Does Working Out Stop You From Growing?
A healthy exercise routine can improve cardiovascular fitness, muscle strength and overall health, and can even prevent depression and anxiety, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A regular exercise routine won't stunt growth -- and can even prevent conditions that make people appear to be shrinking, such as osteoporosis -- but excessive exercise, particularly when combined with restrictive diets, can interfere with growth.
Nutrition is vital for growth, and when the body doesn't get adequate nutrition, it can slow down growth and, in extreme cases, even destroy muscles and organs. Sports that place a strong emphasis on achieving a thin body, therefore, are more likely to stunt growth, particularly if participants engage in crash dieting. Athletes interested in losing weight should limit their weight loss to 1 to 2 pounds per week and ensure they get plenty of lean proteins, fruits and vegetables.
Children and adolescents should get 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day and strength training at least three days per week, according to a 2011 article published in "Sports Medicine & Arthroscopy Review." Athletes who greatly exceed these recommendations, however, can experience stunted growth, particularly when their daily caloric expenditure greatly exceeds their daily calorie intake. When athletes suffer repeated injuries such as broken bones, this can interfere with their growth if the injury occurs along a growth plate, and continuing to exercise while injured can increase the severity of the injury.
Positive Growth Effects
Although unhealthy exercise habits can stunt growth in children and adolescents, exercise can also keep you from losing height as you age. A 2010 study published in the journal "Bone," for example, found that increasing bone density during childhood and adolescence can reduce the risk of fractures and osteoporosis in later life. Osteoporosis can cause people to shrink and develop a stooped posture, and exercise during adolescence, according to the study, is one way to increase bone density.
Any athlete in any sport can experience injuries or adopt a training routine that inhibits her growth, but some sports are riskier than others. A 2010 article published in the "Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences" points to gymnastics as particularly risky. Sports that encourage very restrictive diets, such as ballet and figure skating, and sports that require participants to quickly drop weight before a competition, such as wrestling, are also more likely to inhibit growth.
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The Benefits of Physical Activity
- Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: The Influence of Intensive Physical Training on Growth and Pubertal Development in Athletes
- Children's Hospital Boston: Q&A -- Eating Disorders
- Sports Medicine and Arthroscopy Review: Pediatric Exercise -- Truth and/or Consequences
- Bone: Maximizing Bone Mineral Mass Gain During Growth for the Prevention of Fractures in Adolescents and the Elderly
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.