3 minutes with Kenny Butler from ukactive: mass movement

Physiotherapist Kenny Butler from ukactive is a passionate advocate for the benefits of an active lifestyle – whether he’s doing his job or away on a family holiday.


What is ukactive?

ukactive is a non-profit company whose mission is to get more people more active more often. Physical inactivity is responsible for 37,000 premature deaths a year and is one of the most important health issues of the century. The UK is the laziest nation in Europe. One adult in four in England doesn’t even get 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a week. That is, activity that makes you breath more heavily, like climbing stairs or taking a brisk walk. We aim to stimulate physical activity: economically, politically and socially, through our 4,000 members and partners. That involves building the broadest possible coalition of partner organisations, including the CSP and its members. We champion the fun and enjoyment that activity can bring and challenge inactivity, wherever we find it. 

Tell us about your role

A physiotherapist by background, I lead on ukactive’s health, wellbeing and social care-related business development and external growth. The aim is to make tackling inactivity a top public health priority. My conversations are varied. I could be talking preventive health with an NHS trust one day or about a primary care culture change with the Royal College of General Practitioners on another. I might be promoting targeted physical activity ‘exercise on referral’ interventions in a GP practice, or developing workplace health campaign ideations or corporate brands. 

How can physio staff get involved?

Physios need to be more comfortable with the ‘physical activity conversation’, behaviour change and preventive messages. That might sound odd, as most will think they are already doing that – but I’m not convinced. With the ticking time-bomb of an ageing population, my suggestion is to get involved with patients’ everyday physical activity and how that affects the injury or condition they are seeing you about. They may have other lifestyle conditions, which could appear unrelated to the consultation, that can be treated or managed by increasing ‘doses’ of simple daily physical activities (even in 10-minute chunks).  
The inactivity pandemic is environmental in origin, as well as behavioural. The car, desk job and screen are responsible for our inactivity  and resultant type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, vascular dementia, obesity, high blood pressure and frailty. Explore what stops patients being more active and becoming less injury prone. 
If they have a sedentary job, is the flexibility of their hamstrings an issue? Why can’t they stand for their commute, stand up to take or make a phone call, or explore standing desk options? 

What helped you get the job?

My clinical and entrepreneurial background definitely helped. My track record and background of setting up a business, Back in Action UK, from scratch and my operational and strategic thinking also helped a lot. 

Any tips on going for a new role? 

If you are interested in public health, I recommend getting to know the UK chief medical officers’ guidelines on physical activity for adults and understanding the severity of the inactivity problem. There are 12.5 million people in this country who don’t get those recommended 150 minutes of moderate activity a week. 
Second, be aware of the changing landscape. Physiotherapy has a huge place in public health, with sound training and knowledge. Along with community navigators, personal trainers and other health professionals, physiotherapy has an opportunity to be the real frontline of the NHS, by being more educative. The landscape of healthcare and the NHS is also changing, with developments such as the NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans in England.  
Third, think about how you can use your clinical skills and knowledge to elevate the profession. Think education, prevention roles and behaviour change. Don’t be afraid to take the leap from something you have always done – you can always go back to it! Physiotherapists are solid, well-respected clinicians. That goes a long way around a table of non-clinicians who think they have the answers. 

Any summer holiday plans?

Sardinia with a large dose of activity – to my children’s dismay! I would love to try paddle boarding. fl
  • Kenny Butler is a health associate, ukactive

Kenny Butler Health Associate ukactive

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