Why Do People Shake Their Legs?

By: Mason Komay

Updated January 05, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Christy B.

You probably know someone who shakes their legs. Sometimes it's an obvious, perpetual habit, while other times it's a subtle, situational tremor. Regardless, several completely natural reasons explain this behavior.

While some may view leg shaking as obnoxious, most of the time the perpetrators hardly even recognize they're doing it. So why do people shake their legs? And can it be controlled? In this article, we'll explore the answers.

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Why Do People Shake Their Legs?

Many of us have at some point found ourselves unconsciously shaking our legs. According to M. Farouk Radwan's article, "Shaking legs in body language," when you shake your legs, it means you're most likely bored, anxious, tense, or stressed. Leg shaking, or "tremors," can also be caused by stimulants and certain medical conditions.

Boredom

Boredom is considered a negative stimulus. In other words, it's one of our body's ways of telling us we aren't being suitably stimulated by the present activity. Shaking or bouncing our legs can provide a small stimulus to distract us from the boredom, and relieve some of the tension of sitting still. While leg shaking can be distracting to others, it's probably preferable to alternatives like repeatedly clicking a pen or tapping your fingers.

Concentration

Shaking our legs isn't always a sign of boredom. Some people do it while they're concentrating on a task or problem. It's not completely clear why some use repetitive movements in a state of concentration. It may be that the mild stimulus gives restless parts of the brain enough stimulus to keep from interrupting the concentrated state of mind. Research conducted on children with ADHD suggests they use repetitive motions in this manner.

Anxiety

Shaking your legs is sometimes done unintentionally as your body seeks to balance your emotions. For instance, if you feel nervous about a meeting but need to appear composed and confident, your legs might shake as an outlet for your anxiety while the rest of your body appears professionally poised. Sometimes, leg shaking is the only acceptable outlet for dealing with both minor and severe anxiety. In a setting like a hospital waiting room or a courtroom, running, screaming, or otherwise melting down is socially unacceptable. However, merely shaking our legs or tapping our feet is considered a subtle and reliable method to release anxiety.

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Medical Conditions

In some cases, leg shaking goes beyond subconscious behavior and into a symptom of an underlying medical condition. People suffering from restless leg syndrome (RLS) feel an uncontrollable urge to move their legs to alleviate crawling, itching, aching, or other unpleasant feelings. Leg shaking can also be a symptom of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). People with ADHD are especially likely to shake their legs or perform other repetitive motions while concentrating. However, uncontrollable tremors can also be a symptom of Parkinson's disease or multiple sclerosis. Both are nervous system disorders that impair a person's ability to consciously control their limbs and extremities. Most of the time, however, people who shake their legs subconsciously are not suffering from any serious medical conditions.

See for Yourself

It may help you to better understand why people shake their legs if you take note of your emotions the next time you find yourself shaking yours. What are you doing at the time? How are you feeling? You may uncover factors that contribute to your leg shaking. When you're able to recognize the cause, you may have more control over it when it happens.

How to Stop Shaking Your Legs

If other people's leg shaking bothers you, don't waste your time trying to get them to stop. Since leg shaking is a highly subconscious action, asking someone to stop is likely to cause them embarrassment or irritation. One exception might be a very close friend or a loved one who confides in you and explains they're trying their best to prevent it. In that case, feel free to pass on this information to them.

If your own leg shaking bothers you, there are a few solutions you can try. These actions require some simple foresight into situations where you might find yourself shaking your legs. They may also require some practice in maintaining your thoughts and emotions, which can prove easier than what you may think. Finally, it might go a long way to ask yourself a few uncomfortable questions about your own emotional state.

Are You Shaking Your Legs And Don't Know Why?
A Licensed Therapist Can Help Discover The Cause And Create A Plan To Stop

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Change Your Posture

While our posture can say a lot about our thoughts and emotions, changing our body language can help us alternate those internal states. Folding your legs at the ankles or crossing one leg at a right angle across the opposite knee is a contained posture, similar to folding your hands in your lap. Holding this posture while breathing mindfully can help you regain some inner poise. Don't worry about breathing exercises when you're in public-just make sure you're breathing deeply, and not too quickly.

