Exercise mat vs Yoga mat – Which is right for you?

What are the differences between Exercise and Yoga mats?

Although yoga mats and exercise mats look almost identical. There are some distinct differences between the two. The first thing you should ask yourself when considering which type of mat you need is – What will the mat be used for? That may seem like a silly question, but knowing the answer to this will lead you in the direction of which mat suits your needs. 

Yoga mats and exercise mats aren’t really transferable, but if you’re really in a pinch you can use them. For instance, if you’re really in the mood for a Yoga session but don’t have a yoga mat, you can use an exercise mat to get practice in. Yoga mats are definitely a bit more multi-functional than exercise mats, but putting gym equipment or using them wrongly may cause damage to the mat.    

The basic use of a mat in any form is to provide a cushion for you as you lay or lean on it.  If you have ever tried doing any sort of exercise on a hard floor you will understand the need for the cushion. 

Mats should also provide a level of grip. There’s nothing worse than losing traction as you exercise on a mat. Mats also provide a good level of warmth as you practice on them. This is especially important if you are practicing laying down in a colder environment.  Lots of gyms these days have concrete or hardwood floors, so the mat will provide a layer between you and the floor and keep you warm. 

Exercise mats can also be known as an gym mat and they are effectively the same things, so don’t be confused if you see it called one or the other. 

Benefits of a Yoga Mat 

An essential piece of kit that any Yogi needs to practice Yoga. As a form of exercise Yoga is great as it requires very little equipment to take part, so invest in a decent mat as you’ll most likely be spending a lot of time on it. As a beginner, a good mat will also make your practice a little easier as they provide superior grip and you won’t end up slipping as you hold your poses. 

Adds a layer of cushion 

Comfort is a key part of the benefits a yoga mat provides. Yoga requires quite a bit of pressure on body parts that you primarily leverage to hold poses. So you will really feel that extra bit of cushion as you lean, hold and move your way through a class.

Mats come in various sizes, levels of grip, and thicknesses. Typically the average mat is around 3 millimeters in thickness. Anything over that is considered extra thick. If you’re someone that likes a lot of cushion in poses then you should opt for a mat that has a higher level of thickness. Ideally, you want to be looking for a mat that is between 5 and 8 millimeters thick. Anything higher than that and can impact your balance in poses. 


This is the most important part of the Yoga mat. If you don’t have a grip it’s going to be a very long and arduous class. If you have ever used a mat that has had a little too much love. You will understand where we’re coming from. Mats typically need to be replaced every 2-3 years depending on the quality of the mat and level of use, but the grip levels are reduced with frequent use. 

On the contrary, if you have ever practiced with a brand new mat you will know the feeling of being rooted to the ground in your poses thanks to a new mats grippiness. Some people actually prefer not to have mats that are too grippy as they can lead to the grazing of legs as you transition from poses, but from our point of view mats just need to be broken in. 

The unfortunate thing about the grip is that there is no system to know how much grip a particular mat has. So make sure that you read reviews of a mat when you are looking for an upgrade and specifically look for the level of grip that people mention in reviews and make sure it aligns with what you want.

Great reference point 

In yoga, the keys to a great and safe practice are alignment and form.  Being aware of the muscles that you are leveraging for poses and the position of your body in poses is crucial to reaping the benefits of Yoga.  

As you begin on your Yoga journey, the Yoga mat can provide great positional cues for where you are on the mat and where you should place your feet or your hands in poses. For instance in downward dog, by looking at where your hands or feet are placed on the mat you can understand if your hands are too far forward or if you need to adjust your foot position.  

Although this isn’t necessarily that exists between exercise mats and yoga mats it’s important to know the benefits of using a mat in practice  

Identifies a place of Yoga practice 

As in-person classes have become a thing of the past in this current world that we live in. The need for a yoga space in your home has become very important for Yogi’s. Having a mat fixated in the place that you practice is the perfect way to carve out an area of your home solely dedicated to Yoga.  Don’t worry if you don’t have the space to keep the Yoga mat rolled out full time. Owning a mat and having a place for it in the home is a great way of acknowledging that it’s time to practice. If you’re looking at making your own home yoga studio, be sure to check out our overview here…….. 

Benefits of Exercise mat 

Protects the floor 

This will obviously be dependent on the type of exercise that you are doing, but if you are doing any sort of exercise where you are using weights or props, exercise mats are great at adding a layer of protection between the ground and the piece of equipment. If you have a home gym or workout area this will be particularly pertinent. It’s also a good idea to place rowing machines, treadmills, or any heavy piece of equipment on a mat as it can help stop the equipment from slipping.  

Provides a level of comfort 

Similar to yoga mats, comfort is a big thing when it comes to using exercise mats.  As we mentioned most gym floors are either hardwood or concrete, so doing a core routine on that would be super uncomfortable not to mention very cold.  Having a mat in place just makes for an all-around better workout experience.  

Easy to clean 

Exercise mats are really easy to clean so it’s a good option to use them in your exercise space. As the home has now become most peoples living and workout space this has become particularly pertinent. Obviously, if you are working out on carpet the moisture as you sweat can soak into it, so that’s not a very hygienic option. Having a mat makes the whole clean-up process a lot smoother. Just get a towel and some sort of mat spray to wipe down the mat. If you’re interested in making a homemade spray. Check out this article by 

Holds equipment in place 

Gyms mats can also be used in order to keep pieces of equipment in place. If you have ever placed a treadmill or stationary bike directly on the floor the equipment can slip and move as you use it. It’s also good to use a mat in order to protect the surface as you use the equipment. No one wants scratched floors. 

Bottom Line 

Although exercise mats and yoga mats hold a lot of the same functions, there are a few distinct differences that make them difficult to interchange. As we mentioned, if you are in a pinch they can be used for each other purposes, but this should be a last resort kind of thing. 

Written by Adrian

An avid Yogi, I have been practicing yoga for a number of years. Enthused by all things yoga and love writing about my experiences and learnings

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