Yoga, pilates, stretching, bodyweight training, etc. There are a wide range of exercise types that can be done on the mat and all of them have different physical purposes and benefits. But which mat would best suit your needs? Read our tips on how to choose the ideal mat for you.
The wrong mat can significantly impair the results and quality of your exercise session. There are three main criteria to consider when choosing the right mat: comfort, size, and durability.
The level of comfort of your mat depends on its weight, whether or not you can roll it, the suitability of its surface for your exercise style, etc. If you want to be able to carry it with you on your travels, make sure it’s a light one that you can roll and carry easily, ideally with a strap. And make sure the underside is made from a material/texture that stays firmly on the ground so your mat doesn’t slip during sessions.
The size of your fitness mat is also important for making your workout comfortable. You should take your height into consideration when you choose your mat. The length of your mat should ideally be slightly longer (about 10 cm) than your height.
The thickness of your mat should be suitable for the exercise you do most often. Here are a few useful tips on which mat thickness is suitable for which exercise type:
The yoga mat is the thinnest of them all, at a standard between 0.3 to 0.6 cm thickness. Thicker mats are not suitable for yoga as they make balance poses difficult. If the surface of the mat is bumpy or textured, it will prevent you from slipping as you sweat.
Mats that are used for pilates are slightly thicker than yoga mats because they aim to cushion the hips and back during core exercises, as well as providing excellent grip. The mat should ideally be at least 2 cm thick. You may come across pilates mats with a slightly slippery upper surface, which allows for smoother transitions between pilates moves. This aspect may vary according to your training choices. And if you have a choice of a soft or firm mat, pick the firmer one. It will give you more stability for doing balance exercises.
- General Purpose Exercise Mat
Mats that are used for general purposes like warm-up and cool-down exercises, stretching, bodyweight workouts, etc. are created to cushion the body throughout the workout. The length of the mat is therefore not so important but it must be the thickest of them all. Mats with a thickness of 3-5 cm are suitable. These will be perfect for floor-based exercises such as sit-ups, planks, and crunches.
Your mat should be made of high-quality material so it won’t get damaged easily. You should consider how often you train when choosing your mat. If you use your fitness mat on a regular or intensive basis, choose one with a protective coating to improve its resistance. The same applies if you wear sports shoes while exercising.
Another thing you should be careful about is the potentially harmful chemicals in the mats like polyvinyl chloride (PVC). These chemicals can be easily absorbed by the skin when your pores are enlarged due to sweating, and can also be inhaled. You can find rubber mats or mats made of natural and biodegradable fibres such as hemp or cotton.
By cleaning your mat once a week with a soapy cloth, rinsing and waiting for it to dry, you can prevent bacterial growth and make your mat last longer.