Exercise Mat vs Yoga Mat: Is There a Difference?

Exercise Mat vs Yoga Mat: Is There a Difference?

Authored by Marshall on May 15, 2023

Are exercise mats and yoga mats the same? No! While these two athletic tools are similar in many ways, they have differences. Some athletes may want to invest in different mats for yoga and exercise. For others, one might suffice.

Are you confused or curious about workout mats vs. yoga mats? Our team is here to help! We’ve created a guide that breaks down the key points of fitness mat vs. yoga mat use. Hopefully, this information will help you determine which mat(s) are necessary for your unique needs and goals. 

If you have any lingering questions, you can count on our athletic experts and coaches to provide the information you seek about exercise equipment. Just come see us at our Boise fitness center. We’re waiting to help you smash your fitness goals.

Understanding the Basics: Yoga Mat vs. Exercise Mat Use 

Many of the key differences between exercise mats and yoga mats come down to their construction. The way your mat has been made will inform the way you use it. When you understand these differences, it will be easier to determine which of these options would better suit your needs.

Before we begin, let’s discuss the ways these mats are intended to be used. As the name suggests, a yoga mat is best for the ancient practice of yoga. However, the yoga mat can be a great piece of equipment for plenty of other workouts, as long as they are low impact. If you’re planning to smash out a HIIT session or other similarly intensive exercises, a workout mat will be a better choice. They are designed to support physical activity with higher intensity.

Key Material Differences: What Sets Them Apart?

While yoga mats and exercise mats can be made of the same material, they often have different compositions. Let’s break down the most commonly used materials for these mats.

Yoga mats can be made of several types of material. Plastic materials such as PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and TPE (thermoplastic elastomer) are often used in their construction. Some yoga enthusiasts invest in eco-friendly yoga mats made of natural materials, like cotton or jute. Natural rubber yoga mats are also a popular choice amongst yogis.

Exercise mats are also often made from PVC and TPE, but many makers use other materials, such as NBR (nitrile butadiene rubber.)

Thickness and Support: Exercise Mat vs. Yoga Mat

Thickness is perhaps the most significant difference between yoga and exercise mats. Whatever materials or surface features your mat may have, its thickness determines the kind of mat it is.

Let’s break down the typical thickness of exercise mats and yoga mats:

Exercise Mat Thickness

Generally, an exercise mat is built to withstand more intense, higher-impact workouts than a yoga mat. Because of this, exercise mats are typically thicker than yoga mats. However,  there is a wide range of thickness levels for exercise mats. Some athletes prefer a medium build (5-7mm), while others want a thicker mat. “Thick mats” encompass a large range of sizes, from 8mm-5cm, or even thicker! 

Yoga Mat Thickness

Typically, yoga mats come in a thinner range than most exercise mats and are commonly about 5 or 6mm thick. The thinness helps athletes feel the floor beneath them and can facilitate better stability and fluid movement. 

While most yoga mats are thin, thick ones are also available and often used in specific practices, like restorative yoga. They are also a good option for therapeutic purposes and helping athletes with pain. 

Traction and Stability: Comparing Surface Features

Some workouts require more traction and stability from a workout mat than others. When it comes to yoga, this is particularly important. After all, yoga stretches require a fair amount of balance and grip to perform successfully and safely. Without a good, grippy surface, some mats can become sweaty and may cause athletes to lose balance or slip, especially when practicing yoga. Nobody wants that to happen! This is why some of our favorite yoga mat materials are made of rubber or TPE— they are less likely to slip and slide, even if your workout has you pouring sweat. However, plenty of PVC or eco yoga mats can also provide good grip and were designed with that intention. If you are currently shopping for a yoga mat with stability and traction in mind, we recommend searching for a brand that emphasizes grip.

While balance may often be associated with practices like yoga, it is a necessary component of many types of exercise. That’s why grip and stability are important for general exercise mats and yoga mats. A well-textured exercise mat with good stability and traction will help allow athletes to crush everything from planks to push-ups without worrying about injury.

Choosing the Right Mat for Your Fitness and Wellness Needs

We have a few tips for choosing a great mat, whether for yoga, HIIT, or any other workout!

  • Do Your Research

The internet is full of comprehensive product reviews of all kinds, including ones for yoga mats and exercise mats. The people who write these reviews tend to be very enthusiastic and knowledgeable and will provide lots of insight into various mats. Then you can look into specific stats (like exact thickness, material, and special features) on the manufacturer’s website. Many brands also offer customer support services that allow you to ask a team member specific questions about the mat.

  • Leave Your Bias at the Door

Just because it’s a big brand name doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Before dishing out your hard-earned cash on an expensive mat you saw on Instagram, consider whether it will help with your specific goals. There’s nothing wrong with going for a less glamorous make of yoga mat if it suits your needs. That’s the point!

  • Ask Around

Next time you hit the gym or speak to one of your athletically inclined friends, ask for their take on a great mat. They will give you honest advice about their experience, and that is super valuable! 

  • Test Some Out

Many gyms have a great stock of yoga and exercise mats that you can test out. That will help you make a better-informed decision about investing in your own yoga or exercise mat.

  • Speak to a Pro

Fitness coaches are incredibly knowledgeable about fitness equipment, mats included. Plus, your coach will understand your unique needs and fitness level, so they can recommend an ideal mat for your goals and workout journey.

Let’s Move!

At Jack City, we have everything Boise athletes need to smash their fitness goals—including great equipment. Along with plenty of yoga and exercise mats, we have a wide range of high-tech fitness equipment, including Woodway treadmills, Airbikes, and a Monkey Mill. Plus, you can work with our amazing crew of fitness coaches to help you see the results you crave! We have the answers to all your fitness questions, whether you need help to develop a better pre-workout stretch routine, want a customized fitness plan, or are interested in a heart-pumping class. We’re open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so you can hit the gym whenever you like. We’re here to serve your needs!

Want to learn more about becoming a Jack City Fitness partner? Get in touch with our amazing team by calling (208) 999-1111 today. We’ll invite you to our Boise facility for a FREE fitness consultation and tour. Once you sign up with us, you can access all our amenities. We can’t wait to help you grow as an athlete!  



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