The term exercise mats covers a broad range of products. People using this term may be referring to mats used for yoga, gymnastics, workouts on the floor, or even exercise equipment. So, how do I choose the best exercise mat for my own needs? Here we’ll provide you with an overview of a variety of these athletic mats, explain how you can use them and what to look for when buying one.
How Do I Choose the Best Exercise Mat?
Sometimes exercise mats are used for specific fields of exercise, such as aerobics or weightlifting. Sometimes they’re used for more rigorous activities such as gymnastics or wrestling.
Sometimes they’re utilized to improve the safety, versatility, and noise level of various exercise equipment. They are excellent choices for things like weight benches or stationary bikes in the form of equipment mats. As I will discuss on this site, they’re usefulness extends even further, but whether you savor a rigorous aerobic regiment or enjoy a tough bit of weightlifting, you’ll need the appropriate exercise mat to preserve your health and maximize your results.
Select the Right Exercise Mat for You
The purpose of an exercise mat is to make your workouts more safe, more comfortable and more effective. The safety and comfort alone makes the workout more pleasurable which in turn leads to a more efficient and productive exercise routine.
This can be the case regardless of the activity, even exercise machine activity. Be sure you research the right material for the equipment you’re using, then consider these three questions:
- Does your exercise mat need to be transported? If so, make sure it is lightweight and easy to fold or roll.
- Does it match your body’s size and shape? Depending on the activity, you don’t want to rely on a generic size which may allow for the opportunity to slip off.
- Does it support you properly? Does your chosen workout mat (or work out mats) provide the necessary support for your body weight and your exercise routine? You should consider how it will feel at your pressure points at the most rigorous point of activity. If at those point it isn’t still supportive, it isn’t the right thickness or density for you.
Do You Prefer Barefoot Comfort?
If you plan on exercising barefoot, you really need to consider the surface texture of your exercise mat for two reasons.
- The first is that you want the mat to be comfortable and even appealing. Again, it is important that your workout is as pleasant of an experience as possible to help you maintain this healthy routine. An exercise equipment mat won’t have a texture conducive to yoga exercises.
- Secondly, you need to consider slippage. In other words, make sure the home gym mats you consider provide enough slide resistance and sweat absorption to keep you from slipping. Slipping can cause injuries and just plain make your workouts less efficient and thus less productive. Remember, safety and effectiveness are vital to a great and consistent workout routine.
Understand the Available Exercise Mat Materials
Most mats that fall under the term exercise mats are thin and easily transported. This isn’t the case with exercise equipment mats, gymnastics mats or cheerleading mats; those are more specialty mats.
These more common thin mats may not seem supportive enough, but if they’re made from a quality established exercise mat material, they can be plenty supportive for their intended purpose.
What are Exercise Mats Made of?
When you shop for your exercise mat, you will find you have a choice of organic materials such as cotton to synthetic materials such as latex and PVC. Some of the most common exercise mats will be made from a blend of jute and rubber.
Which of these is “best” is really up to your personal preference and your particular workout routine. Match your body and workout regiment to the mat, then consider the material which you feel most comfortable touching and carrying on a regular basis.
Most other exercise mats will be made from some kind of vinyl, rubber or PVC. Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA) and rubber tend to be used for the heavier and thicker mats like interlocking exercising mats. Most rubber used in these exercise mats will be recycled and extremely durable. Thinner mats will usually be made from PVC. You’ll find solid PVC mats for use as exercise machine mats (for under a stationary bike, for example) and you’ll find blown PVC exercise mats for personal exercise. Blown PVC mats receive an air-blown treatment which enables them to provide more cushion and thus more support.
Can Your Workout Mat Handle Your Sweat?
While I mentioned this earlier, it is a matter which is worth its own section: You really need to select an exercise mat with the appropriate absorption, drying capability and texture to prevent slippage during your workout. This will be different for everyone as workout routines vary and the amount an individual perspires can vary greatly from person to person. So if you perspire easily or the workout routine with which you will utilize this exercise mat features a rigorous cardiovascular regiment, you definitely want to look for an exercise mat which dries fast and is highly absorbent.
This is an important point because sometimes people will just buy the exercise mat his or her friend uses. Try to consider how you sweat compared to how your friend sweats. Using a workout mat that doesn’t appropriately handle your sweat can lead to injury, so definitely consider this issue carefully.
Your selected exercise mat should provide sufficient cushioning to guard your joints while you exercise. Don’t just consider the basic thickness and density; consider how it responds to the pressure points of your body during the most rigorous portion of your routine.
You don’t want them to be too soft, either, as this can create a kind of pinching where your pressure points sink into the mat and change the surface angle too much. So your exercise mats should provide enough cushion to support your pressure points but they should be dense enough to provide a consistently even workout space.
Roll Up vs. Fold Up Exercise Mats
A vast majority of people prefer roll-up exercise mats to folding exercise mats. This is because of a combination of price and portability. You can find decent roll-up exercise mats for under $50 pretty easily. And they tend to be lightweight and very easy to roll-up for easy transport as well as easy storage.
However, if you’re more intense about your workout, you should really consider foldable exercise mats as well. While they can be more expensive and a little more difficult to transport, they’ll provide much greater support for a wider variety of exercise routines and they will last much longer. If someone really sticks with their routine, roll-up exercise mats tend to need replacement fairly often. This isn’t the case with folding exercise mats. These mats tend to last for several years even with intense and frequent use.
Cleaning and Maintaining Your Exercise Mat
Many people don’t properly maintain their exercise mats. This can make those workout mats less effective and possibly even more dangerous. Dirty mats, especially exercise mats which have absorbed a lot of sweat, will degrade in texture and cushioning much faster than properly maintained workout mats, so it is important to clean exercise mats on a regular basis.
Cleaning your exercise mat is simple: Just use a little bit of soapy water with some warm water and a clean cloth. Don’t pour water or soap directly on the mat. Rather, soak your cloth or sponge, wring it to make sure it isn’t too wet then gently wipe your exercise mat all over. Perhaps most importantly, make sure you dry it thoroughly before storing or transporting. I suggest hanging it over a sturdy curtain rod and pointing a small fan at it. If you have nice, dry weather in your area, you can also set it outside over a chair or bench.
Of course, always check for more specific manufacture instructions and precautions as well. And NEVER begin a workout on an exercise mat that hasn’t fully dried.
So no matter which form of exercise mat you require, remember to consider your safety and health not just in the moment, but in the many hours of recovery you endure after your activity. Often times, this is when you will most enjoy the benefits of having selected and maintained just the right exercise mats for your various workout routines.