Do You Need an Exercise Mat?

Nadia Santiago
Jack knife on an exercise mat.

If you've taken classes at a nearby fitness studio or followed workout videos from the comfort of your own home, you've probably noticed many of them use exercise mats. Workout mats aren't necessary, but many people prefer them. There are plenty of workouts you can do at home or in the gym without at mat but using one has benefits, as well, especially for beginners.

Benefits of Using an Exercise Mat

While mats are never necessary to workout (unless the gym or studio requires their use), they are sometimes preferred. Having an exercise mat may benefit you in several areas.

Cleanliness

Some people don't mind getting a little dirty while they workout, but if you'd prefer to keep a layer of protection between you and the ground, a mat might be right for you. Of course, you need to clean it off after use, or it won't be much cleaner than not using one.

Comfort

Using a mat provides some extra padding between your body and the ground, which is especially useful to those whose wrists, knees, or even hips are sensitive to hard surfaces and heavy loads.

Space

In most classes, an exercise mat serves as a separation between your personal workspace and the space of others. Any equipment needed for the workout can be placed tightly around the mats to make room for more exercisers.

Support and Safety

There's nothing worse than a slippery surface when you're trying to balance or stabilize your body. The right type of mat will ensure that your body stays put, no matter what position you're in.

When To Consider Using An Exercise Mat

Exercise mats aren't necessary in all situations, but they might be helpful in some. There are a few situations in which using an exercise might be the best option.

Floor Work

Exercise mats are useful when a substantial portion of the workout is performed from the floor. This is common with core workouts where students are often required to lay on their backs or place their forearms on the floor.

Whether, you're on your hands or on your back, it's nice to have a cushion between you and the hard ground. It's also helpful for beginners who need to modify exercises. For example, the modification for a pushup is performed with your knees on the ground, and the mat helps protect tender knees.

Modified push up

If you're going to work your core or you anticipate the need for modifications, consider purchasing a mat. Any mat made for general fitness activities will do. If you prefer something with more cushion, your best bet is a Pilates mat. They tend to be on the thicker side.

Yoga

While types of yoga classes vary from workouts that involve constant movement to deep stretches that call for stillness, your standard yoga flow needs a mat with a firm grip and stable surface. This is why yoga mats tend to be on the thinner side. They are also made of materials that provide a non-slip finish, essential for poses where your hands or feet might slide a bit.

The amount of grip varies depending on the material the yoga mat is made of. The right fit for you will depend on your needs and preferences, so be sure to do your research to check out your yoga mat options before you buy one.

Workouts That Don't Require Mats

Mats come in handy for certain types of exercises and workouts, but that doesn't mean they are essential to your fitness routine. In fact, there are types of training where an exercise mat isn't needed at all.

Standing or Seated Strength Exercises

There are hundreds of strength exercises you can complete without a mat. In fact, most exercises for the arms, shoulders, and the back can be completed standing or seated on a bench.

Suspension Training

Group suspension training has become very popular in the past few years. Depending on the brand of suspension trainer, you attach it to a door, loop it around a tree or hook it to a supportive surface and you are ready to go, no mat needed.

Cardio Workouts

Do you enjoy swimming, biking, walking, or running? These are all effective workouts that can be completed without a mat. If you'd prefer to perform a quick workout at home, a streaming dance fitness class or cardio kickboxing circuit might be a better option. Try out this quick cardio kickboxing workout that can be performed in 15 minutes or less.

Workouts at Home or in Nature

Do you have a carpeted floor in your living room or bedroom? This is a great place to perform a workout. If you do need to get on the ground for floor work or modifications, you have a built-in cushion. Just make sure to vacuum before you get down there to avoid contact with germs or dust that may have collected.

No carpet? Head to a nearby park. The grass is a natural cushion. Plus, you can get some fresh air and sun at the same time.

Is an Exercise Mat Right for You?

As you can see, there are plenty of workouts you can do without an exercise mat. Whether a mat is right for you is based on the type of workout, your level of experience, and your location while exercising. If you're thinking of purchasing a mat but are on the fence, find a way to try one first. Your gym or fitness studio should have some available. If you don't belong to a gym, borrow one from a friend. For now, if you don't have a mat, don't let it stop you from being active. Go for a walk, take a class at a local studio, or complete a workout on a soft surface at home.

Do You Need an Exercise Mat?