How to Grow Taller - Complete Guide
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HeightDB is proud to provide this free resource - a comprehensive guide and detailed account on up to date information on how to grow taller, all on one page.
The content within this page is based upon well researched data and statistical analysis obtained from medical professionals in Europe and United States. With special thanks to Prof. L Schmitt for compiling the reliable data within this minefield of a subject.
Disclaimer: The information on this site is not advice and should not be treated as such. Please consult a doctor or physician if you are unsure if anything contained here is unsuitable for you.
A reliable resource on human height
The internet contains huge amounts of information relating to human height increase and maximization. A lot of this information is unreliable and written by amateurs with little or no medical experience whatsoever to back up. This misleads web users who put trust in their knowledge.This article is aimed fully at providing factual and reliable information and most of all it's written by a professional with years of experience in this complex field.
Professor L Schmitt has been working at the Institute of Human Development for over 23 years.
It cannot be stressed enough that the earlier in your life you read and fully understand what is discussed in this article, the greater your chance in increasing your height, or even your children's height.
Age & The Growth Curve
When it comes to human height, our growth curve is the most important factor of all to take into consideration. There's a valid reason for this; because there are certain ages when our height can be influenced the most. Most of us know that after the age of 20 we don't grow any more, even if we do, the increase is negligible, however what most people fail to understand is that there are specific time periods within our life that we need to pay special attention to. These time periods are 'windows of opportunity' when our height is increasing at it's fastest rate, allowing us to maximize our growth through lifestyle changes. These specific time periods are known in my profession as "rapid growth velocity surges".
Most people are familiar with the standard human growth curve. Although the general pattern of growth can vary for each individual, for the significant majority of the population, the average curve remains incredibly accurate. Use our unique height percentile tool below to see the average curvature of human growth between the ages of 2 and 20 years. The tool will also plot your own height and age so you can determine whether you are small or tall for your age. The statistical data of clinical growth charts can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
As you will have no doubt noticed from the charts above, there are certain periods during our lift where we grow very rapidly or relatively slowly. There are two reasons for this, the first being due to fluctuations in the release of human growth hormone (HGH) and the other reason being fusion of our growth plates.
Scientist interested in human development have always differentiated from using the standard growth curves (above) and instead prefer to look at growth velocity charts.
The above chart is essentially the differential of the standard growth curve. This displays the rate of growth, rather than actual height. It's kind of like looking at speed rather than distance; the faster the speed results in more distance covered over a same time frame.
It's clear that there are two peaks where growth is at it's highest, with maximum growth velocity being between the ages of 13-14 years for boys. For girls, it's usually 18 months prior to this. This peak is consistent with puberty. We also have a peak from birth to the age of 4 years.
These two peaks are what we earlier referred to as 'windows of opportunity' when it comes to getting the most out of height. Paying attention to these time frames and ensuring the lifestyle of the individual is optimal during these period can enable individuals to grow taller than they would be had they followed poor lifestyle choices.
You will also note that after puberty, the growth velocity dramatically decreases, resulting in very little growth after the age of 17. Again, one of the reasons for this is due to a reduction in the amount of HGH released into our blood. However the main cause of the rapid decline is due to fusion of growth plates.
Also known as 'epiphysial plates', growth plates can be found on each end of linear bones such as the femur (upper peg), tibia and fibula (lower leg). They only exist in children and pre-adulthood because during puberty they are converted from cartilage to bone. Once growth plates have finalized their transition to bone, they are no longer capable of elongating the linear bone any further, hence at this stage growth comes to an end and final height is established.
When there are signs of abnormal slow growth in children, the first step Doctors take is to take a scan of the growth plates, normally those located in the wrist. The growth plates located here are easy to scan and also provide the best evidence as to whether or not an individuals growth plates have fused. A simple x-ray can determine the density of the growth plates. If it's dense, the plate cartilage has fully transformed into bone and the growth plate has fused. Further a fused growth plate within the wrist will also have become completely attached to ulna and radius (forearm bones). See the image below.
