Can Stretching *Actually* Make You Taller? Here’s What the Science Says

Photo: Getty Images/mapodile
Standing at 5 feet 5 inches tall, I'm pretty happy with my height. That said, if I was offered the chance to grow a few inches to make my #legsfordays dreams a reality, I'd most certainly take it. If you, too, have Googled ways to increase your height beyond putting on a pair of platform sneakers, you may have come across the claim that regular ol’ stretching can do the trick. But can stretching actually make you taller? We asked a doctor to find out.

Does stretching make you taller?

Sad news for short folks everywhere: Unfortunately, from a scientific standpoint, stretching doesn’t make you taller. “Once we’re adults, the die is cast. We can only grow shorter, not taller,” says Gregory Charlop, MD, a physician and wellness expert based in Atlanta, Georgia.

Experts In This Article

According to Dr. Charlop, our height is determined mainly by genetics, but it can also be influenced by childhood nutrition. There is some good news, though: If you're a chronic sloucher (like me!), stretching could make you appear to be taller. “Stretching and back-strengthening exercises can make us stand taller due to superior posture, but they won’t change our bone structure,” he says.

So, how can bettering your posture help you stand a tiny bit taller? "If you slouch when standing or sitting, your trunk muscles may be in a constant shortened state,” says Katie Sun Worrall, DPT, a physical therapist at Milestone Physical Therapy. “Stretching can help improve your posture and allow you to stand up straighter, effectively making you appear taller.”

While you won’t grow five inches (womp, womp), developing a strong posture can make a difference. According to Brian Spencer, a Pilates instructor at East River Pilates, the best place to start is with stretches that target your mid-back, low-back, and hamstrings. “They're big culprits in our little slouch and shrimp mode,” he says in his stretching workout below, which is part of this month’s Well+Good Trainer of the Month Club series.

Worall also recommends focusing on your pectoral muscles: "If you sit hunched over at a desk all day, the muscles you should stretch to help improve your posture (and stand up straighter) are your pecs,” she says.

When you stretch these areas regularly, Spencer says your spine will be feeling nice and long—so much so that you may be tempted to grab a measuring stick to see if standing taller has resulted in a growth spurt.

Ready to reap the benefits yourself? Try Spencer’s 23-minute workout below that’s filled with stretches that will make you feel taller:

3 other benefits of stretching to know about

Better posture is just one of the many ways stretching can benefit your health and well-being. Here’s what else you can look forward to, simply by making stretching a regular part of your routine.

1. Improved flexibility and range of motion

If you’ve been hoping to become more flexible, start up a stretching routine now. This won’t just benefit you in the short-term, but also as you age.

“Stretching improves flexibility, including for older adults and people with limited range of motion,” says Dr. Charlop. “We all want to live independently. When we enjoy a greater range of motion from stretching, we may be more likely to do important life activities like bending over to tie our shoes, even in old age.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, becoming more flexible also decreases your risk of injury and increases muscle blood flow. To get started on your quest to become more flexible, experts recommend targeting four areas of your body: the shoulders, adductors, hip flexors, and quads.

2. Boosted mood and reduced stress

Because stretching increases levels of serotonin (the hormone that helps stabilize your mood), it has the ability to benefit your mental health in many ways. According to Colorado State University,  stretching can help boost your mood, reduce stress levels, and even reduce anxiety.

3. Better sleep

Past research has found adding stretching to your nightly wind-down routine could help you get a more restful night’s sleep. “People who stretch before bed may find it easier to fall asleep and use fewer sleeping pills,” says Dr. Charlop. There are four helpful stretches you can start with for better sleep: cat-cow, child's pose, butterfly stretch, and puppy pose.

How to add stretching into your daily routine

Stretching isn’t typically something you can do once and magically reap the benefits. “Just as it took years for your muscles to get stiff, you won’t get more flexible overnight,” says Dr. Charlop. “It may take months of stretching to see a benefit.”

If you really want to go all in, stretching daily is the best way to begin improving your posture, bettering your sleep, and beyond. Experts recommend starting with 10 minutes each day, which you can do anytime that works for you—after your morning workout, as a midday pick-me-up, or even while you’re watching Netflix at night. In order for the stretches to be effective, hold each for at least 30 seconds. For any extra tight spots, you can hold the stretch for up to two minutes.

Stretching may not make you taller, per se. But it sure will make you feel taller once you start doing it regularly.

Loading More Posts...