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Updated: November 7, 2010 16:41 IST

Mind and body - Tall talk

Namita jain
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Photo: M. Periasamy
THE HINDU
Photo: M. Periasamy

From the nursery level, school kids are asked to line up, shortest to tallest. “Shortest in front!” yells the teacher. If you are among those who always made the first 10 in line, my request is to carry yourself with great self esteem!

I was always “up front” in the line, so I made it a point to stand tall, with my back straight, so I could be, say, fifth in line instead of fourth — it usually worked!

Your height depends on your genes, your diet, and how tall you stand (your posture). While you can't do much about the first variable, you can certainly work towards maximising on diet and maintaining good posture with exercise.

Growth fact

The period of rapid body growth starts at 11 years in girls and around 13 years in boys. For girls, the growth spurt comes between 12 and 16 , with an average growth of about 3.5 inches per year. The growth spurt tapers off at around 16. Boys experience their growth spurt between 14 and 18. The average growth during this period is approximately four inches every year. By 18, most boys reach their adult height.

Did you know?

Growth is asymmetric during puberty. During the pubertal growth spurt, the hands and feet enlarge first, so the first indication of rapid growth is an increase in shoe size. This growth is followed by the arms and legs growing longer. Elongation of the torso is the final phase of growth.

Three important factors for determining growth

Genetic Factors

Chromosome factors do play an important role in your physical growth and height.

Diet

When your body lacks essential nutrients such as calcium and Vitamin D, it starts to take these nutrients from other places in your body including your bones. This can lead to weakened bone mass.

Calcium is a security deposit for your bones. There is more calcium in the human body than any other mineral. The richest sources of calcium are milk and other dairy products.

Exercise

When you slouch, you look shorter. Exercise improves posture. And good posture makes you look and feel taller. Straighten your back through strengthening and stretching exercises.

Fact-O-Meter

92 per cent of bone mass is established by the age of 18. Those who drink fizzy or caffeinated beverages get less calcium because these substances inhibit the body's absorption of calcium.

The sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” because it is made when sunlight touches the skin! The early morning rays of the sun are gentle and will provide you with valuable vitamin D, required for the absorption of calcium into the system. A deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to unsatisfactory bone growth. Foods containing Vitamin D are milk, egg yolk, tuna and salmon.

Can supplements make you taller?

A well-balanced diet provides you with all the necessary nutrition. Consult your physician, for any additional supplements you may need. Calcium and Vitamin D are the best-known for preserving bone mass and they, in turn, help preserve your height. But they will not make you grow taller. This is because no supplement, herbal or otherwise, has been clinically proven to increase height.

Can exercise make you taller?

Exercise will enhance your bone strength and strengthen your back. Since many people have a slouching problem, strengthening the back will make you stand upright, and therefore you appear taller. Your genetic code is largely responsible for your final adult height.

Yoga and strength training exercises will train you to stand straight — so exercise regularly to gain a couple of inches by just standing tall.

The writer is a certified Clinical Exercise Specialist, Lifestyle and Weight Management Specialist.

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