One thing that somewhat distinguishes running from many other sports is that there’s a lot of diversity in terms of the body shape and size of runners.
Some runners are super tall and lean, with long lanky legs. Other runners are compact little engines with small frames and short limbs. Still, other runners have a muscular build and a solid body and seem to be of average height.
But, while the sport of running doesn’t necessarily draw a certain body type to self-select themselves to become runners, does running make you taller or shorter?
If you do a lot of running when you’re young, can running make you taller?
In this article, we will look at the impact of running on height and answer the question, “Does running make you taller or shorter?”
We will discuss:
- Does Running Make You Taller?
- Does Running Make You Shorter?
- How Does Running Make You Taller?
Let’s get started!
Does Running Make You Taller?
So, can running make you taller?
A surprising number of people are under the impression that running can make you taller, but this is not really true.
Running does not make you grow taller, especially if you are already a full-grown adult who has completed puberty.
This typically occurs by age 18-19 for young women and 21 for young men.
Bones grow via growth plates at the end of the long bones. These growth plates are open from the time we are born through childhood and adolescence until the end of puberty.
Once the growth plates close at the end of puberty, skeletal growth ceases; at this point, you have reached your maximum adult height.
Therefore, provided you’re past the age of puberty, running should not significantly affect your height in either direction.
Your adult height is largely determined by your genetics, with studies suggesting that up to 60 to 81% of your height is attributable to your genetics.
Another factor that can affect your height includes your nutritional intake during childhood and puberty.
For example, malnutrition, inadequate caloric intake, low protein intake, and insufficient calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, and magnesium anywhere from infancy through to the end of puberty can compromise your weight gain and potentially stunt your growth.
Does Running Make You Shorter?
Parents of children often ask, “Does playing sports make you taller?” or “Does running stunt your growth?”
Again, in most cases, even during childhood, exercise or running specifically won’t really make the child taller, nor should it stunt growth.
Evidence suggests that some amount of exercise is actually required to stimulate the epiphyseal growth plates.
However, it’s important that adequate energy intake always accompanies exercise during growth in order to support physical activity without compromising growth by using up the necessary energy for growth.
Research has shown that exercise can support skeletal growth because it helps facilitate the hormonal milieu that is necessary for statural growth.
For example, physical activity stimulates the secretion of human growth hormone (HGH) and other anabolic hormones.
Exercise also seems to help direct metabolism towards utilizing fats and energy towards growth rather than other potential uses.
On the other hand, there is some evidence to suggest that excessive exercise may temporarily block statural growth by competing for energy/nutrients required for growth.
Furthermore, while catch-up growth can occur, depending on the timing and degree of the energy deficit, growth retardation may be permanent.
All this is to say, provided a child is not doing an extreme amount of running, running should not stunt growth, and exercise encourages normal healthy bone growth.
Again, the majority of the eventual height is determined by genetics.
How Does Running Make You Taller?
Although it’s a myth that running can make you taller, this belief is perpetuated by the fact that running can improve your posture, which in turn, can make you appear taller.
Additionally, running improves your musculoskeletal health and strength, so long-term, habitual running may help prevent age-related degenerative conditions that might otherwise lead to a loss of height.
Here are some of the ways that running may help you either preserve your height or make you appear taller:
#1: Running Can Improve the Health and Height of Your Intervertebral Disks
The intervertebral discs in the spine are made from fibrocartilaginous tissue, and they cushion and separate the vertebrae of the spine.
Research has shown that running improves the health and height of the intervertebral discs. For example, one study looked at the morphological characteristics of the intervertebral discs of middle-aged (44 to 62 years old) runners and non-runners.
The intervertebral discs of middle-aged runners had 20% more height, and seven percentage points greater IVD-vertebral body height ratio compared to the intervertebral discs for non-runners.
Furthermore, the intervertebral discs of runners who had been running for a greater number of years and/or a greater number of miles per week displayed the best morphological characteristics.
These findings indicate that the intervertebral discs of middle-aged, long-term distance runners exhibit less age-related decline in volume and health.
If your discs retain more of their height as you age, you’ll maintain your stature without shrinking.
#2: Running Can Help Prevent Osteoporosis
People often say that you shrink as you get older, and most of this loss of height is probably attributable to low bone density.
Osteoporosis, which is a condition marked by poor bone density, is associated with a loss of height.
The good news is that studies suggest that running can be even more effective than resistance training in terms of its ability to increase bone density and stave off osteoporosis.
The high-impact nature of running subjects bones to stress that stimulates them to adapt. These adaptations include laying down more cellular and mineral matrices to form denser trabeculae of bone.
By strengthening your bones, running can help preserve your height as you age by preventing the degeneration of the spine.
#3: Running Can Improve Your Posture
Have you ever noticed how much taller someone looks when they stand or sit up straight?
Good posture can definitely make you appear taller because it maximizes your height. When you slouch, some of your potential vertical height is wasted bending forwards.
Running can improve your posture because you have to “run tall” and keep a nice erect spine in order to optimize the space in your thoracic cavity for breathing.
Your shoulders should be back, chest up, and spine nice and long as if there’s an invisible string attaching the top of your head to the sky.
Additionally, running can strengthen and increase the endurance of your core muscles, such as the rectus abdominis and transversus abdominis in the abs and the erector spinae and multifidus muscles along the spine in the back.
In this way, by running, it can become easier for you to maintain proper posture after sitting or standing for hours, allowing you to keep your torso fully upright.
This will maximize your height and help you look taller.
#4: Running Helps You Manage Your Weight
Although the short answer to “Does running make you taller?” is no, the short answer to “Does running make you thinner?” is it definitely can.
Studies suggest that running can be a very effective form of exercise to help you lose weight and maintain your weight loss.
Of course, losing weight has no real impact on your skeletal height, but the reality is that if you lose weight, you will look thinner.
This, in turn, can definitely make you look taller.
Many people agree that weight loss can deceive the eyes into believing the person has grown taller.
Therefore, in addition to the inherent perk of dropping some excess pounds in and of itself, losing weight via running can potentially make you look like you’ve gained some height!
#5: Running Can Increase Your Confidence
Okay, so this one takes a bit more buy-in, but running can improve your confidence, elevate your mood, and alleviate symptoms of depression.
When you feel mentally and emotionally healthy and strong, and you’re proud and excited about who you are, you command a larger presence, and you carry yourself in a manner that exemplifies holistic well-being.
You will stand taller, strut more boldly, and radiate energy, all of which can make you look taller.
Again, just think of the height you lose when you slouch over or cower down when you’re meek, sad, anxious, down, or self-conscious.
So, does running make you taller?
While running isn’t going to make you taller or shorter, running can improve your posture, and this, in turn, can make you appear taller.
Looking to improve your running form to help you stand up straighter? Take a look at our guide to proper running form.