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. 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. 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.
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.
Eat Right: 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.
Just Say No: 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.
Don’t Forget Calcium: 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. 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.
Enjoy the Sunshine: 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. 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.
Sleep 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. There is also evidence that sleep is involved in triggering the onset of puberty.
Get Physical: 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. Gaining bone mass early in life is also important for preventing osteoporosis later. It is recommended that children between the ages of 6 and 17 get at least an hour of physical activity daily.
Stand Tall & Proud!
So, what can you do as an adult to stand a little taller? The way you carry yourself has a great impact on how tall you 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.
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.
- 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.
- Specific yoga asanas, like cobra pose and locust pose, can also strengthen muscles in the back and those that help support the shoulder blades.