In the above image, the growth plate has been purposely highlighted orange. At this stage it is less dense than regular bone, being in a cartilage state. It's quite clear that as growth plate hardens and becomes bone, it fuses with the bones of the forearm, to essentially become two bones, rather than four. I reiterate that at after this transformation (about 18 in males, and 14 in females), height increase is prevented. Anyone interested in growing taller after growth plates have fused needs to face reality and consider the alternative methods of looking taller as well as shrinkage prevention, rather than growing taller.
For further information on this area, you may wish to refer to my article on growth plates role in height increase.
Proof that height is important
For men, height is important. Research suggests that men's height is very important for a woman. Females were asked: "When choosing a male partner, which of the four factors are most important... good looks, height, wealth or personality?". Although the results differed when asking women the same question in person or anonymously, the combined results proved that height is (albeit only just), the most important factor. When asked anonymously, wealth / money turned out to be the most important factor, however when asked face to face they were less likely to admit this, instead height became a very important factor. I recommend reading my previous article which statistically proves that women prefer tall men
Further further statistical analysis also proves that the ideal male height is relatively taller than average. These are the results of 41,958 votes (of men and women), responding to the question: what is the ideal male height?:
It's clear that 5'11" (180cm to 6'2" (188cm) is much more preferable to any other height. This height range is taller than the average male.
Maximum Potential Height
What a lot of people don't realize is that your height is not determined solely by your genetics. Although your parent's genes play a huge role in determining your height, there are a number of environmental factors (discussed further down this article) that you as an individual can do to effect your height. The majority of us fall way short of our maximum potential height (MPT) simply because of our poor lifestyle choices.
Some people may find it surprising that environmental factors can influence our height by up to 5% (equal to 9cm or 3.5 inches in the average male).
As discussed above, genetics make up a huge a part of your height, approximately 95% of it. Unfortunately this significant proportion of our height cannot be influenced by ourselves, it's programmed into our DNA before we are even born. Despite this it's still worth understanding the principle in further detail. It's been widely debated that both parents have an equal impact on your height. There is some truth to this but each parent effects your height at different times of your life. Take a look at the chart below.
The chart above illustrates that a mother's height genes have the greatest impact between fertilization and the age of four years old, however after this, a father's height genes are more influential. Therefore if you are older than four (I suspect that you are, if reading this) then look to your father's height to try to help establish whether you will end up tall or short. If a child is shorter than average at the age of four, but has a taller father, the chances are that the child will catch up and perhaps finally be taller than average. If a child is taller than average at four but has a very short father, chances are that other will catch up and he/she will end up shorter than average.
There is no exact science to determining height by looking at a child's parents. Two brothers may have DNA which programmes them as having different MPTs (maximum potential height), even though they have the same parents. Usually though, their MPTs will be very similar, due to their DNA being a close match. The closest scientists have got to pinpointing which genes effect our height was in 2010 when (180 genetic variants were found to effect 10% of our height.The remaining 90% genetic code influencing our height is yet to be found.
It's no secret that human growth hormone (HGH) plays a fundamental role in our rate of growth and height. A deficiency of HGH results in a noticeable shortage in height, whilst excess levels (acromegaly) results in obvious undesirable growth rates and defects, such as large hands, lips, nose and ears. Sometimes, too much can even be lethal. Obtaining the normal range of human height for any given age depends on the delicate balance of levels of growth hormone running through our blood.
Growth Hormone Deficiency
There are a number of factors that can cause a deficiency of HGH. All causes relate to issues with the pituitary gland. This gland is the size of a pea and is located at the lower part of the brain, shown in the image on the right. Children with a deficiency are generally noticeably shorter than their peers, as well as having rounder face and more body fat. Adults with a deficiency tend to have poor memory, social problems and more belly fat. Growth Hormone does decrease significantly with age, however even mature adults require certain levels to remain healthy.
Deficiencies in growth hormone are easily treatable after diagnosis by means of regular injections. In the past growth hormone was extracted from deceased humans who had donated their bodies, however these days it is produced in a lab.
