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Published Sep. 20, 2021

Do you love working out at home but don’t have any comfortable surfaces to do so? Don’t let this stop you from getting exercise. In order to incorporate yoga, pilates, or strength training into your workout routine, a quality exercise mat is essential. 

The best exercise mats provide anywhere from around ½ inches to 2 inches of cushioning, which protects your sensitive joints from hard surfaces. Exercise mats are typically a bit thicker than yoga mats, so if your focus is low-impact workouts, make sure the exercise mat is thick enough to provide cushion but still offers stability. 

How We Picked the Best Exercise Mats

Methodology 

As a health and wellness practitioner and writer, I regularly review fitness gear. It’s important to find quality workout equipment that excites you to use it. Through practicing yoga and going to strength training workout classes for most of my adult life, I can say with confidence that a workout mat can make or break the experience. There is nothing worse than sliding all over your mat in a hot yoga class or not having enough cushion to protect your wrists, knees, and spine whether it’s the plank, push ups or crunches section of class. To select the best exercise mats, we compared more than 15 exercise mats from 10 different brands. In addition to being essential for home workouts, mats can also provide an added layer of safety during exercise. We looked at a number of factors including thickness, materials, and portability. Exercise mats are a bit thicker than yoga mats, and while they are great for low-impact workouts like yoga and pilates, they can also be used for strength training, martial arts, and weight lifting. 

Next, we considered which materials were used and cut out any mats that used toxic chemicals. A common complaint about new exercise mats is a slightly chemical smell, so we wanted to ensure that our picks had no adverse impacts and the odor would fade with time. If a company used eco-friendly materials, that factored into our decision as well. Lastly, we considered how portable and compact the mat was. If it folded or rolled, and came with a carrying strap, that added to the appeal.

The Best Exercise Mats: Reviews and Recommendations

Best Overall Exercise Mat: HemingWeigh 1 Inch Thick Yoga Mat

Exercise On A Cloud

The Yoga Cloud Exercise Mat provides extra cushioning for all floor exercises.

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Why It Made The Cut: At one-inch thick, the HemingWeigh Yoga Mat offers cushioning to protect your joints from the hard floor but not too much that it sacrifices stability.

Specs:

  • Dimensions: 72 inches  x 24 inches W x 1 inch 
  • Weight: 3.15 pounds
  • Materials: Rubber

Pros:

  • Eco-friendly material
  • Includes convenient carrying strap 
  • Non-slip

Cons: 

  • Only one color to choose from

The HemingWeigh Yoga Mat is a great all-around option for an exercise mat. It’s two times thicker than most yoga mats at one inch, so it provides cushioning to hardwood floors for those with joint sensitivities. It’s made with high density, anti-tear premium foam material, but it’s not too thick so that you can’t connect with the floor below for balance and support. When you first open up your new mat, you might notice a smell, but as it’s made with non-toxic nitrile butadiene rubber, which is also latex-free and eco-friendly, the smell will fade overtime and you don’t have to worry about any harmful chemicals. 

The HemingWeigh is 72 inches long and 24 inches wide so it’s large enough to stretch out comfortably. While it is a thicker mat, it weighs in at just three pounds, so you can easily carry it from your home to the studio and vice versa, and even comes with a convenient carrying strap. To ensure safety and comfort, the non-slip feature allows you to maintain balance. Plus, this mat is moisture-resistant so it’s easy to clean after workouts.  

Best Value: Gaiam Essentials Thick Yoga Mat

Affordable Essential

The Gaiam Essentials Thick Yoga Mat is an ideal all-purpose mat where extra cushioning is needed.

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Why It Made The Cut: The Gaiam Essentials Thick Yoga Mat is the right amount of thickness to provide cushion and the support to balance, all at an affordable price.

