Does running make you grow taller? This is a question you may have thought about when you started exercising regularly. It’s a myth. But, like all good stories, there is some truth. We know that running benefits your heart and spine, in addition to weight loss, which can contribute to better posture. This is why some regular runners may appear slimmer and longer.
If you’re looking to look taller by getting leaner and improving your posture, running is a great exercise for that. All you need is comfortable-to-wear exercise equipment and a pair of running shoes – while running through our best running watch (opens in a new tab) guide is a great way to track your workouts in more detail. We’ve highlighted some of the science below and consulted with industry experts to learn more about the relationship between running, height and posture.
How does running influence your posture?
Running has been shown to improve posture in your lifetime. As we age, we tend to slouch as our bones weaken and our muscles contract, and running can help delay or prevent this.
It’s a great exercise for your spine, according to a study published in the journal PLoS One. (opens in a new tab). Your spine is made up of vertebrae, and between each is an intervertebral disc that acts as a shock absorber for the spine. Normally, these discs become less effective with age, but researchers studied adults between the ages of 45 and 60, finding less age-related degeneration in those who ran regularly, keeping you upright and mobile longer.
Running has a reputation for being bad for your joints – there is a persistent myth that running is bad for your knees (opens in a new tab) – but it’s less well known that running can be as effective, if not more so, than resistance training when it comes to improving bone density and fighting osteoporosis, according to a study by the University of Missouri (opens in a new tab). This will prevent your posture from degenerating as you age, thus maintaining optimal muscle and bone health.
What if you wanted to improve your running posture now, not 10 or 20 years from now? If you’ve just started running, it’s worth making a conscious effort to learn how to run properly. (opens in a new tab). This will make you faster and more efficient on the roads, and will have a beneficial effect on your daily life.
“Muscular adaptations that arise from running could benefit daily posture,” says Melissa Thompson, associate professor of health sciences at Fort Lewis College. “Although running with poor posture can also reinforce poor posture in everyday life.
“Posture has been shown to have running energy implications, with research indicating that poor posture can increase energy cost. Additionally, posture influences joint loading when running, so it may there may be an increased risk of injury in runners who exhibit poor posture,” says Thompson.
Lily Canter, British track and field running coach, says: “Running frequently will only affect a person’s posture in everyday life if they make a conscious effort to correct their posture while running. If you have better posture when you run, you’re more likely to carry that over into everyday life because it will start to feel more natural.
How to improve your posture
There are plenty of ways to improve your posture, both in and out of your best running shoes. Correcting your running form is, pardon the pun, a good first step.
“I see a lot of runners with bad posture and that’s the first thing I try to correct,” Canter says. “If you run with slumped shoulders and a hunched back, you’re essentially wasting energy. It’s more efficient to have your hips high and your back straight so you can propel yourself forward rather than down.
“Imagine you have a helium balloon strapped to the top of your head and it’s pulling you up. This will help you maintain good posture whether you’re running, walking, or sitting.
The second factor, Canter says, is having a strong core, because exercises to strengthen your core can also improve your posture over time. Strengthening the muscle groups in the abdominal and lower back regions of the body (essentially, the muscles surrounding the base of your spine) will help improve your posture and performance at any age.
You might immediately think of doing sit-ups or crunches, but these exercises can put a lot of pressure on your spine as you press it against the floor during the movement. A safer alternative is to hold the plank position, which allows you to strengthen your lower back and abdominal muscles without putting dangerous pressure on your spine. Check out our guide on how to strengthen your core (opens in a new tab) for more information.
While it’s not strictly about running, it’s closely related: performing core-strengthening exercises will improve your running efficiency and economy, allowing you to expend less energy and run more safely. , according to a study published in the journal PLoS One. (opens in a new tab). Your core strength improves your posture and allows you to run better simultaneously; in turn, running more frequently will strengthen your bones and continue to improve your posture as you age.
Long-term running in middle-aged men and intervertebral disc health, a cross-sectional pilot study (opens in a new tab)
Build strong bones: Running may offer more benefits than resistance training, study finds (opens in a new tab)
Effects of an 8-week base workout on baseline endurance and running economy (opens in a new tab)