Does Working Out Make You Taller? Fact or Fiction?

Surgery | Written by Joshua Leaf | Updated on April 29, 2022

When you search for “natural” ways to get taller, the most common suggestion seems to be exercise. People claim there are dozens of magical stretches and activities that can add some inches… But does working out make you taller? Or does it just help you stand at your full potential height? Can it really help you gain height as an adult? Is it fact or fiction?

Why Everyone Says Exercises & Stretches Increase Height

Heightism (height-hating or height discrimination) is extremely common in today’s image-obsessed world and many seek a magical fix to make themselves taller. There’s piles of money to be made by exploiting people’s height insecurities, and scams like GrowTaller4Idiots do just that. They earn money by telling people they can buy a workout program and gain height, leading to many people’s belief that exercises and stretches can make them taller.

The Truth Behind Height & Exercise

The truth is – height and exercise can maybe help children become taller adults, but they won’t make adults grow taller. However, they can still improve adults’ posture and make them look taller.

Whether or not exercise helps with height depends on the status of the growth plates. Growth plates are areas of cartilaginous or cushion-like tissue at the end of long bones like the femur and the humerus. 

As a child or teenager, the growth plates are open. Whenever the body releases Human Growth Hormone (HGH), it signals the long bones to grow, and some of the plates transform into bone. When puberty is complete, most people’s growth plates are “fused”, i.e., turned to bone, so they can no longer grow in height.

HGH won’t make you grow taller 16-18 years old, but physical activity before these ages aids in releasing HGH. While research isn’t conclusive yet, animal studies suggest people can become 1-2 inches taller with exercise during growth years, and exercise also aids in the proper shaping of bones and muscles [1][2]. So, researchers theorize that working out does make you taller if you’re still growing… at least, it might! 

In adults, however, the growth plates are closed, so higher HGH levels can’t translate into increased height. Some exercises and stretches can improve posture, though. Since most people don’t have proper posture, once they stand straight, they can look taller. 

But what exactly is poor posture, and how can one fix it?

Poor Posture & Exercises to Fix It

Yes, bad posture can make you look shorter than you are! Any unnatural slouching or bending of the body, especially ones that compress the spine, can make you lose some perceived height. When you stretch, you gain that height back, which is why it seems like working out makes you taller.

There are a few common posture mistakes, but they’re pretty easy to fix with regular exercise. Proper posture may even reduce pain, motivating you to work out.

Anterior Pelvic Tilt (APT)

Anterior pelvic tilt means your pelvis – the hip bones – are rotated forward. This forward rotation misaligns your spine, makes your glutes stick out, and takes away some inches.

How to fix it:

Exercises to fix anterior pelvic tilt focus mainly on the hip flexor (outer thigh joint), hamstring (back of the thigh), glute (backend), and ab muscles.

Half-kneeling hip flexor stretch:

  1. Kneel on one knee while placing the other foot on the ground.
  2. Tighten your glute and ab muscles to bring the pelvis forward slightly.
  3. Lean on your kneeling leg until you feel a stretch in your inner thigh.
  4. Hold for 20-30 seconds and switch.

Bridges:

  1. Lie on your back, knees bent, palms and feet on the floor.
  2. Raise your pelvis off the floor while engaging the abdominal and glute muscles, keeping your feet planted on the ground.
  3. Gold for a couple of seconds and come back down. Repeat.

Other exercises that can help with anterior pelvic tilt include:

  • Squats
  • Pelvic tilt
  • Kneeling leg lift with back stretch
  • Spine stretch

Posterior Pelvic Tilt

The pelvis bends backward, leaving you with a flat back and a misaligned spine similar to an anterior tilt. 

How to fix it:

Exercises for this issue also mainly work on the ab, glute, back, and hamstring muscles.

Seated hamstring stretch:

  1. Sit straight in a chair or on another elevated surface with both knees bent at a 90-degree angle. 
  2. Stretch one leg out in front of you.
  3. Bend towards your toes until you feel a stretch in the back of your thigh.
  4. Stretch out the other leg and repeat.

Superman:

  1. Lie down on your stomach and stretch your arms and legs out straight.
  2. Squeeze your abdominal and gluteal muscles and lift your legs and arms off the ground as far as possible.
  3. Slowly come back down to your starting position. Repeat.

Other exercises to fix posterior pelvic tilt include:

  • Lunges
  • Leg raises
  • Bridges
  • Planks
  • Dead bug

Hunchback (Kyphosis)

Also known as kyphosis, humpback or hunchback refers to the spine being too curved, making the upper back look like a camel’s hump. If someone sits at a desk while slouching or leans in chairs, they’re pretty likely to develop kyphosis. 

How to fix it:

Anyone can fix a hunchback posture by stretching and strengthening the upper back, neck, chest, and shoulders.

