“…there is no research which proves categorically that there is any need for separate stretching sessions, phases or exercises to be conducted to improve performance or safety….There is no real need to prescribe separate stretching exercises or sessions, since logically structured training should take every joint progressively through its full range of static and dynamic movement” – Dr. Mel Siff Continue reading
Are you vertically challenged? Genetics and environmental factors play the single greatest role in determining your height. Access to good health care and proper nutrition will contribute to how tall you become but your parents are the real instigators. Blame them or thank them. Another component rarely considered is good posture. Practicing proper upright posture everyday can add some height and give the impression of tallness and confidence.
Sadly its true as we age, beginning at approximately 40, we get shorter. Statistics show an average lose of four-tenths of an inch of height every decade. The Lilliputianing occurs as part of the normal aging process: some of it because of diseases like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis and the rest can be attributed to our old frenemy, gravity. Over our lifetimes it flattens and squeezes the fluid permanently from our discs. Damn you Newton!
- Average height for American men: 5 ft. 10 inches
- Average height for American women: 5 ft. 4.5 inches
- Tallest person ever: 8 ft. 11 inches
- Tallest people in the world (avg. of men and women) are the Dutch: 6 ft. 1 inch
So you want to make yourself taller? Short of getting the horribly painful and expensive Symmetric Extended Limb Lengthening surgery you could measure yourself right when you get out of bed in the morning and wallah you’ll be taller! Sadly, it won’t be a lot, maybe up to 1/2 inch if you are lucky. When you sleep your spongy discs in-between your vertebra greedily suck in fluid from the surrounding area, pushing your bones father apart and elongating your spine. Think of these discs like kitchen sponges filled with liquid. When you put vertical pressure on them by standing, most of the liquid gets squeezed out (90% by the end of the day). During the night, while you’re dreaming, the compression forces are dissipated and your discs re-absorb the liquid. The ligaments and tendons holding your spine together are consequently pushed farther apart. Ligaments aren’t as elastic as muscles and as a rule don’t stretch far (stretched 6% pass their normal length will result in a tear). Tendons shouldn’t be stretched at all or they won’t come back to their original length and will forever be looser resulting in joint instability.
Within the first hour of rising from your nighttime slumber you will begin to shorten. It is during this time you should quickly measure yourself and definitely refrain from any back bending exercises or stretches. I know the late great Jack LaLane and not so great Richard Simmons disagree with me, however not heeding this recommendation is likely to result in loss of spinal stability and possibly back injury. Morning stretching the already taught soft tissues of your spine can result in micro-tears, plastic deformation and joint instability. Against the advice dispensed by most physicians and popular rehab dogma, Snook (1998) and Mcgill (2002) showed that avoidance of morning forward spinal flexion significantly improved their patients back troubles. Maybe it is about time to re-evaluate why you are doing the forward back bending exercises and stretches at all. If you are like most Americans, sitting on your butt for 9.5 hours a day, you might not want to stretch and exercise an already overtaxed posture (the flexed lumbar spine). Why stretch a part of the body that is consistently over burdened, it is likely to make things worse for your lower back and nobody wants that.
Grow taller exercises like static hangs on a pullup bar or inverted gravity boot postures will do nothing to make you taller and may even cause harm. Please don’t do it. The only “taller making exercises” are the ones that will improve your upright posture and work against the aging process:
- Practicing good posture and walking/sitting upright.
- Participating in regular resistance training bouts which will help prevent bone loss.
- Training your core musculature (stomach and lower back) which will assist in keeping a healthy spine: Planks, Side Planks, Bird-dogs, lower back extensions, anti-rotational exercise etc.
- Maintaining healthy joints via daily exercise; moving them daily through your natural full range of motion: Walking, squatting, lunging, presses, rows etc.
- Strengthening your feet by being barefoot and doing foot/ankle exercises regularly will help prevent fallen arches.
As a side note, for all of you who own a human child or two, listed below is a neat link to predict the future height of one of these unemployed small but cute people who live in your home and eat your food:
1. Scientific American: Human Height Genetics & Nutrition
2. Snook – Control of Back Pain By Restricting Morning Stretching
3. S. McGill, “Low Back Disorders: Evidence Based Prevention And Rehabilitation”, Human Kinetics, 2002; pp. 216-220.