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The Effect Of Gymnastics On Height And Bone Density

Gymnast Height

The Connection Between Gymnasts And Height

Watching gymnasts perform is always a jaw-dropping event, especially at the Olympics.

But have you noticed that although gymnasts have those beautiful well-developed bodies, they are almost always either short or lacking in height?

Have you noticed that there is possibly a connection between gymnastics and height?

Why is this? Is there a reason why gymnastics as a sport will do this – decrease height – in people who want to partake of their sport? What do the researchers say?

Medical School In Greece Tests The Connection Between Gymnasts And Height

ResearchWe find that the topic is certainly of concern for researchers and the International Federation of Gymnasts as well.

If gymnastics and height is related, then changes have to be made on the competition level as well as the individual level with parents and even gymnastics instructors.

In Greece, researchers at the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Patras Medical School were pretty keen about gymnasts.

They knew that when it comes to height, gymnasts mature late. And when it comes to puberty, gymnasts mature late as well.

However, they wanted to know more, such as how does gymnastics impact the final height of a gymnast?

They took height and weight measurements of 86 male gymnasts who competed in European and World Championships. They also did a visual inspection of the gymnasts’ genitalia to see if this area of the body was developed fully.

The genitalia inspection may seem like a very odd thing to do but it’s actually a valid way to determine many things, including a zinc deficiency.

Zinc is a mineral needed for good health and deficiency is related to lack of development of the genitalia.

This was discovered in India years ago when a scientist observed that males in India had a problem with growing and sexual maturation.

In science, there is an official way of determining genital development called the Tanner’s stages of pubertal development. So it’s totally legitimate, and not some crazy new way of perverted behavior.

The point here is that if the genitals are not developing, it’s an indication that the person’s overall growth is stunted.

In this study, the athletes filled out questionnaires on their workouts, how many competitions they attended each year, and the height of their mother and father.

Final VerdictThe Final Verdict About Gymnasts And Height

The big question – did gymnastics interfere with height was then answered. Yes it did!

These male gymnasts were below the 50th percentile for their weight (and height).

Their height was far less than that of their parents. And those who worked out more intensely had the lowest height gains. Not good.

What the International Federation of Gymnasts did next was smart. They raised the age limit for those competing in competitions by 1 year.

This gives children an extra year to grow. (Source: Final height in elite male artistic gymnasts. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab, 2012, Vol. 25, No. 3-4.)

It was a good move, but what about the parents of potential gymnasts? How will they know that their child shouldn’t be doing a lot of gymnastics at such an early age because it will stunt their growth? Who will tell them?

There are thousands of gymnastics centers throughout the world and they currently allow kids as young as three years old to participate. According to this new research on gymnastics and height, this should not be allowed.

Of course, that will result in a loss of income for the businesses. But it will be safer for the children.

Are The Gymnasts’ Bones Healthy From All That Gymnastics?

Growth PlatesIn another study, girls aged 9 to 14 years of age were tested for their bone age and bone density at the University of Athens in Greece.

To test bone age, researchers look for certain areas of the bone to close. Technically, the areas of the bone that grow are called growth plates.

As you age, these bone centers close and the bone can no longer grow tall. This is why if you are trying to grow taller, it is important for you to use methods to grow taller before the bone centers close.

The scientists used a control group and a gymnast group for the study. The gymnasts had no difference in height from the control group. However, they did have stronger bones.

(Source: Effect of rhythmic gymnastics on volumetric bone mineral density and bone geometry in premenarcheal female athletes and controls. J Clin Endocrinol Metab, June 2010, Vol. 95, No. 6.)

How To Make Bones Grow Longer

Some of those methods include the following:

1. Drink more milk

Milk has been correlated with height increase in humans.

2. Increase your consumption of protein

Protein is essential for the long bones of the body to grow. It stimulates the entire body through the release of growth hormone.

3. Make sure your body is nutritionally sound

Vitamins MineralsVitamin and mineral deficiencies will interfere with the long bone growth, such as in the femur and tibia. These are the two bones of the legs which will contribute most to your height increase.

The connection between gymnastics and height may not result in a recommendation of the sport, but the connection between bone density and gymnastics is quite good.

It seems that the answer then as to whether a child should do gymnastics is to do it later in life – not as early as 3 or even 6 years old, and then to never overtrain.

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