Exercise Mat vs. Yoga Mat: Which is Best for You?

Some gym mats are sold as multipurpose, while others are marketed as being exercise mats or yoga mats. If you’re thinking of taking up yoga, you may be wondering whether you can use an exercise mat or if it’s best to buy a yoga mat?

While yoga can be practiced on any smooth surface, including an exercise mat, gym floor, or a towel, investing in a good quality yoga mat will bring many advantages. This article will compare exercise mat vs. yoga mat, to help you may a decision about which to choose.

Exercise Mat vs Yoga Mat

Exercise Mat Vs. Yoga Mat

Many people think that the exercise mats you see in gyms are the same as yoga mats. This is a wrong assumption, and while a beginner may decide to try out yoga on an exercise mat, investing in a yoga mat once you choose to take up yoga will bring many benefits.

While there are many similarities between an exercise mat vs. a yoga mat, there are also quite a lot of differences. The type of mat you choose can affect your comfort levels and even how well you can do different yoga poses.

What is an Exercise Mat?

What is an exercise mat

Exercise Mats can be used for various workouts and are often referred to as gym mats. Your local gym will likely have exercise mats available for people to use. These will generally be thick and durable, sometimes up to three inches in thickness, making them suitable for exercises such as planks, skipping, weight training, and jumping jacks. Exercise mats are great for high-intensity workouts as they can help to absorb heavy impact.

What is a Yoga Mat?

What is a Yoga Mat

Yoga mats vary slightly from an exercise mat. Yoga mats are generally manufactured using thinner materials; they are between ⅛ inches to ¼ inches thick. They are designed for practicing yoga and other exercises such as Pilates that put less pressure on the joints.

Yoga mats also have a non-slip surface as yoga requires more grip than workouts that require an exercise mat. They are usually made from PVC, rubber, or even cork, which are easier to grip.

Yoga Mat Vs. Exercise Mat: The differences

When comparing a yoga mat with an exercise mat, you’ll find that there are many differences. Let’s look at some of the things you should consider when choosing between the two:


The main reason that people use a mat while doing yoga or working out is that it provides a comfortable and safe space to work out on. Both exercise mats and yoga mats have been designed with safety and comfort in mind. However, they are designed for very different types of exercise.

Yoga mats are generally manufactured using PVC or rubber, which offers a non-slip surface to practice yoga. If you sweat during yoga, the surface of the mat will become stickier. Luckily with a yoga mat, this doesn’t cause problems as sweat will be absorbed by the yoga mat and can actually help you gain more grip. This means that there isn’t much risk of slipping on a yoga mat.

Exercise mats have been designed for comfort and safety as well. The difference is that they are designed for higher impact exercise workouts that involve running and jumping. They have a thick foam base on which to work out, and this absorbs the impact. Most people wear sports shoes while working out, and these should provide adequate grip. Exercise mats are usually thick enough that if you did slip while working out, you most likely wouldn’t be injured.


Exercise mats and yoga mats are both fairly durable if you use them for the correct type of workout. However, exercise mats are likely to be built to be slightly more durable as they are designed for high impact exercise. Multipurpose exercise mats are usually made from foam and rubber that’s covered with vinyl for extra strength. These types of mats can be used roughly, and if you choose a good quality product should be long-lasting.

When compared to exercise mats, yoga mats may seem flimsy but are adequate if they are only used for yoga. Yoga mats can get dirty quickly, especially if you choose a light-colored mat. You should ensure that you take good care of your yoga mat and clean it when needed to avoid damage. Moisture can damage a yoga mat, so you should wipe your mat down after use if you find that you sweat a lot or if you’re doing hot yoga.


If you are looking for a mat that’s easy to carry around, a yoga mat is great as they are thinner and less bulky. Many yoga mats also come with a strap, which means you can easily roll the mat up and carry it on your shoulder to yoga class. Yoga mats are also easier to store than exercise mats as they don’t take up much space.

Exercise Mats aren’t as portable as they are bulkier and heavier. Although you can fold an exercise mat or roll it up, they do require more storage space.


Both exercise mats and yoga mats are reasonably easy to clean and maintain. However, an exercise mat will likely get less dirty as they aren’t as portable as yoga mats. You can wipe away sweat or dirt from the surface of your exercise mat after you’ve worked out using a damp cloth.  Here’ our in depth writeup on how to clean a yoga mat.

Yoga mats can be slightly harder to maintain, but this often depends on what type of yoga you are practicing and how much you sweat. Yoga mats are prone to absorbing moisture, and this can make them dirty. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of cleaning your yoga mat regularly after use. You may like to use an apple cider vinegar solution for cleaning purposes. With the correct care, yoga mats can be long lasting.

Exercise mat Vs. Yoga Mat: Which one to choose

Yoga or Exercise Mat, Which is best?

The main thing you need to decide when choosing which mat to buy is the type of exercise you plan to do. While these mats can be interchangeable, it’s best to get the correct mat for your chosen workout. Exercise mats can be hard to use for yoga as they may become slippy and be hard to grip in certain poses.

On the other hand, using a yoga mat for an intense workout isn’t a good idea as yoga mats aren’t as thick and will wear out quicker if being used for high-intensity workouts.  If you end up going with a yoga mat, here are our top the best yoga mats out there (in our opinion).  And, if you are itching to start yoga right now, here’s how to get started without a mat at all.

Conclusion:  Yoga Mat vs Exercise Mat

Yoga mats and exercise mats both have their benefits, but when choosing a mat, you need to remember that they have been designed for two different purposes.

Yoga mats are easy to carry around and best for light exercises, while exercise mats are thicker and great for intense activities such as gymnastics. It’s always a good idea to pick the right kind of mat for your workout. This will ensure you have a comfortable and safe experience.


Abi Latham is a freelance writer who loves writing about pretty much anything.  She’s also written a few books.  If you have extra time, check one out, they’re really good.