While there are some things we can easily change about our physical appearance, there’s one thing we have virtually no control over: our height. We grow tall when the growth plates – cartilage on the either end of the bones (especially the long bones in the arm and legs) – change into bones. Girls typically reach their full height at about 15 to 18 years old, while boys stop growing around 20 or 21, when their growth plates fuse.1 For adults, growing tall beyond a certain age is impossible. The only tip to increase your height naturally after you’ve crossed this age is to maintain correct posture. More on that later.
While it mostly comes down to genetics (one more thing we can blame on our parents!), children may be able to grow a little taller with a healthy, balanced diet. There are several things that parents can do to help their children grow to their full potential, starting from conception. It’s not only important for kids to eat a well-balanced diet, stay active, and get proper sleep, but to also ensure they get plenty of nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.
1. Eat A Balanced Diet During Pregnancy
A child needs proper nutrition even before they escape the womb. This means that expectant mothers must have a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Once born, a child should continue to be fed a healthy and diversified diet. Malnourishment of any kind can stunt their growth.2
2. Don’t Smoke During Pregnancy
We all know the bad consequences of smoking, and if you smoke while you’re pregnant, you also may be harming your child. A study found that the children of women who smoked 10 or more cigarettes a day while pregnant were, on average, shorter by about 1 cm by the age of 11 compared to children whose mothers didn’t smoke.3
3. Give Your Child Calcium Supplements
Calcium is necessary for strong and healthy bones. In fact, one study found that calcium supplementation increased height and strengthened bones in boys between the ages of 16 and 18.4 Since our bodies don’t make calcium, we need to get it through our diet with foods like milk, tofu, salmon, and green leafy vegetables like spinach.
4. Ensure Your Child Gets Vitamin D
Vitamin D controls the absorption of calcium and phosphate – both of which are critical for the formation of teeth and bones – and plays a role in maintaining a healthy balance of minerals. Research among girls between the ages of 16 and 22 shows that insufficient amounts of vitamin D can increase body fat and result in decreased height.5 The best way to absorb vitamin D is by getting a healthy dose of sunlight every day. Dietary sources including eggs and oily fish like salmon and tuna can also help boost vitamin D levels.
5. Make Sure Your Child Sleeps Soundly
Though a direct link between sleep and height is not clear, getting enough shut-eye is particularly important during the growing years. Deep sleep sets off the release of the growth hormone that is necessary for growth and development in children and plays a role in cell repair and muscle development.6 There is also evidence that sleep is involved in triggering the onset of puberty.7
6. Keep Your Child Physically Active
Physical activity may not directly increase a person’s height, but it’s especially important for the development of healthy bones and muscles. Weight-bearing activities like walking, running, basketball, or jumping rope results in the formation of new bone tissue, which makes for stronger bones. Bone-strengthening exercises are particularly essential for children and teens as bone mass increases the most just before and during puberty.8 Gaining bone mass early in life is also important for preventing osteoporosis later.9 It is recommended that children between the ages of 6 and 17 get at least an hour of physical activity daily.10
Adults Can Look Tall With The Correct Posture
The way we carry ourselves has a great impact on how tall we look. Slouching will not only make you seem shorter than you are, it may also lead to back problems. While sitting, keep your hips and knees aligned, your feet flat on the floor, and your back straight. While standing, face forward, balance your weight evenly between your feet, and keep your back straight.11
Exercises that focus on your core as well as the muscles that support your neck and shoulders can help improve your posture:
- Pilates, which works on stretching and strengthening muscles, can better your posture by correcting alignment.12
- Common exercises like back extensions (where you lie on your stomach, prop yourself on your elbows, and arch backward) and planks (where you hold a position keeping the weight of your body on your forearms and toes like when you do push-ups) can also help your posture.13
- Specific yoga asanas, like cobra pose and locust pose, can also strengthen muscles in the back and those that help support the shoulder blades.
Research has found that posture can play an important role not just in how you look but also in how you feel. People who adopt expansive or “power” postures report feeling more powerful and in control. It has also been found that these postures can lead to greater testosterone and lower cortisol levels, which is associated with the exhibition of leadership abilities.14 So, if it’s too late for you to grow anymore, no worries – you can always stand tall!
|↑1||QUESTIONS ANSWERED. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2||WHA Global Nutrition Targets 2025:Stunting Policy Brief. World Health Organization.|
|↑3||Meredith, Howard V. “Relation between tobacco smoking of pregnant women and body size of their progeny: a compilation and synthesis of published studies.” Human Biology (1975): 451-472.|
|↑4||Prentice, Ann, Fiona Ginty, Samantha J. Stear, Sarah C. Jones, M. Ann Laskey, and Tim J. Cole. “Calcium supplementation increases stature and bone mineral mass of 16-to 18-year-old boys.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 90, no. 6 (2005): 3153-3161.|
|↑5||Kremer, Richard, Patricia P. Campbell, Timothy Reinhardt, and Vicente Gilsanz. “Vitamin D status and its relationship to body fat, final height, and peak bone mass in young women.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 94, no. 1 (2009): 67-73.|
|↑6||Why Is Sleep Important? National Institutes of Health. 2012.|
|↑7||Shaw, N. D., J. P. Butler, S. M. McKinney, S. A. Nelson, J. M. Ellenbogen, and J. E. Hall. “Insights into puberty: the relationship between sleep stages and pulsatile LH secretion.” The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 97, no. 11 (2012): E2055-E2062.|
|↑8, ↑10||How does physical activity help build healthy bones? National Institutes of Health.|
|↑9||Anderson, John JB. “The important role of physical activity in skeletal development: how exercise may counter low calcium intake.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 71, no. 6 (2000): 1384-1386.|
|↑11||How to improve your posture. Department of Health, Australian Government.|
|↑12||Taylor, Victoria. “Does Pilates make you taller? Experts debunk myths about the workout” New York Daily News.(2015).|
|↑13||Common posture mistakes and fixes, National Health Service.|
|↑14||Carney, Dana R., Amy JC Cuddy, and Andy J. Yap. “Power posing brief nonverbal displays affect neuroendocrine levels and risk tolerance.” Psychological Science 21, no. 10 (2010): 1363-1368.|