A woman stretching her hips

The Greatest Exercises for Restless Leg Syndrome

Don't let the aches and pain from restless leg syndrome keep you from good sleep and health.

In this article, we cover the best exercises to lessen the symptoms of restless leg syndrome.


Are you plagued by an uncontrollable urge to move your legs, even at night? Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) affects millions of people worldwide.

It interferes with daily activities and disrupts sleep. Some stretches and exercises for restless leg syndrome can help manage its symptoms, making it easier to live with.

In this article, we'll explore different exercises and stretches for RLS. We’ll look at lifestyle changes, medications, and alternative therapies that can reduce symptoms and manage this condition.

Say goodbye to sleepless nights and discomfort. Read on to learn how to manage RLS better and improve your quality of life.

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs. It is often accompanied by an irresistible urge to move them. Sometimes referred to as Willis-Ekbom Disease, it is a chronic condition that can affect a person's quality of life.

RLS is a condition that causes unpleasant sensations in the legs. It happens in the evening or night when a person is at rest. These sensations can include an itching, crawling, or tingling feeling. Moving the legs can alleviate the discomfort, but the relief is only temporary.

Why is RLS Worse at Night?

The exact cause of RLS is not understood. It is thought to be related to dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a role in controlling muscle movement. Low levels of dopamine can lead to RLS symptoms.

Dopamine levels decrease as the day goes on. This can explain why RLS symptoms tend to get worse at night.

Symptoms of RLS

The primary symptom of RLS is an overwhelming urge to move the legs to relieve discomfort. There are other common symptoms of RLS. These include:

  • Unpleasant sensations in the legs, such as itching, tingling, or crawling
  • Discomfort that begins or worsens during periods of rest or inactivity
  • Discomfort that is relieved by movement or activity
  • Discomfort that is worse in the evening or at night

Causes of RLS

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a condition that affects millions of people around the world. The exact cause of RLS is unknown, but researchers believe it may be related to several factors.

One of the leading causes of RLS is genetics, with many cases appearing to run in families. Iron deficiency is also thought to play a role in developing RLS. Low levels of iron in the brain can cause RLS symptoms.

Other factors that may contribute to RLS include:

  • Chronic diseases
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain medications
  • Lifestyle factors

The exact cause of RLS has yet to be fully understood. Identifying and addressing contributing factors can help manage RLS symptoms.

Diagnosis of RLS

Diagnosing RLS involves a physical exam and a review of the patient's medical history. A doctor will also ask about the patient's symptoms and when they occur. To confirm a diagnosis of RLS, a doctor may also perform a sleep study or refer the patient to a neurologist.

Does Exercise Help Restless Leg Syndrome?

The restless legs syndrome is a common disorder in patients on hemodialysis. Non-pharmacological treatments are being explored to manage symptoms.

This clinical trial study aimed to evaluate the effect of stretching exercises on the severity of restless legs syndrome in 33 hemodialysis patients. The intervention group performed stretching exercises on their legs during dialysis three times a week for eight weeks. They showed a significant improvement in symptom severity compared to the control group.

These results suggest that stretching exercises during dialysis may improve the quality of care for hemodialysis patients with RLS.

What Exercise is Good for Restless Leg Syndrome?

Low-impact exercises such as walking, swimming, and cycling are great options for people with RLS. These exercises improve circulation, which can reduce discomfort in the legs.

Stretching before bedtime can help relax the muscles and reduce the likelihood of discomfort during the night.

A close up of a woman walking


Another restless leg exercise is walking. This low-impact exercise can improve circulation and reduce symptoms of RLS. Aim for at least 30 minutes of walking per day.

A woman stretching her thighs

Leg Stretches

Stretching is an excellent RLS exercise. Stretching the calf muscles before bedtime can prevent RLS symptoms at night. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds.

A woman doing yoga on a yoga mat


Certain yoga poses, like the tree pose and extended triangle pose, can stretch and strengthen the leg muscles, potentially reducing RLS symptoms. Consult with a yoga instructor for guidance on poses.

