Can Swimming Make You Taller (or Shorter)? What Does Swimming Do To Your Body!

Swimming- whether for sport or leisure- is a widely loved and enjoyed sport/activity for participants and spectators alike. It’s one of the best forms of exercise/activities as it builds up cardiovascular endurance, tones muscles, and can burn a whole lot of calories- just to name a few of the things it does to one’s body. 

Also, it is low-impact (i.e. joint-friendly) while being a whole (total) body workout- it uses nearly every major muscle group in the body (i.e. the resistance of the water, which produces little to no impact on the body, helps build muscle(s)) while working the cardiovascular and respiratory systems (also known collectively as the cardiorespiratory system) as well (i.e it has both aerobic and anaerobic benefits- which is a part of how/why one is able to burn so many calories participating in this sport/activity). 

With swimming being as popular [and beneficial]  as it is, one has probably taken notice of the height of swimmers and the fact that almost all of them are relatively tall and lean in build (as compared to non-swimmers). As such, one may be wondering whether or not swimming makes one taller (or shorter)? And/or, what [exactly] does swimming do to the body? 

Concerning one’s height and whether or not swimming affects it, it’s easy to understand why some may believe swimming does in fact affect their height (make one taller). Afterall

  • Swimming has many [positive] effects on one’s body. (Wouldn’t it be great if making you taller were one of them?)
  • Many of today’s elite (adult) swimmers are extremely tall-  the average (adult) female swimmer is 5 feet 9 inches tall while the average (adult) male swimmer is 6 feet 2 inches tall (that’s pretty darn tall, respectively!). 
  • Age-group swimmers tend to have growth spurts ahead of their peers within their age group. Those are generally the swimmers that get the most [media] attention which makes them seem significantly taller and gives the illusion that their growth/increased height/taller appearance is a [direct] result of swimming (which is not so much the case). 

While swimming can have lasting, positive effects on one’s body and overall health/wellbeing, and it can certainly indirectly affect one’s growth (and, thereby, height),  it does not have any direct and/or lasting effect on growth/one’s height. 

That said, the short answer then is “No”

Swimming does not make one taller (or shorter). However, swimming does have several  (predominantly positive) effects on the body concerning cardiovascular endurance (& strength), muscle tone/strength, the respiratory system, burning calories, one’s size/stature/build (growth), and one’s overall health/wellness. The main factor in determining one’s height is genetics.  One’s genetics (DNA) is responsible for about 80% of their height. The remaining 20% is determined by external factors that can affect growth (height) such as nutrition, gender, hormones, activity, and [certain] medical conditions. 

For more on swimming and muscle toning, check out our post titled Which Swim Stroke Is Best for Toning? Swim Tonning Guide!

The majority of one’s growth (i.e. the largest growth spurt) is generally around the age of 1-2 years. Then, between the ages of 10-13 (during puberty) one typically has another large growth spurt. From there growth tapers off until the age of 18- when most people’s growth plates close up and they stop growing. 

While swimming, the force of gravity is removed (including on your spine) which allows the spine to decompress. This decompression is what gives the illusion that the swimmer is taller. Thus, any height “gained” while swimming will not last- it is only temporary. 

So, swimming may not be able to directly affect (increase/decrease) one’s height (particularly once they have reached the age of 18), but it can indirectly have positive effects on one’s growth/height (especially when swimming is started, and stuck with, at/from a young age- i.e. before the growth plates close/growth stops).

Additionally, swimming has many positive- both, direct and indirect- effects in other areas of one’s health/wellbeing and on their body (we’ll dive into a few of those effects- i.e. [some of] what swimming does to the body- in this article). (Source A)(Source B)(Source C)

Also, check out Do Triathletes Have to Be Tall (Or Short) & Skinny? Which Is Better!

Does Swimming Increase Growth Hormone? 

As you most likely know by now swimming has many positive effects on the body including stretching (& strengthening) the muscles of the body, increasing one’s energy level, and improving cardiovascular health. Another important effect swimming has is that it helps to up the production of growth hormone (HGH). (Thus, swimming indirectly affects growth/one’s height)

Growth hormone (HGH) is produced and released into the bloodstream by the pituitary gland which is found at the base of the brain, attached to the hypothalamus. The release is controlled by growth hormone-releasing hormone (a hormone that stimulates the pituitary to release growth hormone) and somatostatin (a hormone that inhibits the release of growth hormone).  Swimming (certain physical activities) stimulate(s) the pituitary gland to up its production (and release) of HGH

HGH  influences our height and helps to build bones and muscles (i.e. it promotes growth, muscle mass, and fat metabolism). The release of (human) growth hormone is not continuous. Rather, HGH is released via several pulses (bursts) every 3 to 5 hours. 

