If you have ever exercised on a hardwood gym floor you know how uncomfortable it is. In order to allow your body to perform exercises such as sit-ups, aerobics, Pilates, or yoga comfortably, an exercise mat is almost always necessary. Gyms or workout rooms usually carry a supply of these mats, or you can purchase your own.
Many people want their own exercise mats for hygienic reasons, as gym mats may not be washed properly between workouts. Exercise mats can be purchased at your local sporting goods store for about $20-$60 (US dollars). Keep in mind however, that the more you spend, the better the mat will likely be. A more expensive mat will probably have superior padding and traction.
Padding and traction are the two main qualities that distinguish exercise mats from one another. Cheaper mats generally contain foam padding that will deteriorate and compress over time. They are good beginner mats but do not expect a long useful life of the mat. In addition, cheaper mats tend to have a slicker surface. The traction provided by the surface is an issue when using the mat to perform yoga, Pilates or any other exercise routine that requires you hold specific positions. A mat with little traction will allow the feet to slide, resulting in constant repositioning, which could lead to possible strains or injury.
More expensive mats tend to do a much better job of aiding your workout. Many of these mats contain air pockets that provide a superior cushion between your body and the floor. The air pockets do not deteriorate like foam, leading to a longer useful life. Additionally, the traction typically provided by more expensive exercise mats allows the user to exercise without sliding.
While these generalizations about cheap and expensive exercise mats are not always true, they should serve as guidelines when considering a purchase. It may be possible to find a comfortable, air-filled, sticky mat for only $30 dollars, or if very lucky, less. Regardless of whether you plan on purchasing a cheap or expensive mat--or whether you will simply use the exercise mats that the gym supplies--your muscles and bones will thank you. Exercise mats help to make your workout more enjoyable and less stressful.