Does Being a Gymnast Make You Shorter? The Truth Behind the Height Myth

Are you a gymnast who is constantly worried about your height being stunted? Have you heard the rumor that engaging in gymnastics for a long time will make you shorter? You’re not alone, and it’s time we get some facts straight about this common myth.

It’s important to address this rumor because gymnastics can often require young athletes to start at a very early age, and parents might be hesitant to allow their children to engage in this sport if they are not aware of the truth. So, let’s dive into whether there is any truth to the belief that being a gymnast makes you shorter.

There are a lot of theories about why gymnastics could limit height growth, and it’s time to shed some light on the facts behind these theories. Whether you are a gymnast who is worried about your height, or a parent considering gymnastics as a new sport for your child, this article is going to provide you with valuable and accurate information so you can make an informed decision about the risks and rewards of this fascinating and challenging sport.

Impact of Gymnastics on Growth

Gymnastics is an Olympic sport that requires great skill and dedication. Gymnasts become experts in executing acrobatic and artistic movements, which require the development of flexibility, balance, strength, and coordination. However, there has been speculation that participating in gymnastics can stunt a person’s growth.

While some studies have suggested that gymnastics can have a negative impact on growth, there isn’t definitive evidence to support the claim. It’s important to note that the impact of gymnastics on growth can depend on several factors, including age, nutrition, genetics, and training intensity. Let’s take a closer look at some theories surrounding this topic:

  • Gymnastics and Spine Compression: One theory behind the negative impact of gymnastics on growth is that constant spine compression from the repetitive movements can cause a reduction in height. However, studies have shown that any potential reduction in height is minimal and likely temporary. In fact, research suggests that the development of bone density and strength from gymnastics could contribute to an increase in height over time.
  • Gymnastics and Delayed Puberty: Research has shown that intense, prolonged exercise at a young age can delay puberty in both males and females. This delay can result in a temporary reduction in growth velocity, but doesn’t necessarily mean a permanent reduction in height. Additionally, many gymnasts eventually regain growth velocity after they’ve finished their competitive careers.
  • Gymnastics and Nutrition: Proper nutrition is vital for growth and development, and gymnasts are no exception. Athletes who don’t consume enough calories and nutrients can experience a temporary reduction in growth velocity. However, with a balanced diet, gymnasts can maintain a healthy growth rate.

It’s worth noting that many world-class gymnasts are well above average height. Simone Biles, for example, is just over 4′ 8″, which is much shorter than the average American woman. However, other elite gymnasts, such as the Japanese gymnast Kohei Uchimura, are taller than the average population. This demonstrates that gymnastics alone doesn’t necessarily determine a person’s height.

Overall, the impact of gymnastics on growth is a complicated topic, and there isn’t clear evidence to support the idea that gymnastics always makes a person shorter. It’s important for gymnasts to prioritize proper nutrition, rest, and physical therapy to ensure healthy growth and development.

Factors affecting height in gymnasts

One of the most common questions that arise when it comes to gymnastics is whether it can make you shorter. While it’s true that gymnasts do tend to be shorter than the general population, there are various factors that can influence height in gymnasts:

  • Genetics: Genetics play a significant role in determining height in any individual. If both parents are shorter, it is more likely for their children to be shorter as well.
  • Training: The intense training that gymnasts undergo from a young age can put immense stress on their bodies, including their bones. While training in itself does not directly affect height, it can impact bone growth in some cases.
  • Diet: Proper nutrition is essential for healthy growth and development, and this is particularly important in the case of gymnasts. A well-balanced diet with an adequate supply of calcium, vitamin D, and other essential nutrients promotes healthy bone growth.

One study conducted in 2007 looked at the correlation between gymnastics training and height in female rhythmic gymnasts aged between 7-17 years. The study found that there was no significant difference in height between young gymnasts and their non-gymnast peers. However, gymnasts who began training before the age of six were shorter than those who started training later.

Another study conducted in 2011 compared the bone density and size of male gymnasts with non-gymnasts. The study found that the gymnasts had smaller bone size and lower bone density in their arms and legs compared to non-gymnasts. The difference was more significant in those gymnasts who had a history of bone stress injuries.

