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Restless Legs Exercises for Effective Relief

Restless Legs Syndrome, also known as RLS, is something that makes life uncomfortable for millions of people. If you have experienced the symptoms associated with this disorder, then you can get some relief by following a regular exercise program. That said, extreme exercise is not recommended. Try to keep things gentle and simple. You shouldn’t be running a marathon, but you can’t spend all day sat down. Try to find the right balance between exercise and rest.

Unfortunately, no two RLS cases are exactly the same. What works for one person may not necessarily work for another. Someone could get a lot of relief by doing squats, while others swear by running and stretching. Try out a range of different exercises to put together the right plan to help with your individual case of RLS.

Here are some restless legs exercise for effective relief, as well as information on how exercise helps.

How Much Should You Exercise?

While exercise has been shown to improve RLS symptoms, it’s important to get the right amount of exercise at the right time. The experts agree it’s definitely not a great idea to exercise too much in the hours before going to bed. You want to aim for between 30 and 60 minutes of exercise per day, with exercises performed in the late afternoon at the latest. Avoid exercising when symptoms flare up and your joints ache because this could end up making the RLS worse instead of better.

Try to do more gentle exercises like yoga, swimming, and cycling. Combine that with some stretches and see what works well for you. Just be sure to avoid doing intense exercise or not exercising at all. If anything, avoiding exercise entirely actually makes things worse.

How Does Exercise Help?

There are a number of different ways that exercise helps to alleviate restless legs syndrome. For a start, it triggers the biomechanical process that sends blood to leg muscles. It also releases endorphins that make you feel better, relieve stress, and sleep well at night. Exercise also boosts dopamine levels, and dopamine has been shown to alleviate pain.

As an added bonus, getting regular exercise means that you’ll lose some weight and shed off belly fat, both of which are associated with restless legs syndrome. Losing weight can help to reduce pressure on muscles and joints which can help relieve pain from restless legs.

Stretching for Restless Legs

For best results, it’s recommended that you do the following four stretches in the morning and again in the afternoon after finishing work. It’ll produce better results than if you do it at night – not to mention you’ll sleep easier.

  1. Calf Stretches

This first exercise stretches the calf and works it to get great results. It also works the Achilles tendon at the same time. Start out with your left leg forward with your right leg just behind you. Lift your arms above your head and stretch upwards, lifting yourself towards the ceiling. This move keeps your pelvic floor balanced while engaging stomach muscles. Raising your arms like this also improves blood flow and gets oxygen pumping through your arms and body. Keep your weight even on your feet, lift up your left heel and lower it. Repeat the exercise up to five times before switching to the other leg.

  • Lunge and Stretch

Lunges are great stretches for restless legs. The lunge position stretches out the quad and is a good stretch for hip flexors too. Begin in the lunge position with the left leg forward and right shin down. Place your hands to the sides of your left foot for support when moving. Gently rock backwards and forwards, holding the stretch for three seconds for each direction. Stretch out your hamstrings and quad muscles as you move. Complete the stretch between five and eight times before switching to the other leg.

  • Standing Quad Stretch

This move gives your quad muscle a full workout as it engages the glutes and abs. Start out with your feet hip-width apart. Lift one leg up towards your bottom as you engage your abs. Hold the position for a few seconds and then release it. Make sure that you engage your abs and glutes as you pull your leg up. Repeat the stretch up to five times with each leg.

  • Inner Thigh Stretches

Last but not least, we have a move that stretches the hamstrings and inner thighs. It will also engage your oblique muscles for a more effective workout. Start out in a seated position with one leg straight, extended out to the side. The other leg should be bent inwards towards you. Lift up and bend your upper body forward over the outstretched leg. Stretch towards your toes. Complete the stretch up to ten times and then switch legs.

How Long to Stretch For

How long you can – and should – be stretching for can depend entirely on your individual circumstances. Some people are able to stretch during the morning while others will have to wait for the afternoon. In general though, it’s best to avoid any kind of exercise before going to bed. Exercising before bedtime stimulates muscle fibers and exacerbates the symptoms of RLS.

Try stretching at different times of day for different amounts of time until you find the right combination for you. Aim to get up to thirty minutes of exercise as you start out. When you get comfortable with that, you can move on to working out for up to an hour. If your muscles seem tense before exercising, then a nice massage can loosen them up before you begin.

