A primer on your height & what you can do about it:
Your height is determined between 60%-85% by your genetics. The remainder of that is environmental, primarily nutrition . If you’re malnourished during your growing years you won’t reach your full potential. If you get enough nutrition you’ll likely reach your genetically predetermined height, possibly a little taller.
There is some indication that getting enough protein through your developmental years can add to your height positively. In Japan after the war, the population had access to more fish protein and the average height of the country increased three inches . Denmark has become one of the tallest countries in the world, and its rise in height is strongly correlated to its wealth per capita . The most likely takeaway here is that people who can afford to eat, and eat well, will be taller over generations. It’s easy to make this connection between these two long term correlations. Nutrition can slowly cause an increase in height between generations. It’s no guarantee that you’ll be taller through eating, but proper nutrition through your formative years can add a bit onto your genetics. A good, balanced diet of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates (eat food, not too much, mostly plants) and you’ll do fine.
They’ve been doing some research on fraternal twins to try to determine what the specific gene is that determines height. The reason that they’re looking at fraternal twins rather than identical twins is that their exact DNA is different but most of the environmental factors are the same (what the mother ate while they were pregnant, probably how they were treated after they were born, etc). They can then compare the genomes of the twins after they reach their height and see what is different between them. They do this for thousands of fraternal twin pairs to determine which parts of their genomes are different. As of writing this they think it’s partly in the X chromosome and chromosomes 7, 8, and 20. Scientists haven’t narrowed it down entirely, as genes are pretty complex and it’s not as simple as it’s explained in your general science classes with recessive genes and dominant genes .
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As you grow up, your bones get longer. Everyone hasat the ends of their bones. As you grow, these plates are added onto. When you go through growth spurts, particularly puberty, they are added onto rather quickly. Some people experience growing pains in their bones as they expand. When you’re done growing (mostly by the time you’re 18-25), your bones , the epiphyseal plates seal themselves, and you stop growing taller and longer. At that point you’re done. No more growing. That’s it.
How do I know if my Epiphyseal plates have sealed?
I’m going to quote this answer:
When looking at an x-ray of your limbs, look for the line between the diaphysis (shaft of the long bone) and epiphysis (rounded articulation/ where the joint lies). Here is a picture of the epiphyseal plates of the distal tibia and fibula in an ankle:
You can easily see the dark line above both “ankles” or malleoli. These are the epiphyseal plates you are looking for. Here is a picture when the “growth plates” are “sealed”:
You can see the white line on both sides of the knee, known as an epiphyseal scar. The white line means the area is more dense, whereas the dark line from before means it is the less dense, growing cartilaginous tissue. If the white line exists, it means the epiphyseal plate has “closed” and no additional bone will grow from the cartilage.
Your height actually decreases slightly through the day. In between your spinal discs there are fluid sacs. When you stand up, your head and shoulders put axial pressure on your spine and cause these sacs to compress. You can shrink by as much as 1% of your height this way (this will not accumulate beyond 1%, 1% is the most you will lose, even by standing up for a month straight) .
Simply lying down will allow them to expand again.
This isn’t a big deal, though there are several sites out there than claim otherwise and claim that they can create extra space between your spinal bones. Additionally, there are claims that stretching and hanging can increase your height. This is a quarter true. Hanging and stretching can reverse the compression, making you slightly taller until your spine compresses again. Spinal compression can reduce your height temporarily by 1%. In tall people this can be as much as a half inch. Stretching and hanging and lying down can restore this 1%, but won’t make you taller .
For this same reason, astronauts can be as much as 2″ taller in space. There’s not enough gravity putting axial pressure against their spine to compress it. Additionally, the fluid pressure in the sacs can exceed any forces pressing against them allowing astronauts to expand past that 1%. When they come back to earth, they return to their normal height over the course of months .