Try Something New

If you routinely find yourself shaking your legs because you're bored, search for new stimuli. Taking notes, doodling on a sheet of paper, or even writing a song/poem can be a fun pastime for some scenarios. In others, chewing a piece of gum or enjoying a mint can help take your mind off your boredom. There's a myriad of small fidget toys available you can play with under the table or unobtrusively in your hand that can help you stay calm and still. If you're really stuck, a good old thumb-twiddling session can help you release some of your energy without making things too obvious.

Address Your Emotions

If you shake your legs when you're anxious, ask yourself what you might be nervous about. What is it that makes you afraid? What's stressing you out the most right now? How do you act when you feel any of these emotions?

Once you've identified the triggers to your leg shaking, you can begin to train your body to act differently when they occur. Sometimes this can be difficult and time-consuming, but it is possible. The key is to plan and practice ahead of time in non-stressful situations. Follow the tips above, and eventually, you'll be able to gain more control over your leg movements when you face strenuous circumstances.

Make Sure You're Getting Enough Sleep

If you're not getting enough sleep at night, your body is going to naturally feel an overall decrease in energy and motivation. This can lead to frustration and anxiety, which can ultimately lead to leg shaking. Try getting an extra hour or two of sleep in your schedule and see how you feel afterward.

Identify a Possible Nicotine Withdrawal

Have you recently quit smoking tobacco? If so, you're statistically more prone to uncontrollable shaking, most notably in your legs. Of course, by no means should you pick up the habit again. Quitting is always the right choice. Just be aware of the fact that your leg shaking could very well be a common symptom of nicotine withdrawal. Give it time, and things will improve.

Yoga/Meditation

Relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation can help you prevent leg shaking by reducing stress and anxiety. Consider a brief 20-minute session to start your day off, and the results will speak for themselves.

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BetterHelp Is Here for You

If shaking your legs is an uncontrollable habit interfering with your quality of life, it may be time to check in with your doctor. They can help you determine any underlying medical conditions that need to be addressed. Your doctor can also help you figure out whether seeing a therapist or counselor would be helpful.

Additionally, if your leg shaking seems to be caused by anxiety you cannot control, you can decide to see a therapist or counselor. The trained, licensed online counselors at BetterHelp can help you talk through your concerns and decide on any further steps to manage your anxiety and other emotions. What gets discussed between you and your counselor stays between the two of you. Everything is completely discreet and private. Consider the following reviews of BetterHelp counselors.

Counselor Reviews

"Gillian was very helpful in helping me work through my anxiety gave me a bunch of great tips and techniques to help manage stress."

"Ari has been great. I like his logical approach to things and he has been able to teach me tangible things I can use every day to manage my anxiety. He gives me the time to speak about what is bothering me and never passes any judgment. Instead, through his wisdom, he can show me different perspectives and approaches them with me very gently. I really appreciate this. I would highly recommend him to anyone ready to get the help they need."

Final Thoughts

You should never feel embarrassed or ashamed about something you can't control. Leg shaking is a common outlet if you're suffering from stress, anxiety, boredom, or all of the above. Luckily, with the right tools, you have everything you need to take the steps to gain control of your body. Take the first step today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. Is shaking your leg a sign of anxiety?

Leg shaking can happen for many reasons. Shaking legs and leg bouncing may occur due to medically reviewed conditions such as restless legs syndrome, Parkinson's disease, ADHD, and anxiety. People with these conditions can alleviate leg shaking by getting appropriate treatment.

In Farouk Radwan's article, "Shaking legs in body language," he explained that when people shake their legs, they are bored, anxious, tensed, or stressed. Most acts of leg shaking, or "tremors," are often due to stimulants and rare medical conditions. 

Generally, shaking legs is done unconsciously when the human body struggles to balance emotions and feelings in certain circumstances. It is a way of expressing hyper emotions. For instance, in sickbay where crying and screaming are not allowed, patients and visitors can resolve to shake their legs to put their anxiety in check. During interviews, people are often anxious and sometimes feel not so comfortable in a new space. And that brings about the shaking of legs to ease the uncomfortable feelings and emotions.

  1. Is shaking your leg a sign of ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) are nervous system disorders. They deal with the level of concentration of people suffering from a severe anxiety disorder.  

