We all love to exercise and at one point or the other we need exercise mats to help us achieve our goals. Right from weight training, Pilates to yoga, just about every common exercise form asks for a sturdy exercise mat. However, the definition of sturdy changes from one form to the other and it is important to pick the exercise mat to get the desired results. Here is a quick guide to help you pick the right exercise mat for your workout.
Yoga mats are generally the thinnest of the exercise mats that are available. There are many yoga poses where one is required to feel the floor with bare feet through the mat. So, the appropriate thickness of a yoga mat is around ¼ inch but they tend to go up to 1/8 inch to ½ inch thick. The surface of the yoga mats is either bumpy or textured, helping them stick to the ground. They are also a bit sticky and that’s what helps avoid slips when you sweat it out.
The Pilates mats are similar to the yoga mats though a bit thicker. The job of this mat is to provide adequate cushioning to your hips and back while you do core exercises. The thinnest Pilates mat are around one and half inch, but it is best to pick up mats that are at least one inch thick. It will put the least strain on your body. Remember to pick a firm mat and not the soft one that can harm your posture in the long run. The Pilates mats are also textured like the yoga mats but are not sticky. This is simply because Pilates exercise is mostly done seated or lying down and there is hardly any chance of slipping there.
These mats are the thickest and are designed to keep the hard floor off you and at the same time provide some cushioning while you workout with weights. The minimum thickness of this mat should be around an inch thick, but again the best ones should be around two inches thick.
Length of the mats
For all three types of mats, the length should be determined by your height. Go for something that’s about 6 inches longer than you are tall. Mats go up till the size of 86 inches (over 7 feet), so you will surely get your size.
Width of the mats
For the width of the mat, your stomach should be your guide. Measure the widest part of your waist or stomach and then pick a mat that is minimum a foot wider. This way you will have space to keep your arms beside you without feeling the floor beneath.
How to store the mats away
It is important to store the mats the right way before you move them. For yoga and Pilates mats, you can just roll them up and carry along with you. Look for straps to secure it in place but avoid bags. The bags prevent the mat from airing out and that can spoil your mat much before its time. Pick something that’s as simple to clean and maintain as possible.
Pick the right material
You can broadly divide the kind of material into natural fibers and synthetic fibers. The natural ones will include bamboo, jute, cotton, rubber and even hemp. The synthetic mats are made from microfiber, Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), latex and rubber. If you are wondering what’s with so many choices and does it really make a difference… the answer is, Yes!
Bamboo: It’s a good choice for yoga, as it lays flat, is light and can be carried around easily. On the other hand, bamboo mats are difficult to clean and doesn’t really provide adequate cushioning. So, it’s not a great choice for Pilates or a regular exercise mat.
Cotton, Hemp and Jute: These are one of the most popular choices for exercise mats and also go well for yoga as well. These are non-reactive materials and observes sweat easily. You can also easily wash them in the washing machine. One limitation that you should keep in mind that it doesn’t grip well on wood or concrete very well. So, there is a small chance of a slip. But if you are working out on a carpet or rubber gym floor, then these exercise mat materials go very well.
Latex and rubber: Mats made from this material is comparatively inexpensive and can stick to bare floors and also provide reasonable amount of cushioning in all three types of exercise mats. It is a bit more difficult to clean as it has to be sprayed and then the solution left to kill germs. It can of course be rinsed off after a few minutes. The biggest problem with this mat is that some people are highly allergic to these mats. It even has a strong odor that is annoying for some people as well.
Microfibers: They are generally synthetic fibers and are mostly made from polyester. These mats are soft, absorbent and can be easily machine washed. You would find that mostly these mats some with a PVC backing to prevent slipping. You can find microfiber mats in all three thicknesses and sizes.
Polyvinyl chloride or PVC: It is one of the most inexpensive materials used in the exercise mat and is extremely flexible and soft. If you are allergic to latex, then PVC mats are a good choice. Go for mats that are phthalate free. Also, check for closed cell construction or closed cell foam, as it helps retain the bounce.
- When picking an exercise mat for yourself, avoid cheap mats that curl up on the edge. You really don’t want to lose balance and fall.
- Most gyms and fitness centers provide mats. Best idea is to lay a towel down on the mat and avoid direct contact with the mat. You should also ask for disinfecting wipes to wipe it before you place the towel.