Growth and development of female dancers aged 8-16 years

Nili Steinberg, Itzhak Siev-Ner, Smadar Peleg, Gali Dar, Youssef Masharawi, Israel Hershkovitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Little data are available on the growth and development of young female dancers. The objective of this study was to determine whether the body structure and adipose tissue distribution of dancers aged 8-16 years differ from that of non-dancer girls. Our cross-sectional study included a group of 1,482 female dancers, aged 8-16 years, and a control group of 226 female non-dancers of similar age cohorts. Fourteen anthropometric measurements were recorded and 15 indices calculated. In none of the linear anthropometric measures, were significant differences found between the two groups. The only significant difference relates to the extent and distribution of adipose tissue: At age 8, both groups show similar weight while at age 13 non-dancers are significantly heavier than dancers (48.4 ± 9.8 kg for non-dancers and 40.6 ± 8.7 kg for dancers). At age 15, weight differences between the two groups decrease to only 2 kg. The differences in weight are also expressed in skinfold thickness and chest circumference. Patterns of adipose tissue distribution differ between the two groups. Mean age at menarche was 13.1 years among dancers and 12.3 years in non-dancers. In conclusion, musculoskeletal development was found to be very similar in dancers and non-dancers. The specific body type reported for professional dancers is more likely acquired via "teacher's selection" and not training programs. Parents should not dread the possibility that dance training will delay the growth or reduce the height of their daughters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-307
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anatomy


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