What is the role of your height in how flexible and agile you are?

You must have heard people saying that this person is more flexible because he is short or this person is agile because he is tall.

So, how far are these claims true? Is it really so that being shorter makes you more flexible? Is it true that taller people are more agile than shorter people?

Let’s find out.

What do flexibility and agility mean and are they the same?

To begin with, flexibility and agility are not the same, though they may have similar characteristics and benefits.

Flexibility, in short, means your ability to move about in a wider range of directions or with more twists and turns.

This means if you can bend easily to pick objects fallen onto the ground or if you can easily turn around to grab an object that’s on a shelf behind you, or if you can maneuver yourself easily through large crowds, then you can consider yourself flexible.

It only refers to how well you are able to move around your body parts against each other or turn them to serve the purpose.

If you take time to bend or would rather prefer to pick up the object by holding them between your toes too often, you may not be flexible enough.

So, flexibility depends largely on how well you are able to move your joints, flex, or extend your muscles to bend forward or backward, turn, twist, extend yourself, and so on.

And a large part of this depends on the health and strength of the involved tissues, which are basically the muscles and joints.

Agility, on the other hand, refers to the speed of your actions and movements.

Agile people are those who can run fast, work fast, have quick movements, and can move about freely even while walking or running through difficult terrains.

The last criterion is where both flexibility and agility overlap to some extent.

So, you need to be both agile and flexible to be able to move through difficult or crowded places with good speed.

So, I suppose the difference between agility and flexibility is clear now. Now let’s check whether your height can play a role in making you more or less agile and flexible.

What is the effect of your height on your flexibility?

All of us have to stretch our body in different directions to remain flexible or perform different activities. Each individual has his or her own unique flexibility, with inherent limitations, as well as tension patterns.

We develop inflexibility for many reasons.

Physical, emotional, psychological, and even life challenges and trauma can cause us to contract or retract ourselves, both physically and emotionally. However, even when this form of contraction is at the emotional level, it may manifest itself in the physical form as withdrawal causing your flexibility to reduce.

The physical and emotional factors can also change our breathing, due to which we remain tensed at the muscular level.

These factors are known to hamper our flexibility and prevent us from moving about freely.

While these changes in the body are often brought about by emotional changes, they may affect us at the physical level also. Over time, as the stress and tension become chronic, the flexibility may reduce further.

These changes do not directly relate to the height of a person except for the fact that the risk of anxiety is comparatively higher in shorter people. They may also have issues like an inferiority complex that makes them too conscious to work around freely, especially in the presence of others.

So, they are likely to be clumsy.

However, this link between being shorter and reduced flexibility works in an indirect manner and is not significant enough to conclude that shorter people have reduced flexibility. The impact of the emotional health of a person, though evident, is not as strong as the impact of the overall physical fitness.

Hence, it would not be correct to assume that shorter people are less flexible due to their lower self-esteem, and the feeling of self-consciousness while moving about in the presence of others.

Now that we have learned the effect of emotional health on flexibility, let us move to check how the physical health of taller people and shorter people influences their flexibility.

The effect of your heigh on your flexibility

One study focused exclusively on assessing the effect of the height of a person on his or her flexibility has provided better insights into this topic.

For the purpose of this study, 60 young healthy athletes were selected. The heights of these participants were noted, and their flexibility was assessed based on factors such as the hyperextensibility of the spine and the neck and trunk extension ability.

Some other parameters based on which the flexibility was evaluated included an extension of the shoulder, the movements of the wrist and shoulder joints, an extension of the hamstring muscle in the legs, and the extension of the leg from the front to rear.

The ability of these athletes to extend their legs while spreading them apart and the ability to extend the ankles were also measured.

This study has shown a positive correlation between height and the hyperextensibility of the spine. This means that people who are taller are better able to extend their spine backward compared to the people who are shorter.

This study also showed that the flexibility of the neck and trunk for their backward movements is better in taller people. The wrist and shoulder flexibilities were also higher in taller participants than in shorter participants. 

However, it was found that when it came to the extension of the shoulder joint, it was the shorter participants who showed higher flexibility. They also had better flexibility in their legs as was shown by their ability to extend their legs easily while spreading them apart.

Taller people showed better flexibility in terms of the extension of the hamstring muscles, and the extension of the leg from the front to rear. The ankle extension ability was also higher in taller people.

The results of this study have shown that flexibility could be more or less in shorter or taller people in different joints. Some joints are more likely to have better flexibility in taller people, while some might have better flexibility in shorter people.

Hence, while assessing the functional flexibility of a person based on his height, we need to first check the kind of activities he or she is expected to perform. If the joints involved in the activities are the spine, neck, and wrists, then it is the taller people who are likely to be more flexible. [40]

So, the common assumption that shorter people are more flexible is not always true. It depends primarily on which joints we are specifically talking about.

The effect of joint health on flexibility

As told to you earlier, your flexibility is determined by the health of your joints and muscles.

If your muscles are stronger, you are more likely to have better flexibility than someone who has weak muscles. Similarly, having strong and healthy bones could make you more flexible than someone who suffers from arthritis or any disorder that causes damage to the tissues of the joints like the synovium.

For example; patients who suffer from osteoarthritis are less flexible. This condition is known to cause severe pain in the joints, especially in the knees and hips, along with moderate to severe restriction of movements. It may also make the muscles and joints stiff.

So, a person with osteoarthritis is bound to have difficulties in moving about. This indicates that arthritis and other joint disorders can reduce your flexibility.

The risk of osteoarthritis could be higher in men and women who are taller and so, have higher body weight. This could be a factor that can affect the flexibility of taller people.

Also, it has been found that the risk of arthritis is more in people who are very short or very tall. Hence, it may be assumed that the flexibility is lower in people who are taller or shorter than those with average height.

Also, the ligaments and tendons tend to be shorter in length in people of shorter stature. The short ligaments are not able to provide adequate support to the joints making them prone to damage and wear and tear. This is another reason why shorter people may have lower flexibility due to their higher tendency to develop joint diseases like osteoarthritis.

Are taller people less agile?

Some stereotypes suggest that taller people tend to be less agile. Taller people also have more bodyweight to move around while playing sports or performing any activity. So, they may not be quick in performing movements such as running.

The higher body weight is one factor that most people believe to be responsible for the reduced agility in taller people.

Taller people also have a difficulty in maintaining balance as their body’s center of gravity is located slightly above the ground than that in the shorter people. So, they have a higher tendency to lose balance and fall. This might make them less agile.

However, you must have noticed that many athletes like basketball players are taller. Moreover, they rely on their flexibility and greater height to perform successfully in the games. Hence, it would be wrong to assume that being tall makes you less agile.

Flexibility training may help taller people with naturally larger body size to gain better ability, coordination, balance, and control. Regular exercises to build strength and flexibility in the core muscles could also help them control their movements and move the entire body without much difficulty thus making them more agile. [41]

So, it can be said that while being shorter could make you more agile, it is possible for taller people to improve their flexibility and agility by performing regular exercises.


  1. http://www.iosrjournals.org/iosr-jspe/papers/vol3-issue1/F0312729.pdf
  2. https://www.sportsrec.com/7640277/relationship-between-body-size-flexibility