How to Find the Perfect Exercise Mat

The right exercise mat can make a big difference to your workout in terms of comfort, safety and performance.  The market is flooded with mats in different styles, sizes, thicknesses and colors.  Some are sport-specific, while others are designed for fitness on the go. With all that variety, how do you choose the best right exercise mat

The right exercise mat provides cushiony support for shock absorption, a stable surface to prevent slips and falls and a clean protective layer between you and the floor.  After that, choosing the right mat all depends on what you need it to do for you. 

Start by asking yourself a few questions:

  • How will you be using your exercise mat? 
  • Will you be doing a lot of yoga or spending doing leg lifts on your hands and knees? 
  • Are you a Pilates fan or is your main goal to define your exercise space? 
  • Where will you be using your mat and how often? 

Your answers will guide you to the perfect exercise mat.

Exercise mats have a lot in common but they're not one-size-fits-all.  Most are about 2 feet by 6 feet in size (larger ones are available) with varying thicknesses. Many are made from polyvinyl chloride, foam and other synthetic plastics.  Greener, more eco-friendly mats are made from recycled materials, jute, bamboo, rubber, cotton, and non-toxic, chemical-free materials.

Make sure you can clean your exercise with either a surface cleaner or by tossing it in the washing machine.  It helps if your mat is waterproof or thick enough to keep it from absorbing sweat and leaving it on the floor.

Where you'll use your mat is an important consideration.  If you'll be carrying it with you, portability is key.  Many are designed to roll up or fold accordion-style.  Make sure when you unroll/unfold it, it lies flat.  If it curls up at the edges, it'll make exercise difficult and pose a potential safety hazard.

If you'll be using your mat primarily in one place, say in your home-gym, choose one that meets your storage needs.  Some fold in half for easy under-the-bed or closet storage. 

Mats come in varying thicknesses.

  • Yoga mats are the thinnest in the bunch and designed for barefoot practice.  Nubby, textured surfaces help feet stick to the top of the mat and prevent the bottom surface from sliding on the floor.
  • Pilates mats are thicker than yoga mats and designed to provide extra cushioning for hands, knees and back support during floor exercises. 
  • Standard exercise mats are thickest and least portable.  While they provide the most shock absorption, they may also be the most slippery.  They're perfect for people who lift weights or use equipment that may damage floors.  They work well on carpeting and hard surfaces.  Standard mats are usually designed to store flat or folded.

You don't have to spend a bundle on your mat but having the right one can be priceless.