Your height and sports
Because of the growth plates, and the fact that your spine can compress, people got the idea that weightlifting and high impact sports could cause you to not grow as much. They’re not quite right. There has been no evidence that weightlifting can stop your growth . The origins of weightlifting being a thing that stunted your growth came from a couple of places, most recently a 1970s study of Japanese child laborers. The children that did work all day ended up shorter than average . The truth behind the stunted growth is, of course, malnutrition. Child laborers worked long hours and didn’t make much money, not nearly enough to feed themselves well.
Another reason people used to think weightlifting was bad for children was they didn’t develop muscles like you do as an adult. Children don’t have enough hormones yet for muscles to develop properly, but what weightlifting can do for them is put stress on the bones, encouraging them to grow as well as help them develop their central nervous system, allowing pathways to be created for them to do more work as they go into adulthood. A lot of lifting weights is in the head.
Recent studies have shown that weight lifting at any young age can help build bones and stave off obesity for children leading into their adulthood. Weight lifting at a young age has also been shown to prevent injuries and osteoporosis into old age.
Sports have a tendency to self select. I’ve seen so many questions: Can basketball make me taller? Can swimming make me taller? These questions are based on the fact that professional baseball players are tall and well known swimmers are tall. The well known players are tall because being tall gives them a distinct advantage in these sports. I swam for fifteen years, all through my growing years. I’m 5’7″. It doesn’t work like that. Further, basketball is pretty high impact. Short sprints, stops, starts, jumps. If someone thought weight lifting would stunt your growth, basketball would too for the same reasons. Every time you jump, you put several times your body weight against your muscles and bones. Much more than you would be weightlifting at that age. The same thing goes with gymnasts. They’re not short because the sport makes them short, they’re short because it’s easier to be a great gymnast when you’re short. 
But it’s not quite as simple as that, either. Studies on female gymnasts revealed that in their youth, they show slowed height growth, primarily in their legs. When they stop doing gymnastics, they are able to reach their full potential. Gymnasts who start young have decreased bone age compared to people who start later, when they quit, their spine height and legs grow more and fully catch up to where they are predicted to be based on genetics within eight years of quitting. Men did not experience this at all. Through out their entire growth within the sport, they don’t suffer from abnormal bone ages or strange growth patterns and actually end up being as tall as they should be based on genetics even while continuing the sport . The gymnasts they analyzed reached their full genetic height under the conditions analyzed. Most of them were actually just supposed to be short, their parents were short. It’s mainly a correlative link between the sport and the height, possibly connected to nutrition.
Several other studies relating to particular sports (ballet, wrestling, distance running) link to height issues. These sports, along with gymnastics, particularly for females, have rigorous training requirements limiting the time children have to eat. Additionally, the sports themselves put particular demands on the participants weight . It’s likely these growth impediments are due more to nutritional deficits rather than something intrinsic to the sport.
Studies performed on swimmers, gymnasts, and tennis players also support the correlation to height but not causation because the participants are actually reaching their appropriate height, not exceeding it. As far as the sport goes, they’re just self-selected for their height.
Sleep During Development
There have been a few studies that I was able to find relating to sleep patterns and growth. It’s well known that when you sleep your body releases all sorts of hormones and most of your growth and recovery happens at this time . One would think that a lack of sleep would cause stunted growth.
For children aged 5-11 and 1-10 there were a couple studies done. One found a very weak negative correlation between sleep time and height. In neither study did the researchers conclude that the correlation was significant enough to say that sleep correlated with height growth at this age  .
Other studies involving interviews over a couple of years with adolescents found that sleep problems were correlated with lower “puberty scores” (that tracks their development to adult-hood). However, an association between height and sleep wasn’t noticed, but the researchers noted that more needed to be done [note: I could be reading that wrong, It’s possible it wasn’t tracked at all; if someone knows better, let me know] .
Finally, and much more indicative of likely issues, a study performed on children diagnosed with sleep apnea showed their height was affected negatively by the apnea condition .
Based on this research it looks like there could be an issue related to height growth and a significant lack of sleep. In any case, based on the overall benefits of sleep, I’d recommend not skimping on sleep during your growth years, and getting checked out forif you have noticed any of the symptoms.