Factors that affect (increase) growth hormone (HGH) production include sleep, exercise, nutrition (specifically low blood sugar levels), and stress. Puberty also affects growth hormone production as most people’s growth hormone production [naturally] increases during this time. 

Natural ways to increase growth hormone (HGH) production include 

  • Reduce body fat
  • Frequent Exercise (particularly regular resistance exercise(s)). 
  • Intermittent fasting 
  • Reducing sugar intake
  • Sleep 
  • [Natural] Supplements 

Now that we have a better understanding of what growth hormone (HGH) is and [loosely] how it functions as well as what can have an effect on it, we can see that swimming, though indirectly, affects growth hormone- it can increase growth hormone (HGH) [production]. 

This increased growth hormone production is what boosts growth (particularly in swimmers/certain athletes). Thus, the effect that swimming (certain physical activities) has (have) on growth hormone production is what [indirectly] affects one’s height. (Source A)(Source B)(Source C)

What Sport Makes You Taller? Influncial Factors

There are not any particular sports where the sport itself (directly) makes one taller. However, sports- certain ones more than others- do have an indirect effect on one’s height/growth as they affect the factors that do have a direct impact on growth/one’s height. 

Though specific sports do not have a direct effect on one’s growth/height, some things that do affect one’s growth/height (i.e. make one taller) include,

1- Sleep 

Getting enough sleep is one of the most important external factors to ensuring maximal growth, especially during your growth years.  The general guideline (recommendation) for sleep is 8 hours per night. However, there are some slight variances based on age.

Here are some guidelines/recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation: 

  • Newborns (age: 0-3 months) → 14 to 17 Hours (of Sleep)/ Day.
  • Infants (age: 4-11 months) → 12 to 15 Hours (of Sleep)/ Day.
  • Toddlers (age: 1-2 years) → 11 to 14 Hours (of Sleep)/ Day.
  • Preschoolers (age: 3-5 years) → 10 to 13 Hours (of Sleep)/ Day.
  • School Children (age: 6-13 years) →9 to 11 Hours (of Sleep)/ Day.
  • Teenagers (age 14-17 years) → 8 to 10 Hours (of Sleep)/ Day.
  • Adults (age: 18+ years) → 7 to 9 Hours (of Sleep)/ Day

2- Healthy Nutrition Plan/Diet  

Second, to sleep, nutrition is another key external factor to one’s height. One should be eating a well-balanced (healthy) diet to ensure they meet their daily calorie and vitamin/mineral needs. This will assure the body is properly fueled for growth to take place. 

3- Regular Exercise (i.e. exercise enough/consistently) 

The mechanics of swimming (any sport) do not affect one’s height [directly]; however, exercise is needed for maximum growth potential. Exercise via its stimulating effects on growth hormones as well as other anabolic hormones has been shown to affect statural growth- a complex growth process determined by the interaction of one’s genetics, nutrition, and socioeconomic factors.

So, while swimming can’t directly affect one’s height (increase or decrease one’s height), it can, however, contribute to a healthier lifestyle which may help ensure that one reaches their maximal [genetic] height potential.

Though no specific sport can directly make one taller, swimming is among the Top 10 sports deemed to be the best for increasing height/growth (i.e. making oneself taller).

This is because swimming constantly stretches the body- limbs, joints, growth plates, and the spine

This stretching out of the body is what contributes to added height/the appearance of one being taller. So, swimming (any sport, really) is not so much adding to your height as it is correcting your posture and alignment (as well as increasing HGH production).

This correction of posture and alignment (and increased HGH production) is what gives the illusion that one is taller ( “makes them taller”)/affects their height. (Something very similiar to this phenomenon occurs during sleep as well- yet, another reason adequate sleep is vital to growth/increasing one’s height).

Other sports that have been deemed best for increasing height/growth (i.e. they also make the Top 10 list [most] consistently) include basketball, soccer, yoga, cycling, volleyball, skipping rope, badminton, tennis, and golf.  