I often get asked the following question. "Can I increase my height with growth hormone supplementation?". Firstly I would say that yes it is possible, but only if the person taking the supplementation is a male under 16 years old, or a female under 13 years old. After these ages, returning to growth hormone levels will have some benefits, but it won't impact on height due to fusion of growth plates. The second point I would like to make is that, no organization (other than regulated professional medical bodies) is allowed to sell growth hormone for human administration. It's highly likely that anyone selling HGH, or a similar alternative, is part of a scam. It's incredibly difficult to produce and what's more, the consumer has no way of knowing if what they have bought is genuine. HGH supplementation should only be obtained from a highly recognized medical institution.
Can we naturally increase HGH?
The growth hormone levels in our body can be increased without growth hormone supplementation without adverse impact. Many different methods have been discussed, primarily sleep, exercise, amino acid intake and ZMA's. However the only recommended method is quality sleep and exercise, as discussed below. Most legal supplements such as GABA, ZMAs and Amino Acids have no effect on levels of growth hormone, but strenuous exercise does.
Let's take a look at the different factors which 'supposedly' could increase HGH secretion:
Amino Acids (protein)
Amino Acids can increase HGH. Medical evidence has proven that the amino acids arginine, lysene and ornithine can stimulate our levels of growth hormone when combined with resistance training. Evidence has shown growth hormone levels can be spike to 2.7 times their normal levels for a period of 70 minutes post strenuous exercise such as weight lifting. This research paper does however state that very high levels of arginine, lysene and ornithine are required and as such this method is not recommended.
ZMAs (zinc, magnesium & vitamin B6 combo)
ZMA's have been widely discussed on the internet as being a supplement that is capable of increasing HGH secretion. However despite what some supplement retailers have stated, ZMAs can not increase HGH levels. Evidence suggests that this combination of Zinc, Magnesium and Vitamin B6 does not have any impact on growth hormone whatsoever. After deep analysis of the many research papers on this topic, I have come to the conclusion that suggestions of ZMA increase HGH levels is nothing more than a tactic to increase sales of these minerals and vitamins. Despite this, adequate vitamins and minerals are required for nearly all bodily functions including bone growth, growth hormone secretion and so on. For more on this jump to our section below on diet.
It's a proven fact that certain exercises can increases our levels of growth hormone. A study carried out in year 2000 backed up previous research, stating that strenuous exercise provides a sharp, although temporary increase in growth hormone levels. A study in 2010 even provided profound evidence of a 300% increase in growth hormone levels after exercise, as can be seen in the chart below.
You may be wondering what is the definition of 'strenuous exercise'? The above research involved weight lifting, at no time was cardio, endurance or slow activities tested. It must therefore be taken that strenuous exercise means resistance training such as lifting heavy weights, usually for a period of at least 40 minutes. Aerobic activities appear to have very little impact on raising growth hormone levels unless accompanied by short bursts of hard physical exercise such as sprinting. Some scientists believe that any exercise that leads to a depletion in glycogen, such as weight lifting, has the largest positive impact on growth hormone levels. You may wish to refer to our specific section on exercise further down this article for a more detailed analysis.
Most people agree on the fact that adequate sleep is essential for humans to realize normal growth. Research over the years have backed this up, time and time again.
You may wish to refer to our section on sleep further down this page for more detailed information on how sleep effects growth.
One of the most common questions I am asked is: "Does testosterone boost or stunt growth?". Well surprisingly to many, the answer is that it can both boost and stunt growth. The factors that decide whether or not height can be increased or slowed down are (1) the levels of testosterone and (2) the age of the individual.
Research as proven that testosterone can increase bone length by increasing our levels of growth hormone. Obviously, the longer our bones grow the taller we get. So you may be thinking that you can increase your height by boosting your testosterone levels through means such as resistance training, or otherwise. Well, the bad news is that testosterone can also close growth plates. Therefore testosterone initially promotes growth by increasing GH secretion, but then subsequently causes growth to end by causing the closure of the epiphyseal growth plates
Statistical studies show that for optimum growth, testosterone levels should remain at a natural level, or even better at a very slightly raised level. This means leading a healthy lifestyle with plenty of exercise. Certain types of exercise such as intense heavy weight lifting may increase testosterone levels to a point whereby it starts to have a negative impact, by causing rapid closure of the growth plates. Remember, as discussed previously, growth plates at usually 90% closed at about 18 in males, and 14 in females meaning that testosterone levels will have little or no impact after these ages.