Myths Concerning Growing Taller and Stunted Growth
There are tons of old wives’ tales out there about strategies for growing taller. They might not all hurt you, but they sure won’t help. If anyone has any studies that back up any of these strategies, I’d gladly move them from my myths section to my realities section:
- Skipping. How this is a thing I have no idea, particularly when you look at the myths (and realities) laid out earlier about gymnastics and weightlifting. If weightlifting makes you short (myth) and gymnastics makes you short (partially true, as detailed above), how would skipping (relatively high impact asymmetric leaping from one foot to the other) make you taller?
- Sports like: Swimming, basketball, cycling, any others, making you taller, dispelled above. They’re amazing activities and can help you grow stronger, faster, smarter, and build teamwork and leadership skills, but they won’t make you taller.
- Stretching and yoga. Things like “Growing Tall for Idiots”. They can help your posture, but as you’re growing they won’t add inches, they’ll just help you express your height.
- Hanging exercises. They’ll decompress your spinal disks allowing you to gain as much as a half inch in the middle of the day, but the gains will only last a few hours.
- Salt in your shoes.
- Praying and wishful thinking. They might make you feel better, but you won’t get taller as a result.
- Miracle pills — things like Ayurvedic Urea, Ayurvedic “Step Up.” is a unsubstantiated claim applied to medicines and supplements. Even actual Ayurvedic practitioners will tell you that there is nothing in any Ayurvedic textbook on height increase. All height increase supplements are snake oil.
- Particular diets and foods (milk, etc) will make you taller. While eating enough is essential to realizing your full potential, there’s no evidence that any particular food will have more effect than anything else. There’s also no evidence that other animal’s growth hormones (like trace amounts of bovine growth hormone in milk) will help you grow taller or stronger. The only diet you need is one that contains a good balance of carbs, proteins, fats, and contains all the vitamins and minerals you need.
- Particular foods will stunt your growth. There is NO evidence that coffee stunts your growth . Diet Coke does not stunt your growth . The major problems with diet drinks and coffee are that they contain very little in the way of nutrients and can fill up a kid’s stomach. Plus, caffeine can be used as an appetite suppressant. All of this adds up to a child not getting enough nutrients. Sodas aren’t great because they’re packed with sugar. While you need sugar, you don’t need the amount a couple sodas give you, and you need other nutrients just as much: proteins, fats, vitamins and electrolytes like potassium and calcium. I kept my kids away from these drinks to keep their appetite going so they have enough room to eat.
- That particular activities like weight lifting will stunt your growth, as mentioned above.
- Exercise releases HGH that will help you grow. Studies on this phenomenon have shown that HGH release through exercise only has an effect on the localized areas that are exercised. Lifting legs releases much more GH than lifting arms. If you work legs and arms in the same day, it will not make your arms stronger than if you lift your arms by themselves even though your body is coursing with GH . There is no reason to think that your height will be affected by GH released through exercise for that reason and there is no evidence to back up that claim. Exercise and weight lifting during puberty is a great thing, it could possibly set you up to be much stronger and healthier throughout your life…just not taller.
What can actually be done about your height?
There are few things that can be done, and most of these treatments are only responsibly given in cases of abnormalities. As stated above, the best thing you can do is strive to be as tall as you can naturally be by eating properly through your childhood. As mentioned above, by eating a balanced diet with plenty of protein, carbs, and fat, you may be able to exceed genetic expectations by a small amount — possibly more over several generations of proper eating. Exercise and sports can be helpful in keeping you healthy and generating strong bones, but in the end it won’t make you taller than your genes say you will be.