In some cases, leg shaking can be an indicator of ADHD. People who have pre-existing medically reviewed conditions, especially attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). That's because to pay rapt attention in any situation, they have to continuously perform an involuntary action, which is the shaking of their legs.

To prevent intense itching, aching, and crawling, people living with ADHD resort to shaking their legs to get rid of the nasty feelings. When people shake their legs, it shows that they are in a struggle to be in control of their legs.

Talk to a medical doctor or therapist if you suspect that your shaking of legs is a result of mental health conditions like ADHD.

  1. Why do my legs shake when I'm turned on?

Shaking of legs can be an unconscious indicator of excitement or anxiety disorder. This uncontrollable shaking of the legs is also referred to as an essential tremor. It occurs as a result of the contraction of the muscles that occurs when one is sexually excited or nervous.

A lot of people unconsciously move their legs when they are nervous or excited. Excitement comes with getting turned on because the sexual hormones are actively involved when an individual is turned on.

When someone is turned on, the build-up of adrenaline and anxiety makes the legs shake. It is medically reviewed that sexual excitement can make the legs shake, especially when one is already in a sexual act.

  1. What causes a person to shake their legs while sitting?

Shaking of legs is an indicator of boredom for most people, especially during long hours of lecture or waiting in hospitals or a banking hall. It merely shows that the body is not getting much interest in the present activity. This brings about the bouncing of legs, which is a form of distraction from the source of the boredom.

Also, people who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) shake their legs because they quickly lose focus. So, in an attempt to bring back their concentration, they need to bounce their legs continually.

Restless legs syndrome RLS is often the cause of leg shaking in people sitting or lying still. People with RLS feel an uncontrollable urge to move their legs. People bounce their legs or start leg shaking to relieve pain or discomfort.

  1. Is shaking legs good for health?

Many people sit for long hours working on their desks or watching the TV. The only exercise that they can easily carry out at such a moment is shaking of legs. Shaking or bouncing of legs has been medically reviewed and proven to be the best exercise for people who cannot hit the gym or talk a long walk.

Regardless of the reason, leg shaking can help alleviate physical pain and mental health anxiety in the body. Many people with anxiety make statements such as "I feel better when I bounce my leg.", or "Leg shaking helps me relax." 

Scientists reveal that shaking of legs is discovered to have more cardiovascular benefits. A stationary leg experiences lesser blood flow while there is a significant rise in the flow of blood when the legs shake.

Also, the arteries of the legs are protected when people bounce their legs while sitting. This prevents arterial dysfunction and diseases.

  1. What are the first signs of ADHD?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a brain and nervous system disorder. It shows hyper activeness and quick impulsiveness as its first main symptoms. An individual suffering from ADHD finds it challenging to be calm or cope in a still environment. This is because they lose concentration in quiet spaces. 

Impulsiveness and hyper activeness prompt anyone suffering from ADHD to act or spring into action without thinking. It is common to see ADHD patients talking too much and moving from one place to another always. Since every part of the body moves, there is also an occasion of constant fidgeting and general impatience.

Leg shaking can be one of the first signs of ADHD. Other signs include fidgeting, restlessness, inability to wait for their turn, and lack of focus. If you or someone you love is suffering from the symptoms of ADHD, a licensed therapist at BetterHelp can provide support.

  1. What are the symptoms of ADHD?

The symptoms of ADHD differ and are not easily recognizable both in children and adults. The symptoms of ADHD are as follows:

  1. Self-involved behavior

This is evident when someone finds it difficult to see beyond their needs and desires. The person with ADHD is unable to see what other people need except him or herself.

  1. Emotional Outburst

When an individual cannot keep his or her emotions and feelings in check, then it is appropriate to diagnose ADHD in such a person. There may be throwing tantrums or shouts at inappropriate times.

  1. Lack of focus

 Having trouble giving one's attention to a given task in an office or classroom is a sign of ADHD. Most people have problems listening even when they are being spoken to.

