Does Standing Straight Make You Taller? (Explained)
During childhood, we adapt to doing things in a particular way, but this is not always the correct way and is not in tandem with what the body needs. Developing good posture from an early age instills in us good habits for a healthy spine and helps us stand at our maximum height, but it is easier said than done.
When asking if standing straight makes us taller, it is important to understand that few of us stand with a perfect posture, and as a result, we lose some height.
Posture is all-important when it comes to standing at your maximum height, as slouching or stooping will automatically make you look shorter than you really are. Most people don’t realize that they can maximize their height potential simply by standing correctly and that if they stoop, they look will shorter than their real height.
There is so much more to know about good posture than how tall you appear, including the effect it has on easing pressure off of the spine and nervous system. This article takes a look at the undisputed benefits of maintaining a good upright stance, not just the physical bonuses but also the mental, feel-good factor that arises from it.
How Does Standing Straight Affect Height?
If you know you are standing incorrectly then it is never too late to improve your posture and to stand at your tallest. Keeping your back straight plays a big part in this and to understand why, we need to look at the makeup of the spine, also known as the backbone.
The spine is made up of 33 irregular-shaped bones, called the vertebrae, and each of these bones has a hole in the middle, like a donut, through which the spinal cord runs. This vertical column of ring-like bones is strong and flexible and runs from the skull to the pelvis.
Between each vertebra is a gel-like-filled disk, which acts as a cushion, protecting the bones from rubbing against each other and causing damage. There are 23 disks in the spine, less than the number of vertebrae; this is because some of these bones are fused together at the bottom of the spine, so there is no need for disks.
The odd thing is that slumping can often seem like the most natural thing to do as it feels comfortable, but in fact, the purpose of the spine is to help keep our bodies erect, maintaining good posture and thus reducing stress on muscles, tendons, bones and internal organs.
The reason that standing upright alters your height is very simple. When you slouch or stoop you are putting uneven pressure on your muscles and bones, so because you are not standing up straight, you will naturally look shorter than you really are.
Poor posture is often just a bad habit we get into without giving it much thought, but if you want to stand at your maximum height then it’s never too late to develop good habits and the benefits are well worth the effort. Weak muscles in the abdomen and lower back work together to rotate and stabilize the body and are one of the main contributors to poor posture; exercises to strengthen and re-train these muscles can be done as part of an activity such as Yoga or Pilates or stretching, which all can be done at home or ion a class by following a recognized exercise routine.
How Much Taller Can You Get With A Straight Posture?
Did you know that our height varies during the course of the day and we are actually at our tallest when we get up in the morning? This is because during rest and sleep the gel-like disks between the vertebrae have become decompressed. So when you get up and go about your daily business, your height will slightly reduce, due to the disks becoming compressed.
This is perfectly natural and happens to everybody. However, by strengthening the relevant back muscles with a good upright posture, the spine is well supported and there is less pressure on the disks, thus keeping our bodies upright and limiting any potential height loss.
With the correct posture, you can immediately increase your height, as up to 35% of height can be attributed to the spine. In fact, standing upright can make a huge difference to your height; as much as an instant 1-2 inches (3-5 cm), sometimes a little more.
The key thing is to work on developing a good posture, through appropriate exercise and then making sure you maintain it by establishing good habits; in the end, it will become automatic.
Adopting the correct posture really is the easiest and best way of increasing your height instantly. It will take time to become accustomed to standing correctly, but practice, as they say, makes perfect.
Negative Effects of a Bad Posture
A continued poor posture over time can place strain on the muscles and other soft tissue, leading to muscle imbalances.
Your spine can be put out of alignment by bad postures, such as hunching, slumping, or even cradling your phone, and may even become curved.
If this happens through growing years, it can affect you for the rest of your life, and you will never be able to stand at your true height. The sooner you correct this your body will be less stressed and have the time to grow without issues.
We all experience gradual height loss throughout our adult years, at the rate of around 1cm per decade after the age of 40. A bad posture can make you lose height faster over time. Remember, your spine is flexible and will adapt to your dominant posture.
Over time, poor posture that places added stress on the vertebrae will cause the discs to wear down more quickly, compressing the bones and wearing them down.
How To Practice Standing Straighter
In order to establish you are standing correctly, it is important to understand a little about the anatomy of the body, in particular the spine. There are 3 curves in the back, which are an inward curve at the neck, one at the lower back and an outward curve at the upper back.
Good posture helps to keep these natural curves, whereas slouching causes the muscles in the front of the chest to tighten and the upper back muscles to stretch. So how do we stand straight without affecting these curves?
To ensure you are standing correctly and at your maximum height, practice the following. Stand sideways onto a full-length mirror. Keep the head level, not looking down or up. Hold your shoulders back and tuck your pelvis forward. You will immediately feel and look taller.
What you are aiming for is a straight line, which touches your ear, shoulder, hip, and back of the knee. To check this, tie a weight or pair of scissors to some string and lower it onto the floor, whilst holding the free end against your ear. The string should fall in a straight line as described above. This is the correct stance. What can we do to practice standing straighter? The answer is simple, be aware!
