A break from school shouldn't be a break from physical activity, say experts at the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children's Hospital.

They advise parents to find the time and opportunities for children to stay physically active.

Moderate to vigorous activity

"Eating healthy is only one part of the equation. Burning calories is also important for children to maintain a healthy lifestyle," said Dr. William Wong, professor of pediatrics ­ nutrition at BCM. "Anything that gets their heart rate up qualifies as moderate to vigorous physical activity."

In a recent study published in the Journal of Obesity & Weight Loss Therapy, Wong and colleagues looked at physical activity levels of more than 480 minority children between the ages of 9 and 12 in the Houston area. The children wore accelerometers for seven days to measure their physical activity. Researchers found that 77 percent of the children were not meeting recommendations for moderate to vigorous levels of physical activity.

60 minutes daily

Wong advises that parents should provide children the environment to be physically active. He suggests taking advantage of parks and community centers throughout the city. Adults and children should be physically active for at least 60 minutes per day.

"Even walking is better than nothing," said Wong.

In the summer heat, Wong emphasizes parents and children stay hydrated when taking part in physical activity and use proper sun protection when outdoors.

Others who took part in the study include Karen L. Konzelmann, Anne L. Adolph, O'Brian Smith and Nancy F. Butte of BCM and Christina L. Ortiz, Debra Lathan and Louis A. Moore of the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department.

Funding for this study came from the National Research Initiative of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the USDA Agricultural Research Services.

The full report is available at the Journal of Obesity & Weight Loss Therapy website.