One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to height is that we can't do anything to change it. Time and time again, people have said to me that their final height was decided at birth, by the genes that they were given by their parents. I do not doubt that their genes play a huge role in determining their height, in fact most of what this article has talked about already supports this, however we now know that environmental factors can influence our height by up to 5% (equal to 9cm or 3.5 inches in the average male).
Widely considered as the most influential factor on our height that we have in our own control, is the food that we eat.
In a previous article I used a startling fact to prove how much our diet can affect our height . These days Korea is separated into two countries, North and South. It wasn't always this way, the region used to be one country. The people living on both sides of the border are the same ethnicity, speak the same language and probably have the same tastes in food. It's only a recent civil war (60 years ago) that split the people living there into two dividing nations. So why is it that South Koreans are on average four inches taller that their northern neighbours? Quite simply, the answer is their diet. North Korea is much poorer than South Korea and it's food resources are scarce. Little resources are invested into food produce and as a result millions are malnourished, starved of important nutrients that those of us in richer countries take for granted. But what are these nutrients so essential for our height? The three primary nutrient families we need to look at are 'amino acids', 'vitamins' and 'minerals'.
You may be more familiar with the term 'protein'. Protein is made from amino acids and it can be found in nearly all foods. Skip to the foods section below for the types of food high in essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals.
In nature, there are over 1,000 types of amino acids, but for biological life, only 20 are useful. These 20 amino acids are all good for varying reasons, some such as l-glutamine are fundamental for mental development. However of these 20, there are 4 are absolutely fundamental to bone and cartilage development. As discussed earlier, bone length is the primary factor of our height, more specifically, the linear bones such as the femur (upper peg), tibia and fibula (lower leg).
The four amino acids more important for lineal bone growth are:
I've touched on this already. L-Arginine, L-lysine and L-Ornithine can all increase growth hormone secretion. However the effectiveness of these amino acids on growth hormone release is very age dependant. They are most potent for people aged between 18 and 35. Therefore they may perhaps be a good nutrient for people in their late teens wanting to stimulate their ever diminishing growth hormone levels before their growth plates have fused. There are some benefits to increasing growth hormone at any age, but as we already know, growth hormone won't have any effect once growth plates have fused.
A caveat to this is that L-Arginine and L-Ornithine can actually decrease levels of growth hormone if taken immediately before exercise.L-Arginine and L-Ornithine will have the greatest positive effect on growth hormone levels AFTER exercise, not before or during, where it will have a negative effect, as illustrated by the chart to the right.
In addition, recent research suggests that L-Arginine should be taken with choline and vitamin B5 for increased potency.
Amino Acid supplementation should only be taken after advice from a doctor or relevant professional. For people under the age of 5, certain amino acid supplementation may stunt longer term growth.
There is no miracle vitamin that will help you to grow taller. Despite marketing ploys advertising certain vitamins to boost height, vitamins simply cannot achieve this on their own. What can be said about vitamins is that they are absolutely essential for all of our bodily functions. Unless you have a deficiency, I do not advocate taking more than the recommended daily dosage of vitamins (see table below). I will say that certain vitamins when combined with other nutrients can help to boost growth in adolescents. For example, in the amino acids section above, it has been found that combining vitamin B5 with L-Arginine and L-Ornithine the increase in growth hormone levels is higher than without it. Further, as explained in the minerals section (next up), vitamin D is required for calcium processing to help bone growth, which in turn can increase height. My advice is to stick to the Dietary Reference Intake's, as set out perfectly on Wikipedia. There's no need to over-do vitamin intake unless there is a deficiency diagnosed by a doctor. If you suspect a deficiency or you are experiencing slower growth than your peers, have a blood test carried out.
As with vitamins, I advocate a healthy balance of all essential vitamins. There are however a couple that you should pay special attention to - calcium and magnesium. Both help promote lineal bone growth.
