With so many people doing their workouts at home or outside of a gym, having your own portable mat is a good idea. However, how do you know which type of mat is right for you? Do you need a mat? Does it matter which one you choose? There are many factors to consider when looking at the various mat options, so we’re going to tell you everything you need to know to figure it out.
Reasons You Should Buy a Workout Mat
While some people may want to forgo a mat when they work out, there are reasons they shouldn’t. Here are some of them:
- Mats help to make sure you don’t injure yourself. They cushion the body while it is doing the hard work no matter where the workout is happening. Think about the workout surface without a mat. If the surface is carpet, then you may end up with carpet burn or blisters. If you are on a smooth surface, you may end up slipping the more you sweat or spill water. Even in socks and or shoes, this can be a problem. A hard surface is not good for your joints, especially if you are doing a workout routine that is high impact or involves jumping.
- Having a mat means you can workout anywhere. You can be outside or anywhere in your home that has the space available. If you are in your home, workout mats are fairly inexpensive and come in many colors, so you can have one to match where you are at any given time. If it complements the room, you won’t feel so anxious about having to stash it away out of sight. It is also a good reminder to get your workout in if you see it out and waiting for you.
- Mats will protect your floors. If you are doing strength training and a weight slips and hits the ground, it could damage an unprotected floor. This is a reason to have neoprene-covered weights as well as a gym mat on the floor. If you have a mat in place, then it can protect against costly damage to the floors. The cost of replacing cracked tile, repairing chips out of cement or damaged wood can cost a lot to fix. A mat can help avoid this problem.
- Mats are good for equipment as well as people. If you are using a treadmill, elliptical, or bike, then a mat ensures the floor stays protected from scratches and marks from the equipment shifting.
Types of Workouts
Understanding why you need a workout mat is helpful, but understanding what kind of mat to choose means thinking about how you plan to use it. If you are doing cardio, yoga, floor work, Pilates, or weights, they may need a different mat. If it is for your equipment, then the choice of the mat is not such an issue. The great thing about mats is they aren’t overly pricey, and you can store them away easily. So, if you need more than one, then that issue is easy to solve.
You will see many mats advertise that you can use them for any exercise, but in reality, the differences between them may make a difference when it comes to the feel of your workout. It is about finding the correct size, material, and texture to make it work for you. Many mats made by well-known companies are designed for particular workouts.
It is important to remember that if you are doing your workout on a hard floor, such as cement or tile, you might want extra thick foam padding. If you do your workouts on bare feet, then non-slip may be important as well. Sweaty workouts and water can cause issues if you are not careful about the mat you choose.
Choosing an Exercise, Pilates, or Yoga Mat
The point of having a workout mat is to protect you from injury and let you work out in comfort. There are factors to consider when looking at your options.
The dimensions of this type of mat are usually about 1/2-inch thick, 60 inches (5 feet) long, and 24 inches wide. They tend to be vinyl which is made from closed-cell PVC, making them easy to clean. They are good if you are working out on a hard floor such as cement or tile. Great for warm-ups, cool downs, ab or core work, and stretching, so they’re good for more floor exercise. Exercise mats tend to be thicker than yoga mats and equal to those used for Pilates.
A mat for Pilates will range in thickness from ½ to ¾ inch thick. They are often longer than an exercise mat ranging from 60 to 85 inches in length. Their width ranges from 23 to 39 inches. Pilates mats have a surface that grips on the bottom, so they won’t slide on smoother surfaces. The upper mat is designed for some slides due to the movements that Pilates includes.
The mat should be firm and made of closed-cell foam, often labeled as TPE (Thermoplastic Elastomer). This material is a thicker and firmer product than exercise mats. These mats are thicker and slicker than yoga mats. They wipe clean easily after use.
A yoga mat is thinner than one used for Pilates. It allows those doing yoga to feel the floor beneath it, which is important as yoga has many standing poses throughout a session. They also have more traction to make sure they don’t slip, no matter what yoga pose you’re doing. Yoga mats are 0.12 to 0.24 inches thick, 22 to 33 inches long, and 23 to 39 inches wide. They may have raised marks, but some have a natural texture. They can use a variety of materials, including closed-cell PVC, cotton, mesh, or rubber.
The mat may vary based on the style of yoga you’re practicing. If you are doing Hatha, otherwise known as power yoga, then you will want a mat that has a good grip for these positions. If you do Bikram or hot yoga, which is done in a heated room, then you want a mat that won’t be affected by sweat. If it is Vinyasa you practice, then less traction is better for those positions. Overall, the yoga mat will be thin and made to support the low-impact exercise. They will have various textures, but all are easy to clean after a workout.
Other things to Consider When Purchasing a Workout Mat
While you know why you need a workout mat and probably the type you want, other options can affect your purchase aside from its functionality. Mats can also reflect the personality of the user and where you are using them. Mat manufacturers are now making mats that come in many colors and designs that stand out. Many also may come with a carrying case or straps to make both storage and transportation simpler. Make sure to look at reviews and read what others think to ensure the mat will live up to your needs and expectations.
One significant extra to look at is how you clean the mat. They usually say easy to clean, but you want to make sure cleaning instructions are clear to avoid damaging the mat. Particular materials may need specialized cleaning, but for most wet cloth and some mild soap can be used to make sure they are clean and cared for. Some can even be machine washed but be careful with doing that as, even on delicate cycles, some mats can be damaged in the washing machine. Read the care instructions, don’t use too much soap, and make sure to give it a good rinse afterward. You can roll it up with a towel to make sure it dries well, and you don’t end up with a musty smell.
Buying the perfect mat is important when it comes to preventing injuries, staying comfortable, and protecting your floors from unintended impacts. If you aren’t comfortable when you are exercising, it makes the activity a chore rather than enjoyable. With many of us unable to get to the gym or having limited access, having a mat at home for indoors or out can help with a workout schedule.
No matter what your budget is, mats are a good investment in your workout accessories. They are versatile and reasonably priced, which means you don’t have to blow your budget. When you are done working out, they should be easy to clean, roll up and put away until the next workout. Finding the right mat is important, so you enjoy your exercise time rather than feel like you have to tough it out through an unenjoyable experience.