An exercise mat is handy to have if you regularly do floor-based strength training moves. They're also great to have if you regularly take Pilates or yoga classes. Depending on your situation, however, an exercise mat isn't absolutely essential. You can easily get by using alternative items for home-based workouts or by borrowing mats provided at your gym for group classes. Take into consideration the following if you're considering purchasing an exercise mat.
Work Out At Home? A Mat Isn't Essential
If you do most of your workouts at home, having an exercise mat isn't essential. If your floor is carpeted, you really don't need anything besides the floor below you. If your floors are hardwood, a simple bath towel could do the trick. You'll probably find that if you enjoy yoga and Pilates that purchasing an exercise mat will be more conducive to your exercise. Exercise mats tend to lay nicely against the floor and don't typically slip up like a towel does. You'll get better traction on an exercise mat.
The Case For Exercise Mats When You Frequent the Gym
Gyms are a breeding ground for germs. Everything--from the cardio machines to the weights to the locker rooms--are touched by numerous people during the day. The mats provided at the gym are no exception. Doing crunches on the mat provided in the weight room is convenient, but it probably isn't the most sanitary. Having your own mat to bring into the gym is cleaner. It also gives you the flexibility to do your exercises even when the mat provided at the gym is being used by other gym-goers. You don't have to wait for your turn or alter your workout.
While having your own mat is helpful--and more sanitary--it isn't essential when you're not taking a group class that requires one (like Pilates or yoga). Bringing your own mat to the gym just to do your stretching, crunches and back work just means you have one more thing to keep track of in the gym. The mats provided at gyms are perfectly fine. You can always wipe it off with some cleaning solution before using it. You also have the option of laying your gym towel down as a boundary between you and the mat.
Consider An Exercise Mat if You Take Yoga or Pilates
If you frequent mat-based fitness classes, you'll want to consider purchasing an exercise mat. Most gyms have mats available for those who do not bring their own, but often times they're in limited supply and aren't particularly clean. Consider spending $15 on an exercise mat if yoga and Pilates are a regular part of your gym routine. You'll always be guaranteed a mat--and a clean one at that!
When in doubt, having an exercise mat is helpful to own. You can find discounted mats at stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall's.