Our bones consist primarily of calcium. In fact 99% of all calcium in our body is located within our bones. Keeping in mind that our bodies cannot produce calcium, the growth of our bones depends entirely on how much of this mineral we consume. At different stages of our life we need varying amounts of calcium, in particular during growth spurts it's important that sufficient calcium consumed. There is ample evidence to prove that inadequate calcium intake impairs bone development.
There's conflicting opinion about exactly how much calcium we should be consuming. The table on the right illustrates this, however it is clear that calcium intake should be maximized between the ages of 11 to 24 for both males and females.
Calcium is critical for lineal bone development whilst growth plates are open. Even once growth plates are closed, adequate calcium is required to maintain bone density and prevent bone weakening conditions such as osteoporosis.
Let me also remind you that calcium relies on vitamin D for absorption into our blood stream.
Magnesium is the fourth most common mineral in our bodies and it's crucial for bone growth. It acts as a biological transporter for calcium, directing it to our bones, and away from our arteries where it's not wanted. As with calcium, vitamin D is also required for magnesium to do it's job properly.
If any one of the vitamins or minerals mentioned above are not present, bone growth is compromised. Calcium, Magnesium and Vitamins D & B5 are all required for full functionality leading to bone growth. Our diets are our only means to supply our bones with these ingredients for growth, so it's highly important we eat the right foods to obtain them.
Foods high in L-arginine and L-ornithine
- Crab, lobster & other crustaceans
- Turkey & Chicken breast (try to have skinless)
- Tuna, Haddock & Cod
- Sesame & Sunflower seeds
Foods high in calcium
Foods high in vitamin D
- Cod, mackerel and salmon
Foods high in vitamin B5
All of the above foods should be consumed within a healthy and balanced diet. Even for vegetarians, there are always non-meat options available. There's certainly no excuse for not including spinach, mushrooms, kale and oatmeal in your diets. As I have said countless times, the earlier in your life that you pay attention to your diet, the higher chance you have of growing taller than you would with a poor diet.
Can exercise help us grow taller?
During the right ages, yes. Certain types of exercise can help us to grow taller. Jump above to see a graph showing growth hormone levels after exercise. The primary reason for this is stimulation of growth hormone immediately after carry out certain exercises. Research has proven this fact, however only if the type of exercise is resistance training (machine weights or free weights). the only problem with this is that intense resistance training can also increase estrogen and testosterone levels, which can cause growth plates to close faster. In an ideal world, males and females within their last growth spurt should incorporate some resistance training into their life, however the intensity should be controlled so as not to increase oestrogen and testosterone levels too high. Moderate to low intensity weight lifting for an gender is one of the best ways of stimulating growth hormone in adolescents without causing growth plates to fuse too quickly. High intensity resistance training may substantially increase growth hormone levels, however it's not sustainable and the quick closure of growth plates results in a negative effect on potential height increase.
Resistance training for adolescents
For adolescents, I prefer to use the term 'strength training' rather than 'weightlifting'. The whole idea is to increase strength, not to pack on large muscle, which is undesirable for anyone under the age of 17. Besides increasing growth hormone levels, strength training has many other benefits, such as injury prevention, encourages hard work, reduces risk of disease, increases immunity, increased bone density and improved strength of ligaments and tendons.
For more information regarding strength training for adolescents, I recommend reading this article by Jim Kielbaso
Strength training can be done at home and there's no need to use heavy weights at all. Given it's enormous impact on increase growth hormone levels, resistance training is something that all adolescents should be doing on a regular basis.
So far there is no evidence to show that endurance training (long distance running, cycling, hiking) has any impact on growth hormone levels. As part of a healthy lifestyle, these activities should not be excluded. Our bodies require a healthy lifestyle to function properly, and that includes processing the amino acids, vitamins and minerals (as above), which all have a direct impact on our potential height.
Can hanging make your taller?
A lot of people ask me this question. I wrote a full article specifically about this topic. See here: Does hanging make you taller? If you don't want to read the article, my concluding advice was "The increase in height is temporary only (1 hour) and it's not even noticeable. Spend your free time doing better things."
