An exercise mat can help make difficult exercises more comfortable and safer by cushioning parts of the body that make contact with the ground. A wide variety of exercise mat models are available, and they differ in length, width, thickness, materials, and purpose. Large exercise mats are often used for activities that require more than one person or take up a lot of space, while personal exercise mats can be used for exercises at home, in a hotel room, or in another small space. Yoga mats are especially thin versions of an exercise mat designed specifically for yoga exercises.
When considering which exercise mat to purchase, first determine whether the mat needs to be portable, or if it will be staying in one place most of the time. Then decide how much space you have available for the mat, and how much space you will need to exercise effectively. Once you have determined your space requirements, think about any other special features or considerations that may affect the usefulness of the mat; some mats, for example, are made of waterproof materials for easy cleanup, while others feature built-in straps that cinch down the mat when rolled up and not in use.
Next, think about the most common activities in which you will participate when on the exercise mat. Simple stretching exercises may require only a thin exercise mat that is portable, while more high impact sports will require a thicker mat. Wrestling mats are fairly thick and are often contained in a waterproof vinyl covering to make cleanup of sweat and blood easy and safe. These thicker mats are good for wrestling or other activities in which a user might impact the ground with light to moderate force, or for someone who has plenty of room and simply wants extra cushion for comfort.
Closed cell foam pads are thinner than wrestling mats but thicker than yoga mats. These exercise mats are portable and lightweight, which makes them great for exercises around the house. They are not as portable or packable as yoga mats, however, so they are not the best choice for sticking in a suitcase to use in a hotel room. Closed cell foam pads are often used as sleeping pads for campers, and they are thick enough to be comfortable but thin enough to be supportive when twisting the body. They tend to be fairly narrow, however, so it may be wise to consider a larger mat for whole body exercises that require a lot of space.