A woman stretching her hips


Another restless leg syndrome physical exercise is pilates. These exercises can improve leg flexibility and strength, reducing RLS symptoms. Work with a certified Pilates instructor for proper guidance.

A group of women exercising in a pool

Water Aerobics

Water exercise provides a low-impact workout that improves circulation and reduces RLS symptoms. Consult with a water aerobics instructor for appropriate exercises.

A close up of a mountain bike’s tire


Moderate cycling can improve circulation and may reduce RLS symptoms. Start with shorter rides and gradually increase intensity and duration.

Remember to consult a healthcare provider before starting any new exercise program, especially if you have RLS or any other medical condition.

How Often to Exercise for RLS

The exercise frequency for people with RLS may vary depending on the individual's symptoms and preferences. It is generally recommended to exercise at least thrice a week for 30 minutes or more each time. Listening to your body and not overdoing it is essential, as overexertion can exacerbate RLS symptoms.

Stretches For Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) can be a frustrating and uncomfortable condition to deal with, especially at bedtime. You can do simple stretches to help ease symptoms and improve sleep quality.

Stretching can be an effective way to relieve discomfort in the legs caused by RLS. Some effective stretches for RLS include calf stretches, hamstring stretches, and quad stretches.

Calf Stretch

Stand facing a wall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Place your hands on the wall and step one foot back. Keep both heels flat on the floor and bend your front knee. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, and then switch legs.

Hamstring Stretch

Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight in front of you. Reach forward and try to touch your toes, keeping your knees straight. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds.

Quadriceps Stretch

Stand with one hand on a wall for balance. Bend one knee and grasp your ankle with your other hand. Pull your foot towards your buttocks and hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds. Switch legs and repeat.

Hip Flexor Stretch

Kneel on one knee with your other foot flat on the floor in front of you. Lean forward into the stretch until you feel a stretch in your hip. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, and then switch legs.

Glute Stretch

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Cross one ankle over the opposite knee and pull the uncrossed knee towards your chest. Hold the stretch for 15-30 seconds, and then switch legs.

Stretches for Restless Legs in Bed

Restless Leg Syndrome is a condition that can cause uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them. RLS can be exceptionally bothersome at night, making falling or staying asleep difficult. Some restless leg syndrome stretches can be done before bed or in bed to help ease RLS symptoms and improve sleep quality.

Stretches to do Before Bed

Stretching before bed can help relax the muscles and reduce the likelihood of discomfort during the night. A few effective stretches to do before bed include hamstring stretches, calf stretches, and quad stretches.

To do a hamstring stretch, sit on the edge of a bed or chair with one leg extended straight out in front of you. Keeping your back straight, lean forward at the hips until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.

Stretches to do in Bed

In addition to stretching before bed, there are also stretches that you can do in bed to ease RLS symptoms. Here are some stretches you can try.

One effective stretch is to lie on your back and lift one leg straight up, holding onto the back of your thigh. Pull your leg towards your chest until you feel a stretch in your hamstring. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.

Another effective stretch is to lie on your side and bend your top leg at the knee, bringing it towards your chest. Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

Benefits of Exercise for Restless Legs Syndrome

Exercise can have several benefits for people with RLS. It can improve circulation, reduce stress levels, and improve sleep quality. Exercise can help regulate the levels of dopamine and endorphins in the brain. These neurotransmitters play a role in managing RLS symptoms.

Other Tips for Managing Restless Leg Syndrome

While there is no cure for RLS, many ways exist to manage its symptoms. Besides exercise and stretching, many lifestyle changes, medications, and alternative therapies can help. They include:

Lifestyle Changes

Specific lifestyle changes can help manage RLS symptoms. For example, reducing or eliminating caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco intake can be helpful.