Other symptoms include:

  1. Daydreaming
  1. Incomplete task
  2. Problems with organizing things
  3. Forgetfulness
  4. Mistakes
  5. Staying away from a task that requires mental ability
  6. Trouble playing quietly
  7. Problems with time management
  8. Inability to drive safely
  9. Lack of attention in schoolwork and assignments

 

  1. Is Restless Leg Syndrome a symptom of ADHD?

People with ADHD may experience restless legs syndrome when they sleep at night. Also, people with RLS who have mental health disorders may have symptoms of both disorders at the same time. Both ADHD and RLS affect the leg's ability to relax.

Those diagnosed with Restless Leg Syndrome exhibit some link with sleep disturbances and ADHD. In Restless Leg Syndrome, there is often itching, crawling, and aching feeling in the legs. This brings about a strong passion for moving continuously. That is why sufferers tend to act anxiously.

According to various researches, adults diagnosed with Restless leg Syndrome are proven to be more likely to suffer ADHD. That's due to the sleep disorders relating to restless leg syndrome. They may also need frequent medication therapy.

Anxiety is a common symptom of both Restless Leg Syndrome and ADHD, as there are often essential tremors.

  1. Why do I shake when excited?

Are you wondering why you move your legs when you're excited? Excitement affects the legs, and the rest of the body as more blood flow runs through your veins. Increased blood flow can cause someone's legs to move unconsciously.

Excitement is a somewhat strong emotions that result in shaking, fidgeting, or shivering. It can also be caused by the rush of adrenaline in the body when happy and excited.

It is often normal for people to shake or fidget when excited because the increased heartbeat and rise in the flow of blood reach the limbs, which in turn shakes in response to the blood flow and adrenaline.

This is proof that people who shake their legs do not have any unique medical conditions. They are simply excited because of the situation while their brain processes the reaction to the excitement.

  1. Why do I shake when I cry?

Shaking while crying is not harmful to health, and it is a regular occurrence in human beings.

When your emotions are high, and you begin to cry, your body may start to shake. This shaking is a result of the body's adrenaline activation and the fight-or-flight response that helps keep us safe. Adrenaline also affects the legs and may cause you to move or bounce your legs in response to a perceived threat.

People shake when they cry because crying is a way of discharging hormones that deal with stress and pains. Crying can also make a person suffer anxiety and keep the feelings hyperactive.

Shaking of the body is how the body responds to feelings of pain. The body shakes, and it is also an essential tremor known as neurogenic tremors. They help keep the body's reaction to stress in the check-in form of emotions and respond to stress and external energy.

  1. What does it mean when a guy is shaking?

Guys often say, "I move my legs or shake when I get nervous." They also say, "I bounce my leg or clear my throat when I am nervous, bored, or excited." Boredom, excitement, and nervousness are the primary reasons a guy may be shaking or moving his legs when you're talking to him.

Most times, when a guy is shaking, it may be because he is scared of making embarrassing moves or statements. This occurs when he is in the presence of people he holds in high regard or people he respects.

It can also mean that he is nervous when he has a presentation or is about to meet someone or make a public speech. When a guy shakes, it could mean he is sexually attracted to someone, and he is instantly turned on in the person's presence.

Also, a guy's shakes might be because he is suffering from restless leg syndrome or ADHD, which will require constant medication therapy.

  1. Why do guys stand with their legs apart?

In most cases, when a guy is standing with his legs apart, he shows dominance and control over a situation. Many guys will say, "I move my legs because it feels comfortable at the time" when asked about the dominant pose. In contrast, men will say that "I bounce my leg when I get nervous."

Standing with the legs apart is a body language among males. It is often to show that the man is confident and does not waver. It is often evident in men whenever there is another man in the space, and there is someone the same man wants to protect.

Usually, guys make specific posture to attract the opposite sex because the feeling of attraction and sex is likely to bring about a rise in the activity of the testosterone, thereby leading to soft changes in the body.

It is also important to note that some men feel confident and relaxed standing with their feet apart.

  1. Does shaking your leg burn calories?

According to medical experts, you can burn up to 100 calories in ten minutes by shaking your legs. Shaking your leg is a physical activity that will burn calories as long as your body is in motion.

Even though it is crucial to pay attention to people obsessed with shaking their legs, it could also be a form of exercise and a way to burn calories. 