Stretching can play a part in growing taller. There are two fundamental reasons for this:
(1) Increased blood flow to growth plates
(2) Loosening ligaments and tendons
Stretching increase blood flow to the regions within and around the muscle being stretched. For example, stretching the upper leg (either quadriceps or hamstrings) increases blood flow to not only the upper leg muscles, but also the tendons within the knee and hip joints. Tendons attach muscle to bone. The benefit of increased blood flow to these regions is (1) loosening of the joint (2) this is the location of growth plates. Loosening of the muscle and tendon around a lineal bone such as the femur minimizes any restriction in bone growth. As the bone grows longer, it's constantly being held back by the tension that exists in muscles and tendons. Increasing flexibility reduces this tension. Recent research shows that a reduction in this tension allows lineal bones to grow at an increased rate. The fact that growth plates are also located in the zones of increased blood flow means that they are being 'fed' the nutrients that they require for growth (such as calcium) at a faster rate. The only caveat to this is that certain types of stretching has been found to reduce oxygen levels in these vital areas, these type of stretches are commonly known as 'passive stretches'. Passive stretching is where the stretch is held in position for a set length of time. Compare this to 'dynamic stretches', which use momentum to stretch the muscle, and are at no time stationary. These type of stretches do not compromise oxygen levels within the target area, but they still have the huge benefit of stimulating blood flow to the growth plates. My advice is perform dynamic stretching twice a day, six days a week. Focus on the lower body, as stretching your legs and hips will have a greater impact on your height than any other part of your body. The following video provides excellent examples of lower body stretching.
It's absolutely essential for growth, it's free and it makes you feel great afterwards; sleep should not be underestimated. Not only does sleep allow your muscles, ligaments, cartilage and bone to rest, repair and rebuild, it's primary contribution for growth is it's direct influence on growth hormone secretion. Pay attention, because if you should only read one part of this article, this is it.
Sleep and Growth Hormone
During certain periods of our sleep, growth hormone levels in our blood can increase 10 fold. Research carried out in 1968 still stands as the most profound study of growth hormone levels during sleep. The study involved obtaining blood samples of individuals immediately before and during prolonged sleep. With these samples, growth hormone levels were determined continuously throughout 10 hour periods. The results were illustrated in a chart, shown below.
What can be seen is the growth hormone levels start to rise 20-40 minutes after initiation sleep. Levels continue to rise until reaching a peak usually at around 70 minutes post sleep initiation. The study does however state that people experience peaks at different times, but it's almost always within 39 to 165 minutes post sleep initiation. Levels then slowly decline (although remaining elevated) for the next 1.5 to 2 hours. Base levels are then maintained usually 5 hours before a small increase is usual 1 hour prior to waking.
The study also found that delayed sleep resulted in slightly lower levels of growth hormone, although the same pattern and time scale of peak levels was noticed. but same pattern.
It's common that humans wake up during the night, sometimes on more than one occasion. Provided that these arousals are of very short bursts (no more than 5-6 minute, they have no effect of growth hormone levels through the night.
Sleep, alertness, sleep
As above, growth hormone levels increase 10 fold usually around 30 minutes after we fall asleep. So think about this; if you purposely wake up a few hours into your sleep, after your levels have returned to baseline, can you experience a second increase / boost? The answer is a simple no. Waking up completely, followed by sleeping gave no further rises at all.
Finally the studies showed that the best way to ensure you reach maximum peak levels is to have a regular sleeping pattern. Irregular sleeping patterns disrupts your body clock and results in a decrease in peak levels. So ensure you go to bed at the same time every night (waking up early, at the same time helps you achieve this), also make sure you will not experience any disturbances during the first 3-4 hours of sleep (go to bed with an empty bladder surrounded by a quiet environment) and avoid foods that can disrupt your sleep (see below)
Food near bedtime
Certain foods can either help or disrupt your sleeping patterns, which can have a knock on effect on growth hormone secretion. Foods to avoid include:
- Dark Chocolate - contains caffeine, which stimulates the brain
- Alcohol - although it may make you feel drowsy and cause you to sleep quicker, research has proven it disrupts sleep and increases you chances of wakening through the night.
