Types of Exercise Mats

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During your workout, many exercises may require you to kneel or lie on the floor. Using an exercise mat will make the time you spend on your hands and knees, back or stomach a little more comfortable. Select the exercise mat that is best suited to your workout routine.

Gym Mats

Commonly used in tumbling, gymnastic classes and martial arts classes, the gym mat is large and provides a lot of cushion. Gym mats are made of thick foam and covered with a layer of plastic, which makes them easy to clean. It is best to use gym mats on a carpeted floor since they are not skid-proof and can slide when used. Gym mats are highly shock absorbent and help protect your knees, ankles, spine and neck from injury. Although most gym mats fold, they are quite large and may be difficult to store if you're using them at home.

Stretching Mats

There are two types of stretching mats, one for Pilates and one for yoga. The Pilates mat is longer, thicker and provides a little more cushion than a yoga mat. Pilates mats fold or roll up. Look for mats that have a smooth top surface and some sort of gripping on the bottom, which helps keep the mat in place when it's on a wooden or tile floor.

Yoga mats are thinner and easier to roll up and store than a Pilates mat. The yoga mat is also called a "sticky" mat, because it doesn't slide on the floor. Use this mat to maintain your balance while practicing yoga.

All-Purpose Mats

If you are doing a workout that includes floor exercises, a basic all-purpose floor mat will provide you with enough cushion to make your workout comfortable. The mats are thick, large and normally covered in vinyl that allows for easy cleaning. Although an all-purpose floor mat provides a little extra comfort for your back, knees and elbows when you're doing floor work, it is not very shock absorbent and should not be used during high-impact exercises like aerobics, tumbling or dance routines.

Interlocking Mats

Interlocking exercise mats are made from thick foam and are cut into pieces that have tabs that can be connected to one another like a puzzle. The mats absorb shock and are ideal for concrete or hardwood floors. Interlocking mats are well-suited for larger spaces, but since you control the size of the mat, you can make it as large or as small as you want. The interlocking mat pieces are light-weight, portable, waterproof, odor-proof and simple to assemble. They are also easy to clean and take up little storage space once you take them apart.