Does stretching make you taller?
Do stretching exercises make you taller? This is a commonly perceived notion, that exerting yourself upwards with stretches and jumps could help someone grow taller. Sounds simple, right?
Most people imagine that stretching pulls the bones lengthwise, thus making the person taller. While it may feel like you are stretching your bones out, it does not actually happen anatomically. When you stretch, your extensor muscles pull on your bones and locks the joint, and no actual “pulling” takes place. Let me explain with an example.
Imagine you’re trying to stretch out your arms by extending the elbows. As you stretch, your triceps forces your forearm to lock with upper arm in a swinging motion. The harder you stretch, the harder the arm locks in an outward fashion. In other words, stretching involves the circular motion of a joint, and no real “pulling” or “lengthening” motion exists. The same holds true in your fingers, toes, knees, and your spine.
But what about the tension you feel when you stretch? The feeling you experience is caused by the stretching of your flexor muscles and tendons as your extensors exert large amount of force in the other way.
The truth is, there is no evidence to suggest that stretching makes you taller. A semi-famous, backyard experiment a few years back called the shinbone routine attempted to stretch the tibia. This group of young individuals, who published their progress online, claimed that bones can grow longer by the means of microfractures created by a series of exercises. But after a number years, even they admitted that the experiment did not show significant results.
In short, the idea that stretching makes a person grow taller has little anatomic basis. If this was the case, gymnasts would all become giants based on how much they stretch. Stretching has many benefits in terms of preventing injury and improving flexibility, but it is unlikely to increase your height in any significant way.