Also, check out our post Is Swimming Good for Volleyball? How Can It Help !

There are certainly others out there that can have a positive effect on growth, but these are the most common/top ones. (Some sports have been shown to have an adverse effect on growth- i.e. the demands of the sport can actually prevent/stunt growth.) (Source A)(Source B)

Can Swimming Make You Look Younger?

Absolutely- Yes! Swimming can make you look younger. 

As we age, an inevitable process for everyone, our body processes start to slow down- including hormone production. This means hormones such as HGH, testosterone, and those hormones that keep you looking youthful drop in production. Lifestyle choices, such as activity, affect the production of such hormones as well. And, thus, activity (including swimming) has an effect on how one’s body ages- both physically and physiologically/biologically. 

It may not be the miracle cure for aging, but it can take years off your appearance and fitness (physiological/biological) age. When looking at indicators of age and/or the effects of age such as muscle mass and cardiorespiratory function swimming surely helps one stay younger longer (physically as well as biologically & physiologically). 

Here are some ways swimming keeps you younger- both inside and out

  • Swimming makes joints stronger 
  • Swimming builds/tones muscles 
  • Swimming enhances cardiovascular health (i.e. heart and lung function) 
  • Swimming increases metabolic rate (and, thereby, burns belly fat- more on that later)
  • Swimming has a positive effect on (enhances) mental health 
  • Swimming makes skin look younger (when one takes proper care of their skin, especially when swimming regularly as the water itself can be harsh on skin with repeated/constant exposure) (Source A)(Source B)

We do highly recommend that you check out our post ” Does Running, Cycling or Swimming Kill Testosterone? How To Deal with It!

Does Swimming Build Muscle?

By now you’ve most likely heard/read about the many [amazing]  benefits of swimming. Some of the more popular benefits include that swimming- is a low-impact workout, increases muscle mass/muscle strength, improves cardiorespiratory function, and improves one’s endurance/muscle endurance ( increases one’s stamina). It’s also an extremely effective way to burn calories and trim some body fat. 

All of those benefits are great (amazing, even. Plus they include building muscle), but is swimming really effective at building muscle? 

Yes! Swimming does build muscle and it is an effective means of doing so. (Though, other factors such as one’s sleep, diet/nutrition, and specific training regiment- just to name a few- will also factor in as to just how effective it is for them specifically). 

Muscle growth occurs when muscles stretch, tear and recover from resistance exercises. Swimming is a resistance exercise much like weight lifting, but, unlike weight lifting, it places very low levels of stress on one’s bones and joints (i.e. it’s low-impact). 

Swimming will build muscle more quickly and more effectively than more common cardio exercises such as running or cycling. This is because water offers more resistance than air which helps to more efficiently build muscle strength and endurance. 

Constantly pushing and pulling the water- that element of resistance- helps to build muscle. Muscle Mass is developed by applying resistance to a specific muscle or muscle group. Swimming utilizes pretty much every major muscle group in the body (as well as works the cardiorespiratory system)- hence why it is considered a whole (total) body workout/exercise. 

Factors (in no particular order) to consider when using swimming as a(n) (effective) means of building muscle include,

  • Practice all strokes (create metabolic stress) 
  • Be consistent  (swim at least twice a week) 
  • Proper/optimal nutrition (eat healthy/ “correctly”) 
  • Focus on arms and legs separately (much like “arm day” and “leg day” in the gym; isolate muscle groups to work them specifically when swimming) 
  • Vary (and/or  intensify) your routine (i.e. mix things up, change up the distance and/or intensity, so that your body still sees it as work) 
  • Continue traditional strength training (i.e. have some cross-training/ land-based strength work included in your workout schedule)

For more on this topic, check out our post titled ” Swim or Gym – Which Is Better? Should You Swim Before or After a Workout!

(Source A)(Source B)

Does Swimming Help You Run Faster?

Anyone that is a runner (i.e anyone that runs regularly/consistently) knows that your body takes a pounding-literally (and figuratively)- on each and every run. As such, one may be wondering what some good cross-training options are for runners.  And, while there are several options out there to choose from, one may be wondering about swimming specifically- is swimming a good cross-training exercise for runners? Or, more specifically, can swimming help me run faster? 

Swimming is an excellent cross-training (complement) activity for runners and can make people run faster. Because of the effect(s) swimming has on the body, it can improve one’s running performance- including speed/run times. 