- Spicy Foods - contain capsaicin which effects our body temperature having a direct impact on the quality of our sleep
- Cheese - contains Tyramine which stimulates the brain
Foods that may help you sleep include:
- Almonds - contain magnesium, which helps relax the brain and muscles. There's also the added bonus of high levels of protein for muscle and bone growth.
- Bananas - another excellent source of magnesium to aid sleep.
- Dairy products (except cheese) - contain Tryptophan, a natural sleep aid.
- Cherries - boosts your levels of melatonin, which has been proven to assist people with insomnia.
How much sleep do we need?
Now that we have established how important sleep is, also keep in mind that at different ages we requires differing amounts of sleep. Use the chart above to work out how much you need. Sleep debt can never be recovered by oversleeping, so don't think that you can 'catch up' with lie-in at the weekend. I cannot stress how important it is to have a regular pattern of going to bed and waking up at the same time each night and day. A regular pattern will not only help you sleep easier and more deeply, it will also increase peak growth hormone levels during your sleep.
Our spine follows a natural curve. Without this s-shape curve, we wouldn't be able to carry out normal movements as our bodies would be too rigid. Sometimes the natural curve can be exaggerated due to laziness or muscle weakness, which results in poor posture. There are a number of problems with poor posture including back ache and the fact that it is displeasing to the eye, however in terms of height, posture can have a huge influence. The image below illustrates how poor posture can decrease your height.
In the above image, both individuals have exactly the same bone lengths, so in theory should be the same height. However, the poor posture shows an exaggerated spinal curve which effectively causing a reduction in overall length. Almost everyone suffers from poor posture to some extent, as the modern way of life such as office desk working and soft mattresses cause both muscle weakness and spinal movement.
The average adult has a 1 inch reduction in height due to posture, sometimes much more. The problem is that it's not easy to correct if it left for too long. It's important to think about improving your posture from an early age to reduce the chances of it being impossible to rectify. Here are a few things you should consider:
- Sleep on a firm mattress and lie on your back, but use a very thin pillow to prevent your head being pushed too far forward.
- When standing, use a mirror to align your ears, shoulders, and hips. These points should make a straight line, despite your spine curving naturally.
- Perform the following exercise - push your head back by tucking your chin into your neck, whilst bringing your shoulder blades together.
- Consider strength training, especially for the back muscles.
Smoking, Alcohol and other drugs
Certain drugs are known to have dire and irreversible consequences on height. In a recent study, boys who smoked 10 cigarettes a day between the ages of 12 and 17 grew about 1 inch shorter than non-smoking boys. The harmful chemicals inhaled into our lungs are instantly absorbed into our bloodstream causing havoc on growth hormone levels and normal functioning of our brain and other organs. These chemicals also stunt lineal bone growth and decrease growth hormone levels. On top of this smoking has been proven to cause osteoporosis (weak and fragile bones) later in life. Alcohol is also clinically proven to have the same harmful effects on growth.
The concept behind hypnosis impacting on our height stems from the theoretical idea that every thought processed in our brain produces a hormonal or enzyme release, although sometimes at very negligible amounts. The problem is that there is absolutely no credible medical evidence to suggest that this theory is factual. CD's that claim to increase height by hypnosis can be purchased, however given that research has (so far) proven that hypnosis does not have any impact on height, I feel that you would be wasting your money and time trying.
Maintenance of height
Unfortunately we all start to lose height after the age of 25 years. It's a slow and gradual process but after years of decline, the loss of height most people experience is visually noticeable, particularly as they reach their 50's.
On average, we lose 1 inch between the ages of 30 and 70 and a further 1 inch from 70 to 80. This is what we call exponential decline, whereby the loss starts gradually, but the rate of loss increases rapidly as the years go by. Despite initial height loss being unnoticeable, it's important to understand how to minimize shrinkage from your early twenties. At this point, you won't grow any more but there are a wide range of thing you can do to slow down the rate of shrinkage so that much of your height is retained as a mature adult.