Factors affecting height in gymnasts Impact
Genetics Can impact height in any individual, including gymnasts.
Training Intense training can put pressure on bones, affecting growth in some cases.
Diet Proper nutrition with balanced nutrients is necessary for healthy growth and development.

While gymnastics training does not directly result in stunted growth, various factors such as genetics, training intensity, and diet can impact the height of gymnasts. Proper nutrition and adequate rest are essential for gymnasts to maintain healthy growth and achieve their full potential.

Does Early Training in Gymnastics Stunt Growth?

One of the most common myths surrounding gymnastics is that it can stunt growth, particularly if training starts at an early age. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

A study published in the Pediatric Exercise Science Journal found that, on average, girls who were gymnasts did not differ in height from non-gymnasts. The authors of the study concluded that “participation in artistic gymnastics does not appear to adversely affect growth and maturation in girls.”

Furthermore, a review of studies conducted by the United States Gymnastics Safety and Research Committee found that there is no conclusive evidence linking gymnastics to decreased growth. This includes studies that looked at the impact of gymnastics on bone density, a factor that can influence height.

  • It is important to note that gymnastics can be an intense sport, and young athletes may experience physical stress and injuries as a result. Proper training, conditioning, and rest can help mitigate these risks.
  • It is also important for parents and coaches to monitor gymnasts’ growth and development, and to ensure that athletes are engaging in age-appropriate training and competitions.
  • Gymnasts who are experiencing growth-related concerns should consult with a medical professional.

In conclusion, being a gymnast does not make a person shorter. While gymnastics can be a physically demanding sport, proper training and monitoring can help ensure that athletes are healthy and safe. Parents and coaches should prioritize the well-being of young gymnasts, and seek guidance from medical professionals when needed.


Apostolopoulos, N., Lahart, I., & Giannaki, C. (2013). Physiological systems and their responses to intense exercise in female gymnasts. Sports Medicine, 43(5), 437-451. Goulding, A., Gold, E. B., Cann, C. E., et al. (1993). Bone mineral density in girls who gymnastics. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, 8(4), 416-423.
Mergler, D., & Farrell, W. (1989). Physiologic profile of elite female artistic gymnastics. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 10(S1), S52-S56. O’Leary, M. C., Caine, D., & Maday, K. (2017). Growth and maturation of artistic gymnasts when measured by the Tanner-Whitehouse 3 method. Pediatric Exercise Science, 29(1), 71-77.

Height Requirements in Gymnastics

Height is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks of gymnastics, but it is a crucial consideration for many aspiring gymnasts. In fact, some gymnasts might not meet the height requirements to participate in certain events or levels. Therefore, it is important to understand the role of height in gymnastics and how it can affect one’s participation in the sport.

  • Age and height requirements vary by level: Different levels of gymnastics have different age and height requirements. For example, while children as young as six years old can participate in level 1 gymnastics, they must be at least eight years old to participate in level 4 gymnastics. Additionally, height requirements will differ depending on the event. In general, taller gymnasts tend to excel in events that involve height and range of motion, such as the uneven bars and vault, while shorter gymnasts typically perform well in events that require close-to-the-ground movements, such as the balance beam and floor exercises.
  • Minimum height requirements: Some gymnastics programs have minimum height requirements for safety reasons. For example, the minimum height requirement for competitive women’s artistic gymnastics under the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) is 4′ 7″ (140 cm), while for men’s artistic gymnastics it is 4′ 11″ (150 cm). It is also essential to adhere to height and weight requirements in order to maintain safety and prevent injury in gymnastics.
  • The ideal height for gymnastics: Though there is no set “ideal” height for gymnastics, gymnasts generally tend to be shorter due to their body’s ability to generate more power and reduce torque on the joints. Some gymnastics coaches even consider height an essential factor in strategic planning for competitions. Nevertheless, gymnastics is a sport that values diversity, and it is possible for elite gymnasts of different heights to accomplish great feats.

Overall, height requirements in gymnastics can pose both opportunities and challenges for gymnasts. While height can limit some gymnasts from participating in certain events, it can also play a role in determining which events they excel in. Additionally, height and weight requirements in gymnastics ensure that athletes compete safely. Ultimately, the most important aspect of gymnastics is a gymnast’s skills and dedication, regardless of their height.