We know that sitting and standing up straight is key to achieving good posture, but what steps can we take to ensure it is maintained? First and foremost, take a look at your individual lifestyle. Like many others, do you spend a lot of your day hunched over a computer screen, or looking at a mobile device or tablet, thus instilling poor posture habits?
According to fitness expert and author of ‘The Roll Model’ Jill Miller, ‘looking down at our devices can lead to both neck pain and instability.’ (1). With a few simple changes and active awareness, you can turn bad habits into good ones instead.
Tips to Stand Straighter
- When using your mobile/cell, practice holding it at eye level, instead of stooping over it. This really can help your posture. Place your computer screens at eye level and with a desk that’s high enough to allow you to rest your elbows on it while extended straight ahead; a raised screen shelf/support is helpful with this. Place a post-it note on your screen reminding you to sit upright.
- Every time you walk past a mirror, or a reflective window, take note of your posture. This will encourage you to remain vigilant and will help while you retrain your body and establish new habits.
- If your job involves a lot of standing, proper posture is achieved by placing your feet evenly apart and standing more firmly on one leg and lightly on the other, changing position regularly to release pressure.
Sitting correctly is just as important as standing for developing good posture. Many of us spend hours a day typing and it’s quite common to get into the habit of pulling the shoulders up so that at the end of the day, the neck is tight and the shoulders ache.
To try and break this habit, every now and then imagine a pulley coming out of the top of your head. As you pull it upward, you will feel your spine stretch as you drop your shoulders, at the same time pushing your shoulder blades closer together. The chest and rib cage will open up and make it easier to breathe.
To find out if you are sitting correctly, always sit on the lower part of your buttocks, resting your body completely on it. If you are using a computer or reading a book, sit with your butt bones bending a little forward, while keeping your feet on the ground.
Exercises To Help Stand Straighter
Exercise is the easiest way to correct posture and establishing good habits can be achieved sooner than you think, but this requires commitment.
Strengthening your core is key to achieving good posture, as the core muscles support your upper body, giving you more strength to hold yourself correctly.
One of the best and also most proven ways to do this is through exercise activities such as Yoga or Pilates.
The Wall Slide
This is an exercise to remind you what a good upright posture looks like. Stand upright with your back pressed against a wall, feet a foot or two away to balance you correctly, knees slightly bent.
To prevent arching your back keep the pelvis tilted and extend your arms above as high as you can, with the backs of your hands against the wall.
Keep the back tall and the chest opens then squeeze your mid-back muscles while sliding the hands down towards your shoulders, keeping the back of the hands, elbows shoulders, spine, butt pressed against the wall all the time.
Slide the arms forward until they are a little below shoulder height. Hold for a moment and push the arms back up to the starting position again without taking them off the wall. 10-12 repetitions are advised.
The Shoulder Blade Squeeze
This is a simple exercise that will improve your posture as it stabilizes the shoulder and upper back muscles and also helps your chest muscles be more flexible. Stand tall, arms by your side, pulling your shoulders back and a little down, bringing your shoulder blades closer together. Pull until you feel the muscles stretching and hold for a few seconds. This can be repeated 10 times.
For exercises, a good idea is to download some apps, as that way you have constant helpful reminders. It is all too easy for us to revert to our old bad habits, but once you see the benefits of your hard work, the incentive to keep it up will be there.
You will not only look much taller but it is also likely you will look several pounds or kilograms lighter, an added bonus that often gives the added illusion of extra height.
Practice Makes Perfect
Physiotherapist Nick Sinfield says ‘correcting your posture may feel awkward at first because your body has become so used to sitting and standing in a particular way, but with a bit of practice, good posture will become second nature and will be one step to helping your back in the long term’ (2).
So, it is important practice standing tall; imagine a piece of string pulling your head towards the ceiling, shoulders relaxed, and head level. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and weight evenly distributed.
Tuck in your stomach. Sitting, sit up straight with relaxed shoulders, no hunching, and don’t let your head or chin sit forward of your shoulders. Your chair height should allow your feet to touch the ground and your screen should be at eye level. Sit right back in your chair so that it supports your spine.
Remaining in one position for any length of time, especially if you are slouching, causes muscle tension and fatigue; to prevent this, take a few minutes break every so often to walk around.
Treatments For a Straighter Spine
Treatments will not help you to grow taller through the lengthening of your long bones, but they can help you to keep your back straight, with your spine easing into a vertical position and you can ensure you stand nearer to your maximum height.
Treatments such as Osteopath and chiropractic adjustments can also help put your spine into the correct position, encouraging you to stand and to walk taller.
In terms of core strengthening treatments, it is important to strengthen the core muscles, which help to support the spine and enable you to stand correctly, and a few millimeters taller.
Yoga and Pilates therapy are excellent for this. You will learn stretching exercises that will help to loosen tight muscles which may be affecting the posture negatively.
There is no doubt that good posture makes us look taller, slimmer, and more attractive, boosting confidence levels. Carrying ourselves correctly, as nature intended, allows our bodies to function as they should and the benefits can be felt both physically and mentally as you start to feel healthier and more self-assured.
With regards to standing straight making you taller, your commitment and vigilance will pay off in time, as your posture and movements gradually become habitual and natural.