Studies have confirmed that non-exercises activities such as shaking your leg and bouncing your legs help to burn more calories. These activities sometimes worry people around us, but they have rare advantages, especially for people with diabetes, because it can help us lose weight. Shaking your leg, fidgeting and bouncing can help lose more calories than just sitting in a place for hours.

Even while sitting still, leg shaking is a form of cardio.

  1. Does bouncing your leg help circulation?

Medical professionals say that bouncing your leg can contribute to an increase in blood flow. This increase in blood flow can contribute to an overall improvement in your circulation. Bouncing your legs is one of the widely known desk exercises that one can do without causing a disturbance at work.

Although some people consider bouncing of legs as a way to keep boredom at bay, it is also a way of releasing bottled-up stress, tension and increasing the heartbeat rate while sitting at work or in a meeting. 

Bouncing of the leg can also be considered as a motor tic. Motor tics are swift and involuntary movements that relieve the nerves while the body is maintained at a resting posture. 

  1. How do you stop Kuyakoy?

Kuyakoy is another way of saying shaking knees or shaking legs syndrome. To get this condition under control, seek medical or mental health professionals' advice to learn what's causing this condition.

It is essential to stay away from smoking or to gradually reduce smoking to enable the reduction of the effects of restless leg syndrome. Patients are also encouraged to exercise frequently but not too much to increase the effects of shaking legs syndrome. 

Taking a hot bath, applying ice or heat can also reduce symptoms. People with restless legs syndrome are advised to endeavor to go to bed regularly while reducing their intake of caffeine and alcohol.

  1. What are restless legs a sign of?

Restless legs can be a sign of boredom, nervousness, excitement, or a mental health disorder. It's good to learn the real reason behind what's causing your restless legs syndrome and other shaking leg symptoms.

Sometimes people diagnosed with medical conditions such as Parkinson's disease, kidney disease, or pregnant women and people with diabetes can also be found having restless legs syndrome. Restless legs sometimes are a sign of iron deficiency because people with restless legs syndrome have been found to have brain iron deficiency.

People with restless legs syndrome can be found to be suffering from ADHD, as studies have shown that the two syndromes are known to be brain and nervous system disorders. In this case, beta-blockers may be recommended by a healthcare provider to help reduce the hyperactive and increased heart rate.

  1. Does RLS get worse with age?

According to medical professionals, the symptoms of RLS can worsen gradually with age. This means that it's essential to seek medical treatment as soon as you realize or are diagnosed with restless leg syndrome.

Restless leg syndrome certainly gets worse as a person grows older. Therefore, it is essential to get treatments as early as one can get. The severity is usually associated with after middle age and in old age.

If not given quick attention and treatment at an early stage, people with restless legs syndrome can have depression, stroke, and heart disease. Studies have discovered that restless legs syndrome affects people with diabetes if it's not the leading cause of the syndrome.

As restless legs syndrome worsens with age, it also disrupts sleep, which has adverse effects on almost all other aspects of one's life.

  1. Why is restless leg syndrome worse at night?

Restless leg syndrome feels worse at night because sitting still, lying down, and relaxing are triggers of RLS. The longer you sit still without moving, the more noticeable symptoms of RLS can be. Restless leg syndrome usually aggravates at night because the body tends to be inactive at night. Often, the symptoms increase during the day, too, when one sits for a more extended period, such as when watching a movie or traveling by air. This makes it uneasy to fall asleep or continue sleep as soon as the aching or the urge to keep moving the legs starts.

Scientists have also discovered that the imbalance of dopamine can cause restless leg syndrome. This particular chemical transmits messages to the brain to control the movement of the muscle.

It is crucial to living a lifestyle that includes a reduction in stress, healthy eating, and regular exercise to combat RLS symptoms.

  1. Why is shaking your leg a bad habit?

Shaking a leg can sometimes be attributed to people who are often loud, or high spirited because the sound that is produced disturb and irritate most older people.

Everyone is prone to shaking a leg involuntary, especially when boredom sets in. Still, it has not been medically proven that shaking a leg can harm an individual except for the tiredness that might come from that specific action.

Shaking a leg is not considered a bad habit if it is not detrimental to the people around them. It is only considered a medical problem if it is a constant habit of the action that brings relief. If an individual is diagnosed with restless legs syndrome, it is crucial to make a trip to the hospital and get checked.


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