How to Choose an Exercise Mat

Why you need an exercise mat

4 Great Reasons why you should buy an Exercise, Pilates or Yoga mat:

 1.  It helps you stay injury-free by cushioning your body. If you are trying to decide if you need one, consider your workout surface:

  • The repetitive motion of exercising on carpet could result in skin rash or blisters.
  • A smooth floor may cause you to slip when you sweat (or if you spill water).
  • A hard floor can be tough on your joints if your workout includes jumping or high-impact exercises.

2.  An exercise mat can transform almost any space in the home into a place to workout.¹  Mats come in different sizes and colors so you should be able to find a pattern that will motivate you to workout. Find a color that complements the room where you work-out and you won’t feel the need to put it away when not in use. Seeing your mat when you look in your fitness room will remind you to workout.

3.  If a weight slips and drops on the floor during your strength training (I like neoprene coated weights for this reason), the cushion will help protect your floor from the impact. This can help prevent costly floor damage such as cracks in the tile, dings in cement or splintered wood. Standing on an exercise mat while lifting weights can reduce this risk.

Exercise Equipment Mat4. If you have exercise equipment such as a treadmill or elliptical, a mat will help protect your floor from scratches and grease from the equipment.

 

Can you think of any reasons we missed?

 

When will you use it?

Now that you know why you need an exercise mat, we’ll focus on the best mat for your exercise routine whether you will use it for floor exercises, pilates or yoga?

A lot of mats are advertised as useful for all three types of exercise, but knowing the differences for each will help you find the mat that’s right for you. Once you find the right size, check the material and texture (thick enough, slip or non-slip surface).  Personally, I love the designs of Gaiam and Sivan for Pilates and the thickness of SPRI or Reebok for exercising.

Also keep in mind that working out on cement or a tile floor may require extra padding. and if you workout barefoot, consider a non-slip mat, especially if you tend to sweat a bit during your workouts (Yes, sweating is a good thing!).

Exercise, Pilates or Yoga?

Since your goal is to exercise comfortably and injury free, see the charts below for what to consider before buying.

Use this conversion chart from Google to convert the dimensions. .5 inch to centimeters

Exercise Mats

Dimensions An Exercise mat is about ½ inch (1.27 cm) thick, 60 inches (152.4 cm) in length, and 24 inches (60.96 cm) wide.
Characteristics Normally vinyl exercise mats are made from closed cell PVC and usually have an easy to clean vinyl cover.
Use The thickness helps shield your body from the hard material of most floors.

Exercise mats are generally used for warm-up, cool-down, ab/core and stretching exercises – any floor exercise.

Differences Thicker than a Yoga mat and about as thick as a Pilates mat.

Pilates Mats

Dimensions

A Pilates mat is about ½ or ¾ inch (1.5 to 1.9 cm) thick, 55 to 85 inches (140 to 216 cm) in length, and 23 to 39 inches (58 to 100 cm) wide.

Characteristics

Pilates mats have a gripping surface on the bottom of the mat so it does not slide on a smooth surface such as tile or wood floors. The upper side of the mat intentionally allows for sliding because of the sliding movements of Pilates exercises.

A good Pilates mat is firm and made from closed cell foam (normally from TPE – Thermal Plastic Elastomer), which is thicker and firmer than regular foam mats.¹

Differences

A Pilates mat is normally thicker than a yoga and aren’t very sticky. You can easily wipe them clean after use.

Check out Pilates Anytime for reviews, then click an image below to shop.

Yoga MatsYoga Mat Image

A Yoga mat is thinner than a Pilates mat which allows the user to feel the floor underneath it. This is because yoga has a lot of standing poses. Yoga mats also tend to have more traction to prevent slipping.

 

Dimensions A Yoga mat is about .12 to .24 inch (0.3 to 0.6 cm) thick, 22 to 33 inches (120 to 190 cm) in length, and 23 to 39 inches (58 to 100 cm) wide.
Characteristics Some yoga mats have raised impressions, while others have a natural texture. Made from any of these materials:

  • closed cell PVC
  • cotton
  • mesh
  • rubber

Your mat may differ on the style of yoga you practice. For example, those who practice “hatha” or power yoga will want a mat that grips the floor well for these positions. Practitioners of Bikram yoga (performed in a heated room) should look for a mat with a towel-like material to absorb sweat. When practicing a flowing form of yoga such as Vinyasa, look for a mat with less traction so it doesn’t interfere with these positions.¹

Differences Yoga mats are thin and intended for lower impact exercises. Yoga mats are sticky and capable of clinging firmly to a hard floor surface. Yoga mats are normally easy to clean with soap and water¹

Other considerations when buying a mat

Besides thinking about the functionality of your mat, the mat can reflect your personality. Many mat companies are now offering a variety of colors and designs to choose from so you can select a color and design that goes well with your home gym. In addition, you should consider how the mat can be cleaned, how to store the mat, and if you’ll need a carrying case.

Take advantage of the Amazon reviews and read about other buyers experiences before you buy. Reviewers will give you the answers to questions you may not have thought of – here’s an example of a Gaiam yoga review options (yes, you can check even for reviews that contain the keyword ‘smell’):Amazon Reviews

Cleaning your mat

Check the care instructions for your mat before cleaning it to avoid damage. Some mats are made from materials that need special care, but most can be cleaned with a wet cloth after use and a mild detergent every few weeks or so. The care instructions can also tell you if it can machine washed. If so, use recommended settings.

Take care not to use too much soap as this can leave a slippery residue on the mat. If this happens, gently wipe it down with water until the residue is gone.

After you wash your mat with detergent, rinse it with cold water, place a towel over it and leaving the towel inside, roll it up.  Once the mat is dry, remove the towel and store as you normally do.


Buying the right mat is important. If you are happy with your mat you’ll use it more often and now that you have all the facts, have fun shopping!

Sources:
¹ Exercise Mat Buying Guide
² Fitday.com Exercise Mats

Author: Joan E Wilder

We provide information and motivation focused on the importance of physical activity to our quality of life. It is our hope to help people invest in themselves by staying active throughout their lives. It's that important.

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