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You’re not alone if you’ve looked in the mirror and wished you were a little bit taller (and wished you were a baller). But your height is an aspect of your body you don’t have much control over.
Despite any remedies or miracle tips you might have seen online (*ahem* bro science), you can’t actually increase your height once you’re done growing.
Before your height hits its limit, there are a few factors that might help you maximize growth. But after puberty, you can only influence how tall you look, not how tall you are (no promises on the baller part).
Scientists believe about 80 percent of your height is determined by your genes (thanks, Mom and Dad!), but they don’t fully understand the exact connection between genetics and height.
Height is determined by more than 700 gene variants (rather than just one gene), which makes it really tough to predict how tall someone will be. A 2017 study that looked at DNA samples of more than 700,000 people found that there are also less common genes that account for more than 1 centimeter of a person’s height.
Your genetics can also contribute to health conditions that affect your height, like Gigantism or Marfan syndrome.
Most people stop growing by age 18, but the exact time may vary depending on when you start puberty and whether you’re male or female.
Girls typically reach their full height by about age 14, or a few years after menstruation starts. Boys usually stop growing around age 16 but may grow a few inches after that.
Throughout puberty, your bones get longer thanks to the growth plates at the ends of your bones. As you near the end of puberty, your long bones undergo their final formation, and the cartilage in the growth plates turns to bone, or ossifies. Once that happens, your height is a done deal.
A balanced diet is essential when it comes to growth. Nutrients like calcium and vitamin D are very important, as research shows that both can significantly benefit bone health.
Eating fruits and veggies to hit your vitamin and mineral quota is important for everyone — but especially for those who are still growing.
Research also shows that protein is essential for bone health and can benefit the bone density of the spine. A 2016 study of 45 sets of twins found that nutrition is especially important in infancy, and a lack of protein may be the biggest environmental factor that can influence height.
Does the caffeine in coffee affect your bones?
Some people believe that drinking coffee, especially as a teen, can affect bone health, but there’s not much evidence to back this up.
A 1998 study looked at 81 white American women ages 12 to 18 and found no difference in bone mineral gain between those who had the highest daily caffeine intake and those who had the lowest.
Although this study was small, it suggests that caffeine intake doesn’t affect bone gain in the teen years.
Research has shown that many of the functions affecting growth happen during sleep, which may mean proper sleep is necessary for proper growth.
A 2013 study found that children with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) had lower growth hormone levels, height, and weight compared to children who didn’t have OSA. Since OSA can cause restless or interrupted sleep, these findings suggest poor sleep quality has a negative effect on growth.
Exercise won’t make your bones grow longer, but research suggests physical activity can increase the mineral density of bones, especially during adolescence.
A diet rich in calcium combined with a healthy amount of physical activity can maximize bone mass and reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
Staying active is also important because it strengthens muscles and bones and likely promotes the release of the human growth hormone (HGH). Unsurprisingly, HGH plays a big role in physical development. It kick-starts growth in childhood and promotes cell repair (ya know, the process that keeps us youthful and healthy).
Do weightlifting and gymnastics make you short?
Plenty of myths suggest that shorter heights are linked to activities like weightlifting, gymnastics, ballet, distance running, and wrestling. There’s not enough research to support the claim that lifting makes people shorter.
With the other sports, it’s a little more complicated. Research suggests it’s not the sports themselves but the intensity of training involved. An athlete’s height may also be affected if they’re not getting proper nutrition.
No smoking (in or outside the womb)
It’s pretty widely known that smoking isn’t good for general health, but it might affect height too.
According to the CDC, smoking tobacco during pregnancy can hurt the development of the fetus. Research has shown that low bone mass and reduced bone density in childhood or adolescence may be linked to maternal smoking during pregnancy.
Marijuana use may have an impact on height too. While more research is needed, a 2015 study found that heavy marijuana use can cause boys to hit puberty earlier and may also stunt their growth.
Once puberty ends, it’s pretty much game over for your height. It’s impossible to get any taller from here on out, even if you do all the CrossFit or yoga in the world.
However, your height can change very slightly throughout the day (don’t get too excited — we’re talking no more than half an inch). This is due to light compression of the discs in your spine caused by daily activities that impact the cartilage and fluid in your spine. Plus, if you sit at a desk all day, it might not do your posture any favors.
The good news? There are a few things you can do to make yourself appear taller.
Pay attention to your posture
Your posture makes a huge difference in how tall you appear. If you’re always slumped over, you can look a few inches shorter than you are. Sitting up or standing tall instantly adds a few inches to your frame (it’s all an illusion, folks). So hold that head high!
Just can’t make yourself un-slouch? If you’re really invested in improving your posture, you can try out a posture correcting device.
You may have heard the popular myth that yoga can make you taller. In reality, a regular yoga practice helps build muscular strength, which can support better posture.
Yoga can also teach you how to focus on your breathing, which can help with posture. In other words, yoga may make you appear taller, but it’s not actually making you grow.
Build and strengthen your muscles
A quick online search for exercises to make you taller may yield some seemingly promising results, but the truth is there are no exercises that will make you grow once you’ve reached your max height.
Gaining muscle mass and strengthening your muscles can support better posture. Building muscle might also make you feel more confident, which can affect the way you carry yourself.
Use fashion to your advantage
Real talk: We know it sounds painfully obvious, but heels and platform shoes will give you a boost. Changing up your clothing can also give you the illusion of longer legs and a longer torso.
Other fashion tricks to try:
- high-waisted pants and skirts
- fitted, tailored clothing
- wearing just one color
- shorter shorts or skirts
- ankle boots instead of tall boots
Accept what your mama gave ya
This might not be what you were hoping to hear, but at a certain point, you just have to accept your height and rock what you’ve got.
Your height really doesn’t limit your life’s achievements. Some of history’s biggest game-changers were smaller in stature (heck, Napoleon Bonaparte led the French military at 5 foot 2 inches).
Genetics play the biggest role in your height, meaning there isn’t much you can do to change how tall you’ll be (except thank your parents). Environmental factors like nutrition and exercise also play a role in your growth and development.
Your height is pretty much set once you reach age 18. During puberty, you can maximize healthy growth by eating a balanced diet, staying active, and getting enough sleep each night.
If you’re way past your last growth spurt, you can make yourself look taller by practicing better posture and strengthening your muscles.