Occasionally, there comes along a case where a child is short inexplicably. When you bring a short kid into see the doctor, they’ll eliminate diet first. Most of the time if the child isn’t eating right and then they start eating properly, they’ll shoot right up. In some cases, the kid is eating right, but they just aren’t growing. To qualify for these cases you usually have to be in the bottom 3rd percentile of your age but you should be higher, based on genetic predictors. In those cases HGH treatments have shown that they can grow over 9 centimeters over the adjusted predictions . If this is the case for you, see a doctor and ask them about it. They’ll usually do tests to determine if your body isn’t generating enough hormones. If it is generating enough, a responsible doctor won’t give you more. It’s not safe to mess around with the endocrine system. Too much of different hormones introduced artificially can make glands stop producing normally and shrink.
There are a number of conditions that can make you appear shorter.
Getting these conditions diagnosed and treated can add several inches to your effective height, making you appear the height that you are.
Additionally, a lot of people experience bad posture. Later in life you won’t grow taller, but if you get in the gym, start being active, and focus on standing up straight and tall you can fully express your height. There’s no special exercise you need to do (back exercises can help like Straight Leg Dead Lifts) but it’s more a focus on being active and standing tall.
- Keep your head level, looking forward, not up or down.
- Chest out
- Shoulder blades back and tucked down, like you’re trying to make your neck longer
- Slightly flexed abs for support
- Pelvic floor neutral
There is a controversial, expensive, painful, high risk surgery with a very long recovery time called. They break your tibia and fibula then affix a device to keep them separated.
While this is taking place, you cannot put weight on your bone and you have to undergo 1-2 hours of physical therapy daily to keep the bones from getting stiff. This process can take months to complete. After the new bone is formed there is another 6 months strengthening time period where you need to carefully strengthen the bone without the lengthening device. The entire process can take as long as 2 years. Even after all that there are dozens of complications:
- The new bone may not form solidly and there’s a good chance of breakage within 2-3 months.
- The new bone may not form in the proper angle.
- You might not grow the expected 2-3 inches.
- Your leg lengths may not be even afterwards.
- An infection can be catastrophic.
- Nerve damage could cause you to lose the leg entirely.
Usually the only time they do this surgery is to correct cases where one leg is significantly shorter than the other. Because of the recovery process, any credible doctor will have the patient go through a psych evaluation prior to the surgery to validate that they can handle the recovery process. Personally, it sounds dangerous, risky, and pointless .
There are a few strategies to help you appear to be taller as well.
Shoes: Wear shoes with bigger heels. At certain point you could be pushing the bounds of traditional fashion, but if you feel like you can rock it, by all means:
You can get insoles called risers that can make a normal shoe act like high heels and push you up without having anything look different externally.
Combine the two and you could add several inches.
Clothes that fit: When you wear clothes that actually fit you, it can make you appear longer than normal, particularly skinny jeans and shirts that aren’t baggy.
Working out: You don’t need to get massive or muscular and you don’t need to get super skinny. Keeping your body fat down can contribute to your looking lean (not to mention being and looking healthy). Getting your body down below 20% body fat for a man should be a goal for both health and looking good. At this point clothes will fit better and give you longer lines.
Wear horizontal stripes: This one’s a little counterintuitive, but it’s been backed up by science 
Horizontal stripes actually make you look thinner and taller than vertical ones.
Taller hair: Putting your hair in a more vertical alignment will make your face look longer helping give the impression of height.
Exude confidence: Easier said than done, but a self-confident person always appears larger than they actually are.
When all else fails: Get some painting stilts.
Finally, in contradiction to everything I said above, there are some people who have conditions like a tumor affecting their pituitary gland which controls certain growth hormones. They often experience uncontrollable growth.
Before you start researching how you can give yourself a pituitary tumor, people afflicted with this after puberty will see their hands and feet grow continuously along with their skin thicken, soft tissues grow and organs increase in size. It’s not a pleasant condition .
Height is not everything
In closing, there’s nothing wrong with being short. Some of the most powerful men in the world have been short. Your height doesn’t make you a better person, it doesn’t make you more attractive or less attractive, at least to people that matter. What matters more than anything else is how you project yourself. The more confident you are, the more you can accomplish and that has nothing to do with your height.
Make the most of who you are. It doesn’t matter if people physically look down on you right now if you can make your mark on history.
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