Chin tuck:

  1. Tuck your chin slightly and bring your head straight back, keeping your chin tucked.
  2. Bring your head back to the neutral position. Repeat.

Wall push-ups:

  1. Stand about 3/4th of an arm’s length away from a wall and put your hands up against it, shoulder-width apart.
  2. Lean forward towards the wall, letting your elbows bend and keeping your toes on the ground.
  3. Stay in this position for a couple of seconds and come back up. Repeat.

Other exercises that can help with kyphosis include:

  • Upper back stretches
  • Mirror image
  • Life extension
  • Crucifix stretch

Nerd Neck or Forward Head Posture

Nerd neck, also called forward head posture or text neck, happens when your neck is in a permanent forward position. Your ears no longer align with your shoulders. Usually, this posture occurs due to looking down when reading or using mobile phones, taking away an inch or two. 

How to fix it:

Like humpback, nerd neck exercises also focus on the shoulder, neck, upper back, and chest muscles [3].

Head tilts:

  1. Sit up straight with your head facing forward.
  2. Tilt your head forward, slowly returning to a neutral position.
  3. Tilt your head towards your spine, then slowly get back to neutral.
  4. Tilt towards your right shoulder, and slowly tilt towards the left. Get back to the neutral position.
  5. Repeat.

Chin tucks against a wall:

  1. Stand against a wall, shoulders, head, and back pressed up flat.
  2. Tuck in your chin, hold for a couple of seconds, and let go.
  3. Move your arms up against the wall, working against gravity, then slowly bring them back down.
  4. Repeat these movements a few times.

Some other exercises that can help with nerd neck include:

  • Lying chin tucks
  • Chest stretch
  • Forward neck stretch

Factors that Affect Height

So, does working out make you taller? Sadly, it doesn’t, but it can make you stand up straight and look taller and more attractive. But if working out doesn’t help, what does? 

Here’s what actually affects height:

Genetics: Scientists say that 80% of size and stature are dependent on the genetic lottery, which is out of our control – if a person has short parents, they’ll be short, and vice versa [4]. Over 700 genes influence stature, but other factors can affect whether a child reaches their genetically determined height [5]. 

Nutrition: Nutrition is the second-most important factor that affects height and can be somewhat controlled. If a child eats adequate protein, vitamin E, and vitamin D during growth, they’re more likely to reach their full genetic height. 

Sleep: 70% of HGH release occurs only a bit after falling asleep, so getting 6-8 hours of deep sleep is incredibly important to reach maximum genetic height [6]. 

Exercise, Hormones, & Bone Density: Since exercise promotes HGH release, it’s likely to improve bone density. Physical activity also balances other hormones like testosterone, which can positively affect height [7]. Even as a child, it’s good to get at least 6-7 hours of physical activity every week [8].

To summarize this, it’s fiction that adults can increase their height via exercise, but it’s a fact that exercise allows teenagers to reach their full genetic potential! For a permanent height increase, you can look into leg lengthening surgery. Although expensive and time-consuming, it may be worth it if your height is always on your mind. 

References

[1] Kelly, S. A., Czech, P. P., Wight, J. T., Blank, K. M., & Garland, T., Jr (2006). Experimental evolution and phenotypic plasticity of hindlimb bones in high-activity house mice. Journal of morphology, 267(3), 360–374. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16380968/ 

[2] Gunter, K., Baxter-Jones, A. D., Mirwald, R. L., Almstedt, H., Fuchs, R. K., Durski, S., & Snow, C. (2008). Impact exercise increases BMC during growth: an 8-year longitudinal study. Journal of bone and mineral research : the official journal of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research, 23(7), 986–993. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2679385/ 

[3] Sinfield, N. (2019, July 10). Common posture mistakes and fixes. NHS. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/strength-and-flexibility-exercises/common-posture-mistakes-and-fixes/ 

[4] Quora Contributor. (2016, November 3). Is It Possible To Increase Your Height? Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/quora/2016/11/03/is-it-possible-to-increase-your-height/?sh=522588875139

[5] MedlinePlus. (2020, September 17). Is height determined by genetics? MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/genetics/understanding/traits/height/ 

[6] Van Cauter, E., & Plat, L. (1996). Physiology of growth hormone secretion during sleep. The Journal of pediatrics, 128(5 Pt 2), S32–S37. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8627466/ 

[7] Ari, Z., Kutlu, N., Uyanik, B. S., Taneli, F., Buyukyazi, G., & Tavli, T. (2004). Serum testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor-1 levels, mental reaction time, and maximal aerobic exercise in sedentary and long-term physically trained elderly males. The International journal of neuroscience, 114(5), 623–637. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15204068/ 

[8] Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, March 9). How much physical activity do children need? | Physical Activity. CDC. https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/children/index.htm 

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