Sleep and Biological Rhythms

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 337–344 | Cite as

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

  • Katie L. Cederberg
  • Robert W. Motl
  • Timothy R. Burnham
Original Article


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.


Restless legs syndrome Daytime sleepiness Exercise Intensity Duration 



This study was completed in partial fulfillment of the first author’s Master’s degree.


None declared.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Katie L. Cederberg, Robert W. Motl, and Timothy R. Burnham declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Japanese Society of Sleep Research 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katie L. Cederberg
    • 1
  • Robert W. Motl
    • 1
  • Timothy R. Burnham
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Physical TherapyUniversity of Alabama at BirminghamBirminghamUSA
  2. 2.Department of Nutrition and Exercise Health ScienceCentral Washington UniversityEllensburgUSA

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