Adopting a regular sleep schedule and good sleep hygiene can help reduce symptoms. This includes:

  • Avoid electronic devices before bed
  • Keep the bedroom cool and dark 
  • Avoid large meals before bedtime 
  • Take warm baths
  • Use heating pads to relax muscles and reduce symptoms.

Medications for RLS

Medication may be necessary if lifestyle changes are not enough to manage RLS symptoms. Several different types of medications can help to manage RLS, including:

  • Dopaminergic agents
  • Alpha-2-delta ligands 
  • Iron supplements

Dopaminergic agents increase dopamine levels in the brain, which can help manage RLS symptoms. Alpha-2-delta ligands increase levels of a neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA). This can help reduce symptoms. Iron supplements can be helpful for people with low levels of iron in their blood.

Alternative Therapies for RLS

In addition to lifestyle changes and medications, several alternative therapies can help manage RLS symptoms. For example, acupuncture, massage, and yoga have all effectively reduced symptoms.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help manage the anxiety and depression often accompanying RLS. Some people find relief from RLS symptoms by using compression socks or braces. This can help improve blood flow to the legs.

The Link Between RLS and Other Conditions

RLS is a condition that can occur on its own or in association with other medical conditions. Researchers have identified several conditions commonly linked with RLS, and managing these conditions can sometimes help ease RLS symptoms.


Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder affecting children and adults. Research has shown a link between ADHD and RLS, with individuals with ADHD having a higher risk of developing RLS.

The connection between the two conditions is not yet understood. It is thought that dopamine dysfunction in the brain may play a role in both conditions. Treating ADHD with medication may help manage RLS symptoms in some individuals.

Parkinson's Disease

Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects movement and can also cause RLS symptoms. Like RLS, Parkinson's disease is connected with brain dopamine dysfunction.

The symptoms of RLS and Parkinson's disease can be different. It is essential to distinguish between the two conditions for proper management.

Kidney Failure

Kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease (ESRD), is a condition where the kidneys can no longer function. Individuals with ESRD are more likely to experience RLS symptoms than the general population.

Low iron levels in the brain, which can occur with kidney failure, may contribute to developing RLS. Treating ESRD and managing iron levels may help alleviate RLS symptoms in some individuals.


RLS appears to have a genetic component, as the condition often runs in families. While the specific genes responsible for RLS are not yet fully understood, several gene variants may increase the risk of developing RLS.

Iron Deficiency

There is a link between low iron levels in the brain and RLS. Iron is essential for dopamine production in the brain.

Low iron levels may lead to dopamine dysfunction and the development of RLS symptoms. Supplementation with iron may help manage RLS symptoms in some individuals.

Relieve Restless Leg Syndrome with Exercises

Restless Leg Syndrome can be a frustrating and disruptive condition, but there are steps you can take to manage its symptoms. Regular exercise stretches and lifestyle changes can play a role in reducing RLS symptoms. It can help and improve your quality of life.

Suppose you're struggling with RLS. We encourage you to try the stretches and RLS exercises for restless leg syndrome outlined in this article. You should also speak with a healthcare professional about other treatment options.

Remember, with the right approach; it is possible to manage RLS and find relief from its symptoms.

About the Author

Head shot for Brandon Landgraf

Brandon Landgraf is the Digital Marketing Manager for Carex Health Brands. He finds passion and fulfillment in creating content that enhances, improves, and enlivens others' quality of life. All of his written work is formulated to not only offer essential advice and tips but back it with proven studies and experts. His mission is to connect with readers and provide steps to make their lives better.

You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.

About Carex Health Brands


Carex is your one-stop shop for home medical equipment and for products that assist caregivers with providing the best possible support and care for their loved ones. Carex Health Brands has been the branded leader in in-home, self-care medical products for over 35 years. Our goal is to improve the lives of our customers by bring them quality products that bring dignity back to their lives. With our three nationally distributed brands, Carex Health Brands serves national, regional and independent food, drug and mass retailers along with wholesalers, distributors and medical dealers.

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