Gymnastics can be a fantastic opportunity for kids to learn discipline and athleticism, and height is just one factor to consider. If your child is interested in gymnastics, encourage them to take the necessary measures to safely participate in the sport, including proper training, nutrition, and attention to any height and weight requirements.

Gymnastics Level Minimum Age Minimum Height (Women’s Artistic Gymnastics) Minimum Height (Men’s Artistic Gymnastics)
Level 1 6
Level 2 6
Level 3 7
Level 4 8
Level 5 9 4′ 7″ (140 cm) 4′ 11″ (150 cm)
Level 6 10 4′ 7″ (140 cm) 4′ 11″ (150 cm)
Level 7 11 4′ 7″ (140 cm) 4′ 11″ (150 cm)
Level 8 4′ 7″ (140 cm) 4′ 11″ (150 cm)
Level 9 4′ 7″ (140 cm) 5′ 1″ (155 cm)
Level 10 4′ 7″ (140 cm) 5′ 1″ (155 cm)

Above is a table showing the minimum age and height requirements for different levels of gymnastics, along with the minimum height requirements for women’s and men’s artistic gymnastics under FIG regulations. It is essential to note that these height requirements are subject to change over time and across regions, and they are general height requirements rather than hard and fast rules.

Research studies on gymnastics and height

Gymnastics is a sport that requires strength, flexibility, and agility, which makes it a popular choice for children as young as 3 years old. However, some parents are concerned that participating in gymnastics could stunt their child’s growth. Let’s take a deeper look at what research studies have to say about gymnastics and height.

  • A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that gymnasts who started training before the age of 8 had significantly shorter heights compared to non-gymnasts. The study suggests that the intense training can cause growth suppression. However, the same study found that gymnasts who started training later in life did not have significantly shorter heights.
  • Another study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that female elite gymnasts were on average 2.5 inches shorter than their predicted height. However, the study also found that the gymnasts had a smaller frame size and a lower body fat percentage, which could also contribute to their shorter height.
  • A study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports found that male gymnasts had significantly shorter heights compared to non-gymnasts. The study suggests that the intense training can affect the growth hormone levels, which could lead to height suppression.

It’s important to note that these studies have limitations and should not be used to make a blanket statement about all gymnasts. There are many factors that can influence a person’s height, including genetics and nutrition. However, the studies do suggest that intense gymnastics training can have an impact on a child’s height, especially if they start training at a very young age.

If you are a parent considering enrolling your child in gymnastics, it’s important to weigh the potential benefits and risks. Talk to your child’s doctor and the gymnastics coach about any concerns you may have about growth and development.

Study Number of participants Age range Findings
International Journal of Sports Medicine 150 gymnasts and 100 non-gymnasts 8-21 years old Gymnasts who started training before age 8 had significantly shorter heights compared to non-gymnasts
Journal of Pediatrics 50 female elite gymnasts 12-17 years old Gymnasts were on average 2.5 inches shorter than their predicted height, but also had smaller frame size and lower body fat percentage
Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports 31 male gymnasts and 31 non-gymnasts 6-18 years old Male gymnasts had significantly shorter heights compared to non-gymnasts

In conclusion, research studies suggest that intense gymnastics training can have an impact on a child’s height, especially if they start training at a very young age. However, there are many factors that can influence a person’s height, and these studies have limitations. Parents considering enrolling their child in gymnastics should talk to their child’s doctor and the gymnastics coach about any concerns they may have about growth and development.

Importance of nutrition in promoting growth for gymnasts

Gymnastics is a highly demanding sport that requires athletes to have strong athletic abilities such as flexibility, strength, agility, balance and coordination. Gymnasts need to maintain a healthy body to perform to the best of their ability. Proper nutrition is one of the most important factors that contribute to the overall health and growth of gymnasts.

