choose, ensure you stick to it for long-term relief and consult with your doctor if necessary.
What activities should I avoid when engaging in exercises for restless leg syndrome?
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to this question, it's best to avoid any activities that put a lot of stress on the legs.
This includes high-impact activities such as running, jumping, or any kind of strenuous exercise. Instead, opt for any of the low-impact exercises recommended in this article.
These activities are less likely to make your symptoms worse and will help improve your overall fitness level over time. This will, in turn, reduce your risk of experiencing restless leg syndrome.
Are there any risk factors associated with performing exercises for restless leg syndrome?
While engaging in exercises for restless leg syndrome sure comes with its own benefits, there's always a risk of aggravating severe symptoms and/or worsening the condition.
Common risk factors include muscle spasms and cramps, dehydration, fatigue, and even injury.
Yes, you read that right, injuries can occur if you push yourself too much or engage in activities that are too strenuous. To reduce the risks, make sure to listen to your body and take frequent breaks.
Also, ensure to use proper form and technique when performing any of the exercises. This way, you can reduce the chances of injury and get the most benefit from your workout.
If you're dealing with underlying chronic conditions like kidney disease, osteoporosis, or heart disease, it's best to consult your healthcare provider before engaging in any fitness routine.
Diabetics are also at risk of developing serious complications, so it's best to be cautious and consult with your doctor before starting any exercises for restless leg syndrome.
Now that you know about the best exercises for restless leg syndrome, you can start incorporating them into your daily routine.
Popular exercises for restless leg syndrome can be grouped into low-impact cardio such as walking and swimming, stretching exercises, and strength training.
Start off by engaging in stretching exercises to find relief from depression symptoms and gradually move towards low-impact cardiovascular exercises and strength training. The benefits that RLS patients reap from these exercises can range from an improved quality of restful sleep to better blood flow, reduced iron levels, and more.
While these benefits are definitely worth noting, there are certain things you can do to maximize them. This can range from staying hydrated to staying away from alcohol and using self-massage tools such as a foam roller or leg massagers to ease your muscles.
Whether you choose to exercise at home or in the gym, make sure to listen to your body and take regular breaks when needed.
This will ensure that you don't push yourself too hard and can, therefore, get the most benefit from your workout. Hope this article has been helpful in providing you with the basic information you need to get started on your journey to a healthier and happier life that's free from RLS.
Feel free to reach out to our team of experts at any time if you have any questions or need additional information on this topic.