An exercise mat is an important part of your workout repertoire, so choosing one that offers comfort, support and safety is imperative. But, with so many different exercise mats in the shops, which one should you go for?
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The type of exercise mat you purchase should largely be dictated by the kind of activities you intend to use it for. Different mats are suited to different types of exercises. For example, yoga mats tend to be thinner than Pilates ones, while a general purpose mat is usually fairly thick with a non-slip grip. Certainly, if you use weights, always pick a mat that’s thick enough to withstand an accidental drop of the weight, without damaging the floor.
As a general guide, yoga mats tend to be around 0.3-0.6 cm thick, Pilates mats are about 1.5-1.9 cm thick, and general purpose mats can measure up to 5 cm thick.
Even different styles of the same activity may require a specific type of mat. For instance, those who practice hatha yoga should opt for a mat that grips the floor well, while Bikram yoga devotees should focus on finding a mat that provides good sweat absorbency since this yoga form is carried out in a heated room.
As well as the thickness of the mat, consider how long and wide it should be. The mat should be big enough to accommodate the different movements you’ll make so that your entire body is protected.
Yoga mats typically measure 120-190 cm in length and are 58-100 cm wide, whereas Pilates mats are around 140-216 cm long and 58-100 cm wide. A general exercise mat approximately measures 152 cm in length and 61 cm in width, although this can vary enormously depending on the mat.
Exercise mats can be found in a wide range of materials, including PVC, rubber, bamboo, cotton, jute or hemp.
Each material type has its own merits and flaws, so get to know these before you make any decisions. For example, PVC mats are fairly cheap but can be a chore to clean. On the other hand, cotton mats can be machine washed so are easy to clean and absorb sweat effectively, but they may move about on wooden floors. Bamboo is a good choice for yoga fans but isn’t supportive enough for Pilates or general purpose exercises.
Consider the type of floor that the mat will lie on, and make sure that the exercise mat material isn’t prone to slipping on a particular surface type.
When purchasing your exercise mat, consider how you need to care for it – specifically, how easy it is to clean. Keeping your mat clean will remove bacteria and sweat, helping to prolong its life. Some mats are very easy to clean and only require a simple wipe down, while others come with very specific care instructions. In some cases, mats can be machine washed for convenience. However, if you choose a rubber mat, this will need spraying before wiping down to keep it in good condition.
Storage and portability
If you intend to take your mat with you from your home to the gym, then you might want to opt for one that’s lightweight and easy to carry around. Lots of mats can be rolled up and slung over your shoulder, for example. Think about how you’ll store your mat when it’s not in use. Some mats come with eyelets on the side so that they can be hung up easily.
Style and colour
As well as the practical aspects involved with choosing an exercise mat, don’t ignore aesthetics. Pick a mat that comes in an appealing design and colour so that you’ll feel motivated and inspired to use it whenever you see it. If your mat will be used in a workout room at home, choose one in a style that complements the rest of this space.
If you’re still unsure which exercise mat to choose, have a look at user reviews online or ask other people at your local gym for recommendations.