Specs:

  • Dimensions: 72 inches  x 24 inches  x ⅖ inch 
  • Weight: 3.11 pounds
  • Materials: PVC/NBR

Pros:

  • Available in multiple colors
  • Includes convenient carrying strap
  • Non-toxic and 6P free

Cons:

  • Not non-slip

The Gaiam Essentials Thick Yoga Mat is a good choice, particularly if you’re on a budget. It’s ⅖ inches thick, which is typical exercise mat thickness. For low-impact exercises like ab work, toning, or stretching where you find yourself wanting a bit of cushion, this mat will work just fine. Stretching out will be a breeze with dimensions of 72 inches by 24 inches. Although this yoga mat is on the thicker side, it’s still lightweight at about three pounds, so you can travel with it comfortably. It also comes with a nylon shoulder strap to make your trek even easier. The mat has a dual-sided textured grip to help increase traction and stability, while reducing slippage. That said, this pick is not non-slip, so we recommend pairing it with a towel, just in case. 

Available in an array of bright colors to meet everyone and anyone’s preference, this Gaiam’s exercise mat is made of synthetic rubber and is free of potentially toxic phthalates, chemicals used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl).

Best Thick Exercise Mat: Sunny Health & Fitness Extra Thick Ma

Versatile Choice

With two-inch thickness, the Sunny Health & Fitness Mat is ideal for everything from pilates to martial arts.

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Why It Made The Cut: The Sunny Health & Fitness Mat is the thickest mat on our list at two-inches thick, providing the utmost comfort and cushion for all skill levels. 

Specs: 

  • Dimensions: 72 inches L x 24 inches W x 2 inches H
  • Weight: 4.5 pounds 
  • Materials: Plastic and vinyl

Pros:

  • Material is durable and easy to clean
  • Tri-fold design with vinyl cover and nylon carrying straps
  • Comes in two sizes

Cons:

  • Less stability

If you’re looking for some extra cushion, consider the Sunny Health & Fitness Mat. Made of foam and thicker than most exercise mats, it also comes in two sizes—72 inches by 24 inches and 72 inches by 36 inches. At six feet long, the mat is long enough for most people to stretch out or lay down comfortably. It is softer than other mats, and so you may notice dents in areas you’ve put weight on. For this reason, it may not be the best for yoga as you want stability to practice safely. This mat is best for pilates, core work, martial arts, stretching, and other exercises where extra cushioning is appreciated. 

This mat also features a tri-fold design to make storage and travel more convenient. While slightly heavier than the thinner options, this pick is still only 4.5 pounds, and the vinyl case with nylon straps makes it a cinch to pick up and transport. Additionally, the mat can be easily wiped down with a damp towel after each workout.

Best Outdoor Exercise Mat: Vayure Extra Thick Yoga Mat

Smart Design

The Vayure Extra Thick Yoga Mat is made with high-density foam, is designed for outdoor use, and is slip-resistant.

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Why It Made The Cut: Vayure Extra Thick Yoga Mat is made from TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) which is waterproof and prevents fluid absorption, making this mat ideal for outdoor use. 

Specs:

  • Dimensions: 72 inches  x 24 inches  x ⅖ inch
  • Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Material: TPE (thermoplastic elastomer)

Pros: 

  • Earth-friendly and 100 percent recyclable 
  • Non-slip
  • Includes convenient carrying strap

Cons 

  • Direct sun exposure for long periods can cause decomposure

The Vayure Extra Thick Yoga Mat is a great durable option if you want to move your workout outside on your deck or even in the grass. It’s made of TPE which is also known as thermoplastic rubber. TPE  prevents water or sweat absorption, making it more durable than an open-cell design. Additionally, TPE is meant to decompose and leave only water and biodegradable bits behind. Therefore, this mat is eco-friendly and 100-percent recyclable. 

At ⅖ inches thick, the Vayure mat is ideal for maintaining stability, balance, and comfort for yoga, pilates, and other low-impact exercises while providing a little extra cushion. Included is a convenient carrying strap so you can bring your mat and your workout wherever your day takes you. This mat also features slip-resistant texture on both sides to help with stability and balance, so you can focus on your workout.

Best Foldable Exercise Mat: ProsourceFit Tri-Fold Folding Exercise Mat

Convenient Storage

The ProsurceFit TriFold Exercise Folding Mat is a space-saving mat that can be folded down into three sections and is easily portable with two carrying handles.

