Does cycling or exercise in childhood increase your child’s height?

Does cycling or exercise in childhood increase your child’s height?

There are many parameters that can be used to map a child’s growth. When it comes to formal assessment or tracking of growth of a child, your doctor is more concerned about the child’s height and not his weight. The number one reason is 

Height is a predictor of long term nutritional status of the child. 

Since the newborn days, you would remember the doctor would take various measurements like the weight, length/height, head circumference, mid-arm circumference (MAC) and then he would plot these against time (age of the baby) on a graph. This would give the doctor a clear idea of the baby’s growth over a period of time. Many interventions are available like “growth hormone therapy” that can help augment the height of a child with slow growth velocity.

Benefits of tracking your child’s growth.

  • It helps us understand the nutritional status of the child.
  • It gives an idea about how fast or slow the child is growing.
  • It helps identify growth restrictions which if major, then can be corrected.
  • Conditions like PEM protein-energy malnutrition that are so common in our country, can be identified with just a few measurements.
  • Early interventions can help i1- identify and avert many nutritional deficiencies, growth restriction following illness, short stature.

Growth patterns seen in children

Most healthy children have a height, weight, and head circumference within the normal range and when plotted their growth pattern forms a smooth curve that we refer to as the “growth curve”. It is very important to track your child’s growth so short stature can be caught well in time. Therefore all the measurements of sizes fall between +2 and -2 lines and the growth curves have followed and not crossed more than one line. This is the most common growth pattern. 

Here are a few other growth patterns that are seen in kids:

1- Large-for-age

2- Wasted

3- Growth faltering

4- Stunting

5- Overweight

All of these growth patterns may be due to nutritional deficiencies, prematurity, genetic conditions, social causes like poor financial status, child abuse, etc. so any child who doesn’t have an average growth pattern should be looked at and the causes should be identified too.

How to increase your child’s height?

If you wish to increase your child’s height, understand that you can only help him/her reach his predicted height as per the genetic potential. You cannot add a few cm to their height unless they are wearing shoes with heels. There are a few factors that affect child growth and a few can be controlled. While others like the environment or the sex of the child are beyond our control.

1- Heredity: this factor determines a large number of physical traits of the childlike the height, the colour of the eyes, texture of hair, weight, body structure, etc. worth noting here is, it’s not just the physical traits but also the diseases can be passed on through genes. 

For eg if someone has a history of hypertension or diabetes in their maternal side then there is a chance that the gene will be transferred to him/her. Now how the gene expresses itself i.e. gets manifested or not, will depend on the environmental factors. So just the presence of good or bad genes doesn’t ensure that quality. Its expression is variable and depends upon the child’s atmosphere, his nurturing, and his health status.

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2- Environment: there are two aspects in the environment when it comes to child-rearing- physical and psychological. Both of these deeply influence a child’s health, nutrition and growth. A well-nurtured child will definitely be healthy than a deprived one. The kind of stimulation the child is receiving in his early years of childhood, the geographical area he hails from, the peers he hangs out with, all contribute to determining the child’s overall health.

3- Sex: boys generally grow taller than girls. While girls mature earlier than boys nearing adolescence. Boys on the other hand mature over a longer period of time. Their bodies also have different growth patterns. 

4- Exercise and health: when I talk about exercise it’s not the daily routine one but the playtime, running, sports or jumping around that kids usually engage in, which is appropriate for their age. That alone suffices to help a child grow muscular strength.

Apart from that exercise or engaging in physical activity does have other benefits, prime being it will help your child grow in height and reach his full genetic potential. As these activities are to be performed when the growing end of the bones have not fused yet, they will help in reaching your target height better.

Any kind of physical activity like cycling, exercise, swimming, jogging, in the early childhood early helps in strengthening the immune system. More so when kids play outside and are exposed to germs that help in developing immunity against them. 

5- Hormones: help in managing different functions of the body. These hormones affect things like the height, development of secondary sexual characters, sexual organs in girls and boys, etc. The time of puberty is when a child’s body prepares to transform into an adult. When puberty hits, is a deciding factor in the final height of the child.

6- Nutrition: good food that consists of all the food groups is called a  balanced diet. This plays an important role in the final height of the child. The meal might not be fancy, laden with dry fruits and salads. But a whole meal consisting of dal, rice, a protein in the form of pulses, eggs or meat, ghee as a source of fat and fresh fruits will also suffice.

8- Geographic influence: people from states(1) like Jharkhand, Meghalaya, Assam have short stature and that is primarily due to the geographic influence on their final heights.

9- Socio-economic status: Conditions like PEM (Protein-energy malnutrition), scurvy, beriberi are conditions that occur due to deficiency of nutrients in the diet. It is very common in the low socio-economic strata of our society which faces food scarcity frequently. It is also common in other states where children are fussy eaters. Iron deficiency anaemia is one such condition that is commonly seen in fussy eaters. 

Now that you know about all the factors that affect the growth and height of your child, controlling them becomes easier. Exercise, cycling does have a positive effect on your child’s growth but their absence doesn’t mean your child will turn out to be short in height 

RESOURCES

References:

  1. Livemint

You can connect with Dr. Alok Sardesai on his social media

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Connect with Dr. Alok below

If you wish to get a consultation with dr. Alok then he runs Clinics which deal with hormonal problems in children and adolescents in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane.

  • T2T Hormone Clinics India Private Limited, Andheri 
  • Apollo Hospital Navi Mumbai 
  • Sparsh Children’s Hospital, Parel 
  • Colours Children’s Hospital, Navi Mumbai 
  • Mala Children’s Hospital, Thane 

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