Frequently, we hear well-meaning coaches and parents saying to youth in sports not to push too hard or they will get an injury. While their concern is appreciated, it rarely takes into account the plasticity and adaptability of youth. In 18 years being involved in athletics, I have had to pull youth back from sport on 3 occasions for fear of injury (there were other occasions for other reasons). Most coaches I’ve spoken with have similarly low numbers. It is simply very hard for a healthy young person to drive themselves to the point of injury on purpose.

Further, driving themselves as hard as they can is HEALTHY. Never mind the psychological benefits it provides, Hay et al 2012 demonstrated clearly that in youth 9 to 17 yo, those who participated in the highest intensity activities (not necessarily the longest) were those that had the lowest risk of cardio-metabolic disorders.

Consider that the human body craves high intensity activity. In fact, those who spent more than 7 minutes daily at above 85% of VO2max demonstrated 0.56 less chance of being overweight and 0.36 chance of lower blood pressure. VO2 max and waist circumference were also improved.

Again, we are dealing with children. Environment, life choices, socio-economic status, even the country one lives in will all play major roles in their long-term health but realize that getting your kids pushing themselves as hard as they can for just a few minutes a day can have drastic long-term benefits to their overall health, mental well-being and longevity. Hill sprint with your children, their hearts will thank you.