Magnitude and duration of acute-exercise intensity effects on symptoms of restless legs syndrome: a pilot study

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Department or Administrative Unit

Nutrition Exercise and Health Sciences

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Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder that affects 5–15% of the population. There is increasing interest in exercise for managing the symptoms of RLS. To date, no research has examined the duration of acute-exercise intensity effects on RLS. The present study estimated the magnitude and duration of effect of two acute bouts of treadmill exercise at different intensities on severity of RLS. Eight participants (median age 44 years) with RLS completed three different conditions: rest, moderate-intensity exercise [50% heart rate reserve (HRR)], and vigorous-intensity exercise (70% HRR). RLS severity was measured with the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group (IRLS) Scale and daytime sleepiness was measured with the Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS) pre-condition, 24, and 48 h post-condition. There was no significant effect of time on IRLS or ESS for rest, moderate-intensity exercise, or vigorous-intensity exercise based on the Friedman test per condition. Effect sizes based on the z-value from the Wilcoxon Signed Ranks test indicated that moderate-intensity exercise had a moderate effect (r = 0.350) on IRLS in the first 24 h, but no effect on ESS. Vigorous-intensity exercise had a small effect on both IRLS (r = 0.191) and ESS (r = 0.210) in the first 24 h. Both conditions returned to normal or worsened within 48 h. Our results suggest that acute exercise, at either intensity, may have an immediate effect on RLS symptoms that dissipate within 48 h. These results highlight the importance of continual participation in exercise as a non-pharmacological approach to manage symptoms of RLS.


This article was originally published in Sleep and Biological Rhythms. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Sleep and Biological Rhythms


© Japanese Society of Sleep Research 2018