Other RLS Exercises

If you fancy something with a bit more impact, then moderate exercises that focus on the lower body can provide relief from ALS symptoms. You should avoid performing anything too intense though as it could just make the problem worse. Here are some exercises to try out during the day to wear yourself – and your muscles – out so they stay quiet during the night.

  1. Bridges

Bridges are an effective workout for the hamstrings and glutes. They also loosen your lower back up a bit. Start out by laying down on your back. Bring your knees up while keeping your feet planted on the ground. Lift your butt off the ground, raising it upwards. Keep going until there’s a straight line going from your knees to your shoulders. Hold the position at the top of the bridge for a few seconds before slowly bringing yourself back down to the floor. Repeat the exercise up to twenty times.

  • Gentle Squats

Doing some squats is a great way to get blood pumping in your legs and get relief from RLS symptoms. Squats are also super easy to perform. Start out by standing up straight with your arms outstretched. Squat down with your back and arms straight until your thighs are parallel with the floor. From there, just come back up to the starting position to complete the squat. Be gentle with squats and only do a few at a time to avoid causing symptoms to flare up.

  • Yoga and Pilates

Yoga and Pilates come recommended for helping with RLS. Just be sure to avoid doing more extreme forms of yoga such as hot yoga, DDPY, or any particular yoga poses that put too much stress on the body or are too difficult to pull off. Keep things gentle and simple.

  • Cycling/Swimming

Aerobic exercises have proven effective at helping to reduce RLS symptoms. They are at their most effective when done early in the day to a moderate pace/level. Cycling is a great low impact sport to work your legs and get your heart racing. If you’ve got access to indoor cycling then you can enjoy cycling all year-round. If not, then it’s going to be more of a seasonal thing you can only do when the weather allows. Either way, avoid going overboard with cycling. Try to keep the pace below 10 miles per hour.

Swimming is another low-impact aerobic exercise that is great for soothing muscles and providing relief from RLS. On top of that, the warm water of the pool relaxes muscles and takes some of the weight off your legs for a double dose of relief. Consider using a pool float when swimming for RLS. This will keep your feet off the floor so you can stretch and move without worrying about impacting your legs. As is the case with the other exercises, avoiding overworking yourself because it could make things much worse instead of better. Swim some laps around the pool with a friend or get involved with a water aerobics class to keep your motivation up.

Other Tips to Manage RLS Symptoms

If you have restless legs syndrome and are looking for relief, there are plenty of little lifestyle changes you can make. Here are some other top tips to manage the condition and get relief.

  1. Hot and Cold Treatments

One thing you should definitely consider doing is taking a warm – but not hot – bath or shower before bedtime. This will help you to relax a lot and put you in the mood for sleep. Warm and cold compresses on legs can also help a lot. The sensations caused by the different temperatures of the compress will stimulate and distract muscles away from the sensations associated with RLS.

  • Check Your Medications

Have a chat with your doctor about the medications you are on – even medications that you get over the counter and don’t need a prescription for. Don’t forget about supplements too. Some cold and allergy medications, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anti-nausea drugs have been shown to exacerbate RLS symptoms. You may be able to get different medications that have the same positive effect without the negative side effect. You may also be able to get medication for your RLS if you aren’t already on anything for it.

  • Cut Out the Caffeine

Cutting out caffeine – whether it be caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda, chocolate, or other sources of caffeine – can help you to sleep at night. Caffeine stimulates your brain and body and makes it much more difficult to sleep. It might not help much with severe RLS symptoms but it’s a good place to start if you have low-to-mild-level symptoms. It could make all the difference in the world.

  • Practice Good Sleep Hygiene

How you treat your bedroom – and your bed – can have more of an effect than you think. Your bed should only ever be used for sleeping and sex. It shouldn’t be somewhere that you spend a lot of time and it definitely shouldn’t be where you do your deepest thinking. Leave your worries at the door and establish a regular bedtime routine. The more you stick to it, the more you train your body to be ready for sleep at the right time.  

Bottom Line

Exercise offers a safe and effective way to help manage the symptoms of restless legs syndrome. Gentle and moderate exercises are best. Not exercising at all or exercising too much may actually make the situation worse.

When exercise is combined with the right lifestyle choices, medication, and other therapies – such as massage – RLS sufferers can get the relief they need to sleep through the night without a problem. As is the case with any kind of medical condition or potential treatment, be sure to discuss your options with your doctor. They can help you come up with the right exercise program to give you relief.

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