The Filmmaking Benefits of Physical Activity

Director Jared Malik Royal discusses how maintaining an active lifestyle has a positive impact on his thought process.

man working out

We’ve spoken with scores of filmmakers over the years in our quest for insight into the craft that consumes us all. We’re constantly seeking techniques, philosophies, ideas, and choices we can pass along to our creative community.

In the third episode of the Musicbed Podcast, director Jared Malik Royal touches on a choice that that’s among the best you can make while also being one of the easiest to avoid—maintaining an active lifestyle. 

What we found interesting is how Royal considers exercise vital to his creative and career ambitions. He sees fitness and filmmaking as connected. It’s all part of what Malik believes is essential to being a well-rounded, whole person who operates at a high level. Here’s what he says in the interview: 

“Something that I believe allows me to be the best version of myself is being physically active. I like to train with a boxing coach. I’m starting the day off immediately with—okay, I gotta be on high alert and ready for anything that comes my way. 

You’ve got to put yourself through real challenges so you’re able to be more present when you’re on set. Because, when somebody comes to you and says, like, such and such doesn’t have the right color shirt, and the whole thing is off schedule by 30 minutes, and it’s all gonna fall apart, you just can look at them and say, hey, I just ran up a mountain carrying a log on my back being chased by wolves. It’s going to be okay.”


It’s tough (if not impossible) to be sedentary on set. But what about in the editing bay? How much exercise are we getting while we color grade and sound design and write? Probably not enough. Changing that—even just a little—could be the key to unlocking your next creative breakthrough.

It’s no secret that physical activity has a positive impact on our thought process. Exercise literally gets our blood moving. That blood soaks our brains in oxygen and nutrients. Moods are boosted. Reasoning skills improve. Clarity is achieved. And according to one study, creativity flourishes.

The New York TImes article “Can Exercise Make You More Creative?” cites a 2020 study that explores the link between physical activity and imagination. The study’s completely unsurprising finding is revealed in the first paragraph of the NYT piece:

“If you often exercise, there’s a good chance you also tend to be more creative, according to an interesting new study . . . It finds that active people come up with more and better ideas during tests of their inventiveness than people who are relatively sedentary, and suggests that if we wish to be more innovative, we might also want to be movers and shakers.”

Indeed, the study, from researchers at the University of Graz in Austria, reveals a clear “association between creativity and physical activity in everyday life.”

Now, it’s likely some may be thinking something along these lines: Yeah, I knew that. But I can’t fit a gym membership into my schedule or budget. Well, that excuse isn’t going to work anymore, because the study’s findings are the result of tracking simple everyday activities like going for a walk. Riding a bike. Disc golf. Dancing. Playing the drums. You get the idea.

(And if your deadline is looming large, and you can’t make it to the pickleball court, there are plenty of exercises you can do without ever leaving the warm glow of your monitor.)

Ultimately, just remember: The next time you need to get started or unstuck, take a few minutes to chase your dog around the backyard. It’s not just good for your health, it’s good for your next film. 

In episode #003 of the Musicbed Podcast, Jared Malik Royal shares the value of staying present in an age of distractions. Topics include the real-life hope found in sci-fi world-building, the meaningful differences between art and content, and why creatives might be thinking the wrong way about AI. Watch it now—Jared Malik Royal: The Power of Art-First Filmmaking.