Cycling and height, and cycling and bone density are two areas of concern to those who want to increase height. And they are also topics of interest to physicians and researchers as well.
They want to know does cycling increase height and does cycling affect bone density.
Below is a summary of a few different studies on these topics and what the researchers found.
Does Cycling Increase Height?
While checking on the bone status in professional cyclists, Swedish scientists at the Malmo University Hospital also checked the height, too.
They compared bone density tests, height, percent body fat, and VO2 max (lung capacity) in 30 professional cyclists to 30 young healthy males who weren’t cyclists. The men were 28 to 29 years old.
It turns out that the bone density of cyclists was worse than non-cyclists in every part of the body – legs, spine, pelvis, lumbar spine, and femoral neck. (Source: Bone status in professional cyclists. Int. J Sports Med, July 2010, Vol. 31, No.7)
And although height was measured, it wasn’t compared to the non-cyclists in the study as a variable tested. Instead, it was measured only as an extra measurement, providing no meaning to the study.
Thus, no real connection between cycling and height could be claimed.
Actually it wouldn’t have been a legitimate comparison to compare height of cyclists to non-cyclists unless other factors were studied such as:
- a sufficient time for growth was included, (i.e., measurements taken at the beginning of the study, then two or more years later)
- questionnaire that included the height of the parents and then using a statistical analysis, determining whether or not the cyclists and non-cyclists met their genetic potential for height
Using Logic To Read Between The Lines
Since the researchers did not test height adequately in this study to determine the answer to the question does cycling increase height, we should logically reason on whether cycling increases height or not.
Sitting puts pressure on the spine and compresses the vertebral disks.
It’s the actual sitting position that is responsible for the compression, but there’s also another component – gravitational forces. Once you sit or stand, the forces of gravity act upon you.
When you have compressed disks, then you have a decrease in height. The disks squash down when they are compressed.
To get the compression out of the vertebral disks, you have to stretch out the spine. When you sleep at night, the compression of the disks is removed and you are actually taller in the morning.
The gravitational effects on your spine have decreased sufficiently to allow this to happen.
If you think this is not true, measure your height in the morning and at night. Without measuring your height, you may have already noticed differences during driving at these two times of the day.
You would notice this by finding that your rear view mirror has to be adjusted.
Where The Cyclists Lose Bone Density; The Cycling And Bone Density Connection
In another study, different types of cyclists were compared to find out if there was a certain style of cycling that caused low bone density.
Two-thirds of the 23 professional male cyclists with an average age of 28-1/2 years old tested had low bone density.
If the cyclist was a flat terrain cyclist, his bone density was low in his lower right leg. If he was a climber, his arms had lower bone density than normal.
If he participated in time trials, the bone density of his legs was lower.
So to answer the question of does cycling affect bone density, the answer is yes.
(Source: Is osteopenia a health risk in professional cyclists? J Clin Densitom, Jan-March 2009, Vol. 12, No.1)
Professional Cyclists – Rickshaw Drivers Are Height Challenged
This information could also be true for those in countries where rickshaw pulling is an occupation. A rickshaw is a three-wheeled cart that is human powered.
The rickshaw driver sits in the front pedaling the rickshaw while the load he is carrying is in back.
He often will pull a load of people – one to two people, and if each weighs 100 pounds, an amount of weight on the low side, that is 200 pounds of resistance the rickshaw driver is dealing with.
In India, 860,000 people are rickshaw drivers and are called rickshaw pullers. Their age is anywhere from 18 to 66 years old. Rickshaw drivers (pullers) are generally shorter than the rest of the Indian population.
However, their shortness is not because of their height from the waist up. This was the answer to the question of does cycling increase height found in this study.
The loss of height was due to the length of their legs; the height of the body from the waist down. This means that long bone growth in the body was affected.
(Source: Anthropometric characteristics of Indian cycle rickshaw pullers. J Hum Ergol (Tokyo) December 2010, Vol. 39, No. 2.)
Overweightness Can Be Overcome By Bicycling
At Johns Hopkins University and Medical Center, researchers studied the association of bicycling to childhood overweight status.
Examining 100 children in Baltimore, Maryland aged 11 to 12 years old, researchers found that 56% were overweight.
They found that riding a bicycle at least twice a week decreased the likelihood of being overweight. (Source: Association of bicycling and childhood overweight status. Ambul Pediatr, Nov-Dec 2008, Vol. 8, No. 6 )
When you are overweight, you have the appearance of being shorter. This is a visual perception. When you are within normal body weight, you will look taller.
Thus, in this regard, if bicycling can help you attain normal body weight by using up calories, you can look taller.
What these studies tell us is that if you want to look taller and have a good bone density, here are some recommendations:
1. Don’t Rely Solely On Bicycling
Bicycling should be offset by other activities. Don’t make it your primary sport, especially if you are a woman. But still, cycling twice a week is a good habit to get into.
2. Engage In Height-Increasing Activities
By getting sufficient rest at night, you can reverse any effects of gravity on your intervertebral disks which might decrease your height.
By including milk in your diet, you can stimulate the bone plates to grow. Aim for at least three glasses a day.
Does cycling increase height? It appears not. Does cycling affect bone density? It appears so. To further investigate your own cycling and height connection, see your doctor.