The causes of shrinkage
- Poor posture - poor posture reduces an average mature adults height by 1 inch, sometimes more
- Osteoporosis (weakening bones)
- Wearing of cartilage - particular within our ankle, knee and hip joints.
- Spinal disc compression - the vertebrae within our back accounts for a huge proportion of our height, when our spine is compressed due to years of gravity pulling down on it, our height suffers.
What can you do to minimize shrinkage?
We have already talked about improving posture and osteoporosis prevention through a good diet
so in this section I want to focus on spinal compression and wearing of cartilage, or more specifically how to prevent them.
Our spine is made up of 24 vertebrae and 23 inter-vertebrae discs. The primary purpose of these discs is to allow flexibility in our back, otherwise our bodies would be rigid. The discs also absorb shocks through our body, for example when walking. For these reasons the discs are soft and spongy. Unfortunately as we get older they become less supple and decrease in thickness, reducing our height. Take a look at the image below:
Research has suggested that around 25% of us suffer from some sort of degenerative disc disease before the age of 40. This condition is the primary reason for height loss in humans. This may be alarming but there are things you can do to prevent, or minimize it's impact on your height.
Low impact exercise involving stretching can stimulate blood flow to cartilage and vertebrae disc zones. Yoga is the best example.
In terms of diet and supplementation, long-term intake of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate has been found to counteract disc degeneration, especially if supplementation is taken at an early stage in life. Another crucial factor is to always remain hydrated. Men and women should drink a minimum of 2 litres and 1.6 litres, respectively, per day and even more if carry out exercise. Water not only helps bodily functions operate properly, it will also help maintain the suppleness of the vertebrae discs.
After adolescence, height increase is naturally impossible, however there are a few aesthetic tips that can help you look taller than you actually are, and they are all easy to pull off.
Wear monochromatic clothes - wearing the same shade/colour top to toe can create an illusion to make you appear taller when viewed at a distance before than 2 metres.
Wear fitted clothes - fitted clothes will prevent baggy areas on your clothes, which in turn will make you appear wider, thus shorter.
Vertical not horizontal stripes - horizontal stripes on clothes will make you appear wider, whilst vertical stripes make you appear taller.
Keep jackets short - don't wear jackets that come too far past your waist. Shorter jackets will give you the appearance of being taller. Ideally your jacket should hang at the length as your sleeves.
Small patterns - patterns such as check shirts should have small, intricate patterns rather than large ones, making you appear bigger.
You may find this article useful which explains some of the above concepts in more detail.
Your hair presents an excellent opportunity to appear taller. You may be surprised by how many people actually style their hair purposely to gain height. Some people have suggested to me that Justin Bieber is a prime example. Justin Bieber's height is 5 ft 7 inches, supposedly (which is considered very short for a man. However looking at the image below, the height of his hair appears to be half the length of his face, giving him approximately 2.5 inches additional height. That's a transformation from 5ft 7 to 5ft 9.5, taking him to almost average height.
When walking with other people, ensure that you choose to walk on the highest part of ground. You will notice most side walks, road or paths are not level, usually one side is higher than the other to allow water to drain off. Try this and you will notice an obvious difference in how tall you feel. Another tip is to keep your distance from stranger that are tall; if your in a bar try to hang out with your friends around shorter people. Standing next to a tall group of guys is not going to help.
Shoes are extremely subtle and discreet in making you appear taller. All shoes have difference base thickness so if you are concerned about your short stature try to buy shoes that have thicker soles, particularly at the heel area. Some celebrities have been caught purposely standing on their tip toes to increase their height in photographs, however the easier solution is to wear thick soled shoes, although certain people such as Bono from U2 are not always subtle (see image).
These are an innovative cheap and quick way to add a few inches to your height. They are designed to be placed inside your existing shoes and raise the heel of the foot by a desired height. Usually they are adjustable and therefore height can be increased gradually with the use of multiple layers to prevent obvious sudden gains. I certainly recommend them.
Please see a more in depth article on shoe lifts here.
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