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Why It Made The Cut: The ProsurceFit TriFold Exercise Folding Mat is a space-saving mat that can be folded down into three sections and is easily portable with two carrying handles. 

Specs:

  • Dimensions: 72 inches  x 24 inches  x 1.5 inches 
  • Weight: 4.75 pounds
  • Materials: PVC and EPE foam

Pros:

  • Foldable design
  • Attached carrying handles for easy transport
  • Dense EPE foam for thick comfort

Cons: 

  • Heavier mat

The ProsourceFit Tri-Fold Folding Exercise Mat can be quickly folded up in three sections into a two-inch mat for easy storage. With the attached two carrying handles, you can take this mat on the go. The dense EPE foam can take a while to break in as it’s quite firm, but with the 1.5-inch thickness, this material offers both comfort and stability. Plus, the foam interior keeps its shape, which is not always the case with this type of exercise mat. It provides cushioning when used on hard surfaces to protect knees, hips, spine, elbows, and wrists. You can use it for a range of exercises, such as wrestling, pilates, core work, and strength training.

The EPE foam is covered with a vinyl casing, making it waterproof and very easy to wipe down after each workout. Offered in three colors, blue, black, pink, and purple, there is a color to match everyone’s workout vibe.

Things to Consider Before Buying an Exercise Mat

Material

When shopping for the best exercise mat, consider what it’s made of. You want a durable mat that will last workout after workout. PVC (polyvinyl chloride, a plastic polymer) and TPE (a thermoplastic rubber) are both durable options and TPE is both waterproof and eco-friendly. You also want an exercise mat that is non-toxic so you aren’t inhaling any harmful fumes while you work out. If you want something that’s super easy to clean, consider a foam mat that is covered in vinyl. 

Thickness

Exercise mats typically range from a half-inch to two inches. Depending on how you prefer to get your sweat on will determine how thick your mat should be. If you want more cushioning as you exercise to protect your joints from hard surfaces, then something a bit thicker will do the trick, especially if your workout of choice is martial arts. However, if you still want to be able to practice yoga and pilates with additional comfort, a mat in the half-inch range would be best so you’re able to have stability and maintain your balance. 

Portability 

Unless you have space dedicated to your home gym, you’ll probably want to be able to fold up your exercise mat and bring it to different locations. Look for mats that roll up or fold in sections for easy storage. Most mats come with handles or carrying straps which is certainly helpful if you want to take your mat on-the-go.

FAQs

Q: What is the best thickness for an exercise mat?

Typically, a half-inch is a good thickness to provide some cushion from the floor. If you want more protection or have sensitive joints, a one-to two-inch mat may be better suited for you. It’s also important to consider the type of exercise you plan on doing. For higher-impact activities, you’ll want a thicker mat to protect your joints. If your workout of choice is lifting weights, look for a thicker mat to protect your floor from dumbbell drops. For lower-impact activities like yoga or pilates, you might not need as much cushioning.

Q: Is there a difference between a yoga mat and an exercise mat?

While yoga and exercise mats have a similar function, they are slightly different. Yoga mats are typically much thinner because you don’t need as much cushion for low-impact activities. Exercise mats tend to be thicker because they are meant for high-impact workouts and therefore, provide more cushioning to protect your body and floor.

Q: What are the best exercise mats? 

The best exercise mats are those best suited to the types of workouts you do. Whether you need a more grounded or cushioned mat, consider exercise mats that use high-quality materials so you can get the most use out of them. Also, mats with gripping on both sides tend to be more comfortable and safer.

Final Thoughts

Exercise mats are one of the most versatile and essential workout accessories, especially when it comes to home workouts. The type of workout you do, whether that’s core work, stretching, martial arts, or weight lifting, should factor into the thickness of your mat you choose. The best exercise mats provide enough cushioning to protect your joints from hard surfaces, especially during a high-impact workout, while also offering stability to keep your movement aligned. Once you purchase an exercise mat, your home workout will get an immediate upgrade.

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