The main factor that influences a person’s height is their genetic makeup, or DNA. However, many other factors can influence height during development, including nutrition, hormones, and medical conditions.

Scientists believe that DNA is responsible for about 80% of a person’s height. This means, for instance, that tall people tend to have children who also grow up to be tall.

People usually grow until they reach 18 years of age. Before then, a range of environmental factors can affect how tall they become.

This article discusses the factors that influence a person’s height, some ways individuals can increase their height during development, and whether or not adults can increase their height.

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

People cannot control most of the factors that influence their height. This is because DNA determines these factors, and they cannot change.

However, there are some factors that can increase or reduce growth during childhood and puberty. Growing children and teenagers can take some steps to maximize their adult height.

These factors include:

Ensuring good nutrition

Nutrition plays a very important role in growth. Children without good nutrition may not be as tall as children with adequate nutrition.

Nutritionists recommend that children and young people eat a varied, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables. This will ensure that they get all the vitamins and minerals they need to thrive.

Protein and calcium are particularly important for bone health and growth. Some protein-rich foods include:

Some calcium-rich foods include:

Ensuring good nutrition during pregnancy is also important for the bone health and growth of the fetus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that people who are pregnant consume a variety of foods, such as:

  • orange and green vegetables
  • fruit
  • pasteurized dairy products
  • beans
  • nuts
  • meat
  • fish

Getting enough sleep

Sleep promotes growth and development in children and teenagers. During deep sleep, the body releases the hormones it needs to grow. Getting enough sleep may therefore allow optimal growth.

Not getting enough sleep over a long period of time may interfere with healthy growth, cause other health problems, and impair the ability of the child to focus, learn, and participate in life.

Getting regular exercise

Regular exercise is important for proper physical development, as it supports the health of bones and muscle tissues.

For instance, playing outside or playing sports can make bones healthier, denser, and stronger. Exercise is therefore beneficial for everyone, including growing children and people who are pregnant.

Babies and children grow continuously. This is due to changes in the growth plates in the long bones of their arms and legs. As the growth plates make new bone, the long bones get longer, and the child gets taller.

In the first year of their lives, babies typically grow by 50%. Between the ages of 2 and 5, children usually grow by 2.5–3.5 inches (in), or 6.3–8.9 centimeters (cm), annually.

By age 10, children will usually grow by 2.5 in, or 6.3 cm, every year. During adolescence, which lasts from roughly age 11 to age 21, teenagers will reach the final 15–20% of their adult height.

After this, the growth plates stop making new bone, and a person will stop growing. Due to typical aging processes, people begin to lose height gradually as they get older.

The following factors can affect how tall a person will become:

DNA

DNA is the main factor determining a person’s height. Scientists have identified more than 700 different gene variants that determine height. Some of these genes affect the growth plates, and others affect the production of growth hormones.

Normal height ranges are different for people from different ethnic backgrounds, with DNA being the main determinant.

Some genetic conditions, including Down syndrome and Marfan syndrome, can also affect a person’s adult height.

Hormones

The body produces hormones that instruct the growth plates to make new bone. These hormones include:

  • Growth hormones: These are made in the pituitary gland and are the most important hormone for growth. Some health conditions can restrict the amount of growth hormones the body makes, and this can impact height. For instance, children with a rare genetic condition called congenital growth hormone deficiency will grow at a much slower rate than other children.
  • Thyroid hormones: The thyroid gland makes hormones that influence growth.
  • Sex hormones: Testosterone and estrogen are very important for growth during puberty.

Average height based on sex and age

Males tend to be taller than females. Adolescent males will typically have a major growth spurt at the onset of puberty, about 2 years after their female counterparts, but they may continue to grow for longer than females.

Females will typically experience a growth spurt that will subside after the start of their menstrual cycle, which on average occurs at the age of around 12.5 years.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the United States, the average adult male is 5.7 feet (ft), or 175.2 cm, tall, and the average female is 5.3 ft, or 161.2 cm, tall.

The following chart shows the median height for males and females from childhood to adulthood:

Age in yearsMale height (50th percentile)Female height (50th percentile)
22.8 ft (86.5 cm)2.8 ft (84.9 cm)
53.6 ft (109.2 cm)3.5 ft (107.9 cm)
104.5 ft (138.8 cm)4.5 ft (138.2 cm)
155.6 ft (170.1 cm)5.3 ft (161.9 cm)
205.8 ft (176.8 cm)5.3 ft (163.3 cm)

Read about what age girls and boys stop growing.

Once a person has been through puberty, the growth plates stop making new bone. They fuse together, and the person stops growing. This means that when an individual reaches adulthood, they are not able to increase their height.

Assuming proper posture and keeping the back and core muscles strong and engaged can allow a person to stand straighter and appear taller.

Learn more about factors that affect height as an adult here.

When children reach adolescence, they experience an increase in the production of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. This jump-starts puberty.

In addition to the development of the sex organs, puberty also causes a general growth spurt that ends with an increase in height. If an adolescent experiences late puberty, they may not grow properly according to their age.

There are many causes for growth delays. This includes hypogonadism, which is chronically low testosterone. This condition can delay both puberty and its associated growth spurt.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently only approves supplementing testosterone for adolescent males who have a diagnosed medical condition that causes low testosterone, such as hypogonadism, or a delayed puberty for other reasons.

The two approved formulations for this purpose are testosterone enanthate and testosterone pellets.

DNA determines a person’s height. However, environmental factors, such as nutrition and exercise, can affect growth during development.

As children get older, they need good nutrition and plenty of exercise to help their bodies make the hormones they need to grow. Teenagers will experience a growth spurt during puberty. After that, their bones will stop growing, and they will not get any taller.

There are growth hormones that a person can take to increase their height. However, the FDA has approved this only for people with specific medical conditions.

A person should contact a doctor for an evaluation and treatment determination if they are concerned that their stature is too low.