The average height for women in the United States over the age of 20 is just under 5 foot 4 inches (about 63.7 inches) tall. U.S. men over age 20, on the other hand, stand at just over 5 foot 9 inches (about 69.2 inches) tall.
Body size and shape have changed over the years. Back in the 1960s, the average woman between ages 20 to 74 stood 63.1 inches tall and weighed approximately 140.2 pounds.
Now, the average American women weighs 168.5 pounds. The average American man weighs 195.7 pounds. Height is increasing at a slower rate than weight is increasing.
Read on to learn why this is happening and what you can do to keep yourself in the healthy range.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average height has increased only very slightly since the 1960s. On the other hand, weight has increased significantly in the last 40 years.
Research shows that potential height is related to the quality of nutrition in infancy and childhood. This study even links a population’s height to its standard of living.
So why is growth for Americans slowing down? Some say it indicates issues with access to food or maybe choosing lower quality foods that don’t have enough nutrition.
In an interview with NPR, Majid Ezzati, the Chair of Global Environmental Health at Imperial College London, suggests that the immigration of people from countries with shorter stature may also have some impact on the average.
But growth rates haven’t slowed in all parts of the world. In fact, some countries, like South Korea, are experiencing quite a growth spurt. According to research, over the past century, women in South Korea have gained an average of just under eight inches.
As of 1996, Guatemala had the lowest average height for women at 58.8 inches, or about 4 feet 9 inches. They’re followed closely by the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Nepal, where their women’s height averaged around 59.4 inches.
The tallest women, on the other hand, can be found in Latvia, the Netherlands, Estonia, and the Czech Republic. In these countries, the average height was over 66 inches, or around 5 feet 5 inches.
Scientists explain that a person’s height can be related to anything from potential longevity to a lower risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. At this point, you may be wondering how weight factors into the equation.
The average weight for women increased 15.4 pounds between the years 1988 to 2008. This gain varied in different parts of the country with the most being in New Jersey at 26.2 pounds and the least being in Wisconsin at 6.3 pounds.
The ranges are as follow:
- Underweight: anything under 18.5
- Healthy: anything between 18.5 and 24.9
- Overweight: anything between 25 and 29.9
- Obese: anything above 30
BMI is a good guideline, but it isn’t always accurate for all people. Women who engage in high amounts of physical activity, like athletes, may weigh more due to higher muscle mass and may have an overestimated BMI. Older women tend to store more body fat than younger women and may have an underestimated BMI based on the standard formula.
If you’re concerned about your weight or BMI, consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss the full picture of your health.
Regardless of where you land on the charts, the relationship between height and weight is an important one.
More weight on the same size frame can lead to a number of health issues, including:
Not only that, but a bigger waistline may also lead to:
Women who are either under- or overweight may also experience more issues during pregnancy. Things like gestational diabetes, preterm birth, and high blood pressure are all risks for women with higher BMIs. Being underweight increases the risk of having a baby with a low birth weight.
Gaining too much weight during pregnancy may also have long-lasting effects for both mother and baby. And being overweight or underweight can impact fertility, making it more difficult to get and stay pregnant.
One reason American women have gained more pounds than inches has to do with diet. The availability of processed foods and fast food has increased over time, and losing weight can be an exercise in moderation.
If you’ve tried losing weight without success in the past, don’t give up. Talk to your doctor about creating a weight loss plan that will fit into your lifestyle.
Good places to start:
Try focusing on whole foods. When you shop, these are the foods that line the perimeter of the grocery store versus the packaged foods in the center aisles. Look for fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean proteins, whole grains, and nuts or seeds.
Drink more water. Yes, staying hydrated may help you lose more weight. Different studies have shown that drinking water can do anything from helping you burn more calories to reducing your appetite. How much is enough? Women should aim to get 9 cups of fluids per day.
Move your body more. Women should try getting 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. Moderate activities include things like walking, yoga, and gardening. Vigorous activities include sports like running and cycling.
If you’re having trouble pinpointing weak spots in your diet, try keeping a food diary. Record everything you put into your body, including glasses of water. You may even want to write how you’re feeling when you eat particular things, like desserts, or when you mindlessly munch, like while watching television. A food diary can help you spot patterns and stop bad habits. You can also share this information with your doctor.
Don’t forget the emotional side of things. Food and diet involve a whole lot more than just eating. For support, consider reaching out to groups like Overeaters Anonymous. Meetings are anonymous and may be helpful for people dealing with eating disorders like:
You may not be able to do much about your height as an adult woman, but you can work toward attaining a healthy BMI. But remember, your BMI may not necessarily be the most reliable indicator of your health. Your doctor can help provide you with more personalized information, as well as help you create an eating and exercise plan if needed.
If you’re in the normal BMI range — great! Weight isn’t everything. Don’t forget to eat plenty of healthy, whole foods, stay hydrated, and get physical activity to keep yourself running strong.