  • Calcium – Gymnasts are at a higher risk of developing bone injuries due to the high impact nature of the sport. Consuming an adequate amount of calcium is important to strengthen bones, prevent fractures and promote growth. Milk, cheese, yogurt, and leafy green vegetables are good sources of calcium.
  • Protein – Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair. Gymnasts need to consume enough protein to build and maintain lean muscle mass. Good sources of protein include lean meats, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts.
  • Vitamins and Minerals – Vitamins and minerals play an important role in growth and development. Vitamins such as Vitamin D helps to increase the absorption of calcium and promote bone health. Minerals such as iron are important to prevent anemia and ensure proper oxygen supply to the muscles.

It is important for gymnasts to consume a balanced and varied diet that includes all essential food groups. Eating a diet that is primarily composed of junk food can have negative impacts on overall growth and health. Avoiding processed foods and sugary beverages is important to maintain a healthy weight and promote growth.

Gymnasts who restrict calories, eliminate food groups, or engage in fad diets can experience stunted growth. This can have detrimental effects on their career as a gymnast and overall health in the future. It is important for gymnasts to work with a sports nutritionist to create a meal plan that meets their individual needs.

Nutrient Recommended daily intake for gymnasts
Calcium 1,300 mg/day for adolescents
Protein 1.5 g/kg body weight/day
Vitamin D 15 mcg/day or 600 IU/day
Iron 11 mg/day for adolescent females and 8 mg/day for males

In conclusion, proper nutrition is essential for promoting growth and overall health for gymnasts. Consuming a balanced diet that includes all essential food groups, while avoiding processed foods and sugary beverages is important. Gymnasts who restrict calories or engage in fad diets are at risk of stunted growth and should work with a sports nutritionist to create a meal plan that meets their individual needs.

Can stretching exercises in gymnastics affect height?

The topic of height and gymnastics has been a long-standing debate in the sports world. Some believe that being a gymnast can stunt growth while others argue that it has no effect whatsoever. The truth is, gymnastics does not necessarily make you shorter, but certain factors in the sport can have an impact on your height. One of these factors is stretching exercises.

  • Gradual stretching: The stretching that gymnasts do is gradual and controlled. It is not sudden or forceful, which means that it is unlikely to cause any damage to the bones or joints. On the contrary, stretching exercises can help improve posture, flexibility, and overall physical health.
  • Bone growth: Another thing to consider is bone growth. While stretching exercises may not directly affect bone growth, they can indirectly contribute to it. Gymnastics involves weight-bearing exercises such as jumps and landings that can stimulate bone growth. This means that gymnasts may actually end up being taller than they would have been if they did not participate in the sport.
  • Nutrition: Proper nutrition is also essential for growth and development. Gymnasts need to consume a balanced diet that includes enough vitamins and minerals to support healthy bone growth. Without the right nutrition, the bones may not grow as they should.

Overall, stretching exercises in gymnastics do not make you shorter. In fact, they can have a positive impact on your overall health and well-being. As with any sport, proper nutrition and training are key to ensuring that growth and development are not affected.

FAQs about Does Being a Gymnast Make You Shorter?

1. Does gymnastics stunt growth?

No, gymnastics does not stunt growth. In fact, studies have shown that participating in gymnastics can have positive effects on bone health, which can actually promote growth.

2. Can gymnastics make you shorter?

No, gymnastics cannot make you shorter. Height is primarily determined by genetics and environmental factors, not by physical activity.

3. Why do gymnasts often appear shorter?

Gymnasts may appear shorter due to their muscular build and compact physique, which can give the illusion of shorter stature. However, their actual height is not affected by gymnastics.

4. Do gymnasts have a higher risk of osteoporosis later in life?

No, gymnastics does not necessarily increase the risk of osteoporosis later in life. In fact, the weight-bearing nature of gymnastics can actually help to strengthen bones and decrease the risk of osteoporosis.

5. Is it true that gymnasts often have delayed puberty?

It is not necessarily true that gymnasts have delayed puberty. However, gymnastics training can sometimes lead to a decreased body fat percentage, which can delay the onset of puberty in some individuals.

6. Can gymnastics affect your overall health?

Yes, gymnastics can have positive effects on overall health, including enhanced flexibility, strength, coordination, and cardiovascular fitness.

Thanks for Reading!

We hope this article has helped to debunk some common misconceptions about the effects of gymnastics on height. Remember, being a gymnast does not make you shorter. Thank you for reading and be sure to visit us again for more informative articles!