Swimming is a great cross-training (complement) and/or active recovery activity for runners for several reasons- increased speed/improved run times are just one. Some other common reasons (i.e. reasons other than speed/time improvements) why swimming is a great cross-training/active recovery activity for runners include that it

  1. Reduces common running injuries 
  2. Improves cardiovascular performance 
  3. Can help strengthen the legs 
  4. Can help runners recover faster 
  5. Easily integrated into the training regiment 

Concerning swimming’s ability to help one run faster, a study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology shows that runners who included regular swimming training in their training routine, over 10 weeks, improved their running time of a distance of 3.2km (1.98-basically, 2- miles) by 13 seconds. That’s quite a positive impact on one’s performance (i.e. speed/time)!

For more on this topic, we recommend that you check out our post ” Can Swimming Help In Running/Marathon Training?

So, exactly how helpful swimming is to one’s run times/speed will ultimately depend on the individual, but there is sufficient evidence to support claims that swimming can help one run faster (perform better). (Source A)(Source B)

Can Swimming Make You Sore?

Swimming is a very popular sport. It is also a popular activity for general/overall health and wellness. With all the health and wellness benefits (positives) that swimming has to offer, one may be wondering if there are any negatives to swimming and pondering such things as whether swimming can make one sore (or not). 

Swimming is no different than any other sport/physical activity- it can, indeed, make one feel sore.  Like any other sport or activity, especially for beginners, swimmers may feel some soreness post-swim. This is nothing more than a transition period for the body where it is adapting to the physical demands of swimming. During swimming or any other resistance training, the muscles sustain super tiny (microscopic) tears (damage) which results in the muscle soreness that is felt (this is also [a very important] part of the process that builds muscle(s)). 

Post-swim soreness is not reserved only for those new to swimming.

Post-swim soreness can occur in those that swim regularly too. Especially if you pushed yourself harder than normal or changed up your swim workout. 

Typically when you’re a new swimmer or have recently changed up your swim workout/pushed harder than normal, you may have some muscle soreness that lasts a day or two. So, regardless of whether you are new to swimming or have been swimming a while, some soreness is completely normal. (If your soreness lasts more than 2-3 days with light activity and/or rest and/or it  is severe-i.e. It’s painful vs sore- you may want to seek medical attention/the advice of a physician or physical therapist.) (Source A)(Source B)

Can Swimming Reduce Belly Fat? 

Swimming is popular for sport and recreation alike. It’s especially popular for weight loss. This leads many to wonder if swimming can reduce belly fat [specifically]. 

Swimming can reduce belly fat. However, regular swimming (or any sport/activity performed regularly) does not specifically target belly fat (or any other specific area of fat for that matter). Instead, it burns any excess fat the body has stored (reserved for energy), regardless of where the fat is located (stored) on your body (i.e-regardless of it being on the stomach, hips, thighs, or other parts of the body).

As we age our metabolism (metabolic rate) slows down. When one’s metabolism slows down, it is difficult for them to reduce their fat composition- particularly belly fat- as the body will store any food consumed as fat versus using it as fuel/burning it efficiently. 

Metabolic rate is affected by aerobic activity. That is to say that aerobic activity will increase metabolic rate. This increase in metabolic rate is [essentially] what burns fat in the body/ converts consumed food into needed energy (i.e. it burns consumed food more efficiently). 

Swimming is both an aerobic and anaerobic exercise; therefore, swimming [typically] increases one’s metabolism. And, thereby, swimming is an effective way to reduce belly fat (when combined with a healthy and balanced diet/nutrition plan). 

Also, the buoyancy of water contributes to its resistance. This means one will burn more calories performing a movement in water than they would if they performed that [exact] same movement on land. Thus, swimming efficiently burns many calories which in turn means a reduction in overall body fat composition (which indirectly means a reduction in belly fat). (Source A)(Source B)

Melissa Frank

My passion, outside of animals, is helping people and adding value to their lives…I strive to leave the world a little better than I woke to it each day. The first part of my career, for a total of about 15 years, was spent in the public safety field as a Volunteer Firefighter/EMT-B and 9-1-1 Operator. In 2019 I obtained my personal trainer certification (ACE certified) as well as many group fitness certifications and certification as a Corrective Exercise Specialist.

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