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Yoga Mat vs. Exercise Mat: Is There a Difference?

You may be thinking that there is no difference between a yoga mat and exercise mat, but the truth is, they have very different functions and intentions.

While a debate on yoga mats versus exercise mats might not be the most exciting, since there are some similarities, the differences in benefits and drawbacks to using a yoga mat or an exercise mat can dictate how much you enjoy your workout. 

Benefits of Using a Mat 

Regardless of the type of workout you enjoy, whether that is yoga, pilates, or weight training, a mat can be advantageous towards achieving your results, while keeping you comfortable throughout your regimen.

The benefits of using a mat may not directly increase your muscle mass, help you burn fat, or enhance your health, but by using a mat, you are reinforcing your commitment to your workout by providing floor protection, slip protection, and joint protection.

Floor Protection

Floor protection is one of the main reasons to use a mat when exercising. When you exercise, you are often moving dynamically, maybe even jumping around or lifting heavy weights. This makes it necessary to have a barrier between your body and the floor that is durable, moisture wicking, and shock absorbent.

Your mat needs to be able to withstand the demands of your workout so your floor (carpet, hardwood, etc.) does not accept the rigorous pounding from jumping jacks and dumbbell presses.

Also, since your workout will cause you to sweat, you want your mat to absorb the moisture emanating from your body. If sweat starts to trickle into your floor, it can cause your floor to smell badly or even worse, become damaged, making it vital to have floor protection when working out.

Slip Protection

Slip protection is also a key benefit of using a mat. There is nothing more annoying then slipping and sliding in your downward facing dog or feeling off balance when performing lunges because your mat is slippery.

Using a mat can help provide slip protection to your yoga poses and exercises by providing a grippier, more stable surface for your feet and hands.

Flooring at home, outdoors, and even in the exercise studio at the gym are best utilized with a mat that offers traction to active movements. This not only protects you from slipping, but also decreases your risk of injury. 

Joint Protection

Joint protection when exercising is also an important motivation to use a mat.

Have you ever tried doing a kneeling dumbbell shoulder press on a wood floor? Or tried deep spinal stretches before or after your workout? The pressure of your knee on the floor definitely makes it one of the most uncomfortable positions to be in.

This is why using a mat is important. Since most of us can only withstand moderate pressure on our knees, elbows, and spine, a mat can cushion your joints and soften the hardness of any floor.

Since joint discomfort makes for such an unpleasant workout experience, using a mat will help you feel spry and have you looking forward to your next workout instead of dreading it. 

What is a Yoga Mat?

A yoga mat is a specifically designed mat intended to aid and assist your yoga practice by providing traction, grip, and stability. Yoga mats are the most traditional piece of equipment to use whenever doing yoga.

However, some people like to switch it up and use yoga rugs. Regardless, yoga mats and yoga rugs can provide the same purpose. 

What is an Exercise Mat?

An exercise mat is a workout accessory designed to support and protect your body while exercising. While there are mats designed solely towards specific activities--such as the pilates mat--an exercise mat is a great overall investment for multiple workout types. 

Difference Between Yoga Mat and Exercise Mat

The key differences between yoga mats and gym mats are the thickness of the mats and the materials used.

In most cases, yoga mats can be thinner than yoga mats and have more firmness to them, as even though yoga mats need to provide cushion, they also need to allow you to feel stable in poses without sinking into the mat and feeling unbalanced.

Yoga mats also may incorporate multiple layers and eco-friendly materials in effort to deliver the best workout experience.

On the other hand, when contemplating yoga mats and exercise mats, exercise mats are thicker and softer, making them better suited for floor-based exercises, as opposed to the many challenging standing poses used in yoga. The thickness can also be beneficial to provide padding for dropping weights.

Unlike the variety of materials and options with yoga mats, exercise mats are generally restricted to synthetic foams and plastics, which are helpful to beef up the thickness. This does provide extra cushioning and support, but has the drawback of not being good for the environment.

Yoga vs. Regular Exercise

It’s logical for there to be differences between yoga mats and workout mats when yoga is different from other exercise types.

Depending on the type of yoga you prefer (vinyasa, hatha, ashtanga, etc.), yoga focuses on flexibility, alignment, and the mind-body connection. This does not mean there is no strength aspect, as anyone that does yoga will tell you, poses like Warrior 3 require a great deal of strength. However, yoga’s concentration on building pliability is a primary objective.

Other forms of fitness place emphasis on separate types of body performance. For example, weight training focuses on increasing muscle mass, while other exercises stress cardiovascular endurance and fat loss.

Different workout goals necessitate different resources and yoga mats are no different. 

Can You Use An Exercise Mat for Yoga?

It is not recommended to use an exercise mat for yoga, as the thickness of the exercise mat will inhibit your ability to stay on balance in many yoga poses, and depending how often you do yoga, yoga mats are more durable and resilient than exercise mats.

