Does Swimming Make You Taller? (Yes and No)
It is a medical fact that our height is mainly determined by genetics; if you have tall parents you are likely to be tall; if they are short then you will probably follow suit, although this is not always the case and sometimes people do grow to be shorter or taller than their parents.
Our bodies are growing until we reach around 16-18 years of age, (though sometimes later); this is the period when the growth plates are still open. So, is there anything we can do both before and after the growth plates close to increase our height? Can swimming help?
This article will investigate the impact swimming has on growth and whether swimming is an activity that can help us achieve and maintain our maximum height.
Can Swimming Help You Gain Height?
With some strokes being classed as high-intensity exercise, swimming is an effective workout for the whole body that can influence growth hormone release, which is needed for growth and to maintain bone health. Therefore swimming can have a positive effect on height while still growing.
How Swimming Helps You Grow
Height is mainly determined by genetics. However, as with any form of exercise, there are aspects of swimming that can have some influence on height whilst we are still in our growth period, which is prior to the growth plates closing.
The growth plate is an area of growing tissue along the end of the long bones in a child; these are bones that are longer than they are wide. They include the thighbone (femur), the lower legs (fibula and tibia), and the forearm (radius and ulna).
During the growing period, Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is released, it is a protein produced by the pituitary gland. This hormone stimulates the growth of body tissue, including bone. Its levels rise progressively during childhood and there is a boost during puberty when we experience our largest growth spurt.
The point at which we reach our optimum height is when the growth plates have closed. This is when HGH is crucial in maintaining good muscle tone and bone density, and also height.
How to Help Release HGH
HGH is released during deep sleep and also when we exercise (1). To gain the maximum benefit from HGH, two things are important – sufficient sleep and exercise. Swimming can be a great aid in both areas because it works the body and also helps with relaxation and sleep, so is an ideal way to incorporate the two elements.
There are a variety of swimming strokes and each style focuses on different muscle groups, which is an important aid in relation to keeping all our core muscles strong and has the potential to release HGH.
High-Intensity Swimming Exercise Includes:
- HIIT pool workouts - short bursts of intense, quick swimming
- Variations of the Butterfly Stroke - most intense swimming stroke
- Front Crawl (Freestyle Stroke) - uses all the major muscle groups
Why Are Swimmers So Tall?
Taller people are generally (not always) more successful in swimming events, as their height is an advantage; longer arms, legs, and torso help them swim the fastest length.
Therefore, rather than swimming making them taller, taller people are more likely to be naturally gifted at this activity, which is why we see them in the Olympics, etc.
Can Short People Excel In Swimming?
Although it is generally tall people who tend to be more suited to competitive swimming, some short people have achieved success in the Olympics and other worldwide/national events, and there are some shorter than average swimming champions who have achieved huge success, proving that hard work, dedication and determination can pay off.
Shorter Olympic Winners:
Kosuke Hagino: 5’9” (175.3 cm)
Japan: 1976 – 400/1500-meter freestyle, Gold in both events, and 2016 – Individual Medley, Gold
Brian Goodell: 5’8” (172.8 cm)
USA: 1980 - 800-meter freestyle, Gold, and 200-meter butterfly, Bronze
David Berkoff: 5’9” (175.3 cm)
USA: 1988 – 4 x 100-meter medley relay, Gold, and 100-meter backstroke, Gold, and in 1992 – 4 x 100-meter medley relay, Gold, and 100-meter backstroke, Bronze
Michelle Ford 5’3” (160 cm)
Australia: 1980 – 800-meter freestyle, Gold
Janet Evans: 5’5” (165.1 cm)
USA: 1988 - 400/800/1500-meter freestyle, 3xGold, and 1992 – 800-meter freestyle, Gold
Brooke Bennett: 5’5” (165.1 cm)
USA: 1996 - 800-meter freestyle, Gold
These are highly successful shorter swimmers, however, taller people seem to make up the majority of World-class swimmers.
Is Swimming The Best Exercise For height Increase?
Swimming compares well to other activities in building bone mass and strengthening core muscles. It is suitable for most people, and especially good if load-bearing activities are not appropriate or favored.
However, there is no evidence supporting swimming as the best method of exercise to increase height, and there are many sports that can also aid the release of HGH, and that are better suited to a shorter height.
Additional Benefits of Swimming and Height
There are many benefits of practicing swimming. In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and look after our well-being, we need to incorporate exercise into our lives. This ensures our bodies are kept in tip-top condition, the bones stay strong, and we will be less likely to lose height over time.
One of the most impressive is that it works the whole body but without adding any extra stress, building muscle tone and strength. This removes the stress of an alternative load-bearing exercise, which for some people isn’t suitable or enjoyable.
It should be remembered that good posture is key in developing and retaining our maximum height; we can stand around 3 inches (7.62 cm) shorter if we stoop. Just try standing sideways on to a mirror and see for yourself the difference that slouching makes to your height.
Swimming helps build bone density, an important factor in maintaining good posture and which also helps to prevent osteoporosis later in life, and height loss.
Swimming is also a very efficient way to burn calories and compares favorably with other activities such as cycling or walking. For example, an hour of swimming will use up a similar amount of calories to running but without the stress on the bones and joints, so is ideal for inclusion in a weight loss program, and to gain a slim figure, which will help you to appear taller.
If you are feeling stressed or down, perhaps about your height, for example, exercise could play a pivotal role in relieving your anxieties and helping you to move on from height issues.
The Mayo Clinic states that ‘Exercise in almost any form can act as a stress reliever. Being active can boost your feel-good endorphins and distract you from daily worries’ (2).
There is no doubt that the many benefits of swimming put it ‘up there’ as one of the most popular sports worldwide. Swimming as part of a regular exercise routine contributes to us reaching and then maintaining our optimum height. Added advantages are that it helps keep our minds and bodies fit and well; swimming can improve your health from the inside out.
If swimming appeals to you, check out your local pool and see what’s available; swim classes may attract you, or you might simply enjoy doing your own thing. Swimming is an ideal activity to start at your own pace and develop as you wish.