The modern scientific and medical communities express consistent views on the various factors that affect height is pubescent girls. There is not only one aspect that increases a girl’s height, but many that contribute to her overall growth.
Swimming and cycling do not increase a 10-year-old girl’s height. Height is mostly dependent on genetics, and partially dependent on nutrition and hormones. While physical activity (whether swimming, cycling, or any other sport) can boost metabolism and contribute to overall good health, it does not have a direct affect on height. Girls tend to start their growth spurt at the onset of puberty around age 10 and finish by their late teens, but it is different for everyone.
Learning more about what causes the body to grow can prevent you from inhibiting your growth. Keep in mind that variants in development during puberty are normal and not a cause for worry. Everyone grows at a different rate!
What Actually Affects Your Growth Height?
A child’s height is primarily determined by genetics, and secondarily by nutrition. Your height will be mostly determined by your parents’ height, and proper nutrition in childhood will help you realize that stature.
Your genetics are the biggest factor in determining your final height.
Genetics account for 60-80% of your final height. Since growth patterns tend to run in families, that means that your height has much to do with how tall or short your parents are.
Scientists do not yet know which gene(s) determine height by studying and comparing the genomes of twins. Genes are complex and this is something still yet to be discovered.
Proper nutrients in childhood can also influence height.
Malnutrition is detrimental to height. It is estimated that 159 million children under age 5 worldwide are stunted due to chronic malnutrition. Growth retardation can begin in utero. Malnourished children can develop later than other children their age, and may have on-going effects if it is not improved.
Adequate nutrition is especially crucial before puberty. Protein, calcium, vitamin A, and vitamin D are all important nutrients for final height. Sweet potatoes, carrots, and spinach are rich in vitamin A. Salmon, egg yolks, and mushrooms are high in vitamin D. Calcium can be found in beans, lentils, and seeds (like sesame, poppy, and chia seeds).
Good nutrition can’t help you outgrow what is already determined by your genetics, but there is preliminary evidence that good nutrition can slowly cause an increase in height over generations.
What can Prevent or Stop Growth?
Growth delays in childhood can be caused by:
- hormonal imbalances
- severe arthritis
- genetic conditions
Growth will typically stop a few years after a girl’s first period. Once girls reach their late teens, it is unlikely that they will increase in height because growth plates fuse together through a process called ossification. Essentially, you grow when the plates at the ends of your bones are added on to. When you are done growing (at the end of puberty), they seal themselves and no additional bone will grow. An x-ray of your bones can tell you if your plates have sealed.
Swimming and Cyclingdoes Not Increase Your Height.
There is no scientific evidence that cycling or swimming can increase your height – at any age. Playing sports also requires different nutritional demands, and it is the nutrition that has the impact on height during the developmental years. There is a correlation between being a good swimmer/cyclist and being tall, but there is not causation because these athletes are reaching their appropriate and expected height (not exceeding it).
High-achieving swimmers tend to be tall. For example, 28-time Olympic medalist Michael Phelps is 6’4”. However, it is not all of the swimming that made him taller; it is because being tall gave him a distinct advantage in the sport. Having longer arms, legs, and torso gives taller people more surface area to propel themselves forward. A taller person usually has proportionally larger and longer hands and feet – similar to how a larger paddle helps you kayak faster, or longer flippers help your kick move you faster. Swimming is a sport where a race can be won or lost over milliseconds, so even these small biological advantages can make all the difference.
In cycling, a long spine is a visualization cue for proper posture while riding; however, it does not actually lengthen your spine. Cycling (like most athletic activities) can build stronger bones, but it cannot cause them to grow any taller. Similar to swimming, it is not the sport that makes cyclists taller than average, it’s just easier to be a good cyclist when you are a taller to get more power transfer.
Practicing good posture will help you stand taller and maximize your height. In contrast, poor posture may make you look shorter than you actually are and could decrease your actual height over time. Although there is no physical activity that can increase your height, yoga is a healthy practice to maintain your height with good posture.
Your actual height can vary slightly throughout the day due to the fluid sacs in between your spinal discs. Standing up applies pressure, which causes them to compress. Lying down allows them to expand again. This is why some people claim that hanging from a bar or stretching can increase your height, but it can only do so temporarily and not by much (about 1 cm). By the same logic, astronauts become taller while in space! There is less gravity pressing down on the spine so the spinal discs do not compress as much, making them taller. Once the astronauts return to Earth, they eventually return to their previous height.
How to Reach Your Full Height
Here are some healthy habits to help 10-year-olds grow.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
Pre-teens need 10-12 hours of sleep each night. Your human growth hormone (HGH) is released while you sleep. Going to bed earlier can help you achieve the rest your body needs. Getting proper sleep each night will not allow you to outgrow your genetic predisposition, but sleep deprivation suppresses the growth hormone.
- Eat nutritious meals.
Well-balanced meals should include fresh vegetables, fresh fruit, protein, and whole grains. There is preliminary evidence that getting enough protein can positively contribute to increasing your height during childhood, especially during the early years.
- Exercise regularly.
Staying active promotes HGH production, among many other benefits (such as strengthening your bones and muscles, and helping you maintain a healthy weight). Exercises should include: strength, flexibility, and aerobics.
Visit Your Doctor
Growth patterns are different for everyone. Play an active role in your healthcare by talking to your doctor or healthcare professional if you have concerns. They may be able to conduct further tests, such as: a thorough physical exam, an evaluation of eating habits, blood tests, and x-rays to view bone health.