As well, general exercise mats do not have anti-slip properties, so as soon as you start to sweat or try to push off your feet to gain traction, you are more likely to skid, which is a big difference between yoga mats and gym mats. 

So, when doing yoga, it’s obviously much better to choose a yoga mat. 

Can You Use a Yoga Mat for Exercise? 

Even though yoga mats have a primary use for yoga, they can be used diversely for exercise also.

The main advantage to an exercise mat will be its extra cushion for your joints, but many yoga mats are made to offer just enough support so that you don’t feel sensitivity or pain when in uncomfortable positions. In this instance, the difference between a yoga mat and gym mat is minimal. 

The versatility of a yoga mat makes it a strong choice for any exercise, whether that is pilates, dance cardio, or weight training. 

How to Buy The Best Yoga Mat For You 

You should be considering a few factors when determining how to buy the best yoga mat for you. The same thoughtful contemplation you use for making many lifestyle purchases should also be used here.

Using your morals, preferences, and desires, you can easily find the best yoga mat for you – one that encompasses all the physical traits you need in a yoga mat, so you can take charge in increasing your flexibility.

Materials Available

Your yoga mat should have materials that give you greater stability and comfort so you can focus on your workout without worrying about sweat or slipping. 

100% natural tree rubber base is the best option, as it combines stability and eco-friendliness.

For additional comfort and non-slip properties, a dual layer mat with a microfiber suede top layer and the rubber base layer is the optimal combination for non-slip properties and a smooth, fine texture that offers better grip. After all, stretching should feel good, not be a painful endeavor.

Thickness

For a strong yoga practice, you want a thick mat to protect your sensitive joints, but not too thick where you feel wobbly when standing.

This makes the perfect thickness at 5mm for a yoga mat. At 5mm, your yoga mat will be robust and sturdy to support you without losing your proprioceptive connection to the ground, which is important for balancing poses that may even require a yoga strap.

Weight

A reliable yoga mat should have some density to it without being too heavy.

You don’t want your yoga mat to be so heavy and cumbersome that you feel discouraged to take it out or travel with it.

However, a yoga mat with moderate density is good for resiliency, durability, and can inform the thickness level.

Ultimately, this makes the best yoga mats around 5 lbs. 

How to Buy the Best Workout Mat

Buying the best workout mat is mostly about how and where you prefer to workout.

Workouts at home may have less intensity and more free space, while gym workouts can be more vigorous.

Assessing your most common uses and locations, while considering a few key additional traits, will give you a better understanding of what the best workout mat for you is. 

Materials Available

There is little variation in the materials used for exercise mats, as most exercise mats are made with foam or plastic (TPE).

Foam mats are soft and lightweight, but not very durable. Conversely, TPE mats can withstand more wear and tear, but are harmful to the environment.

Thickness

Standard weights for gym mats are a little bit lighter as a result of the materials used.

Foam and TPE are not particularly dense, giving the exercise mat an airier feeling and overall lighter weight. But, you don’t want a mat that is too light, or else it will not stick to the ground.

This designates a good workout mat at around 2-3 lbs. 

Weight

A reliable yoga mat should have some density to it without being too heavy.

You don’t want your yoga mat to be so heavy and cumbersome that you feel discouraged to take it out or travel with it.

However, a yoga mat with moderate density is good for resiliency, durability, and can inform the thickness level.

Ultimately, this makes the best yoga mats around 5 lbs. 

Yoga Mats or Exercise Mats: Which to Buy? 

Now that you’ve been informed of the many things to ponder when deciding on a yoga mat versus an exercise mat, not only should you have drawn the conclusion that the versatility of a yoga mat is superior to an exercise mat, but also a yoga mat with defined characteristics is best.

The difference between yoga mats and exercise mats may not be as noticeable in some yoga mats, but all the benchmarks of a superior yoga mat (thickness, materials, weight, size, texture) are distinct in the Yoga Strong Mat.

At approx. 5 lbs and 5mm, with an eco-friendly rubber base layer and a non-slip microfiber suede top layer, the Yoga Strong Mat represents the best-in-class yoga mat for any workout.

Whether you want to weight train, do yoga, pilates, or meditate, the features of the Yoga Strong Mat outperform any exercise mat, and will leave you happy and fulfilled with your workout performance.

100% Happiness guaranteed or your money back. 

References


Holland, Theresa. “The 14 Best Exercise Mats for Every Workout.” Byrdie, 27 Oct 2021. https://www.byrdie.com/best-exercise-mats-5205416


Osmond, Candace. “Everything you should know about the benefits of a yoga mat.” Better Mind Body Soul. https://www.bettermindbodysoul.com/yoga-mat-benefits/