It’s stable enough for mountain climbers with enough cushioning for rocking back and forth in the fetal position.

By Real Simple
March 23, 2020
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I’m sure everyone can agree that it’s been one of the most anxiety-inducing weeks we’ve had, worldwide, in quite some time. We’re all well aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle right now. Wash your hands properlypractice social distancingclean and sanitize germy areas, and stock up on nutritious shelf-stable pantry essentialsCheck in with loved ones, and don’t forget to self-soothe while stuck inside social distancing. Yes, yes, and more yes. But what quells my cortisol levels better than anything (even anxiety baking)? Exercise.

Indeed, when your body’s stress level is soaring, research has shown that working out is one of the most effective ways to combat it. Conversely, chronic stress can weaken your immune system and cause uncomfortable issues, like nausea and headaches. “Regular physical activity can improve quality of life and relieve stress, tension, anxiety, and depression,” states the American Heart Association. “You may notice a ‘feel good’ sensation immediately following your workout and also see an improvement in overall well-being over time as physical activity becomes a regular part of your life.”

I tend to identify with the term "high strung" on any given day, and physical activity is one of the few things I can do to make me a more chill, sane person. I wake up at 5 a.m., go for a long run or hit a workout class, walk four miles to work, and walk home. I also have type-1 diabetes, a chronic autoimmune disorder in which your pancreas stops producing insulin, so maintaining a consistent workout routine keeps my blood sugar in check. Point being: Without exercise, I am a shell of myself. (Related: The Biggest Mental and Physical Benefits of Working Out)

In a pandemic, workout classes, gyms, and walking into the office are no longer viable options, particularly for those of us with highly compromised immune systems (and unstable glucose levels put type-1 diabetics at an even higher risk than we are already). Running is a godsend, weather permitting. But being stuck inside doesn’t have to mean we can’t move. Whether you’re partial to cardio workouts, strength training, yoga, or pilates, there’s really only one product you need to practice at home: a reliable yoga mat. This simple object will make a world of difference in your ability to do floor exercises, and finding the right one matters. It should be supportive enough to hold you up without sliding and have ample cushioning to keep your knees and other joints comfortable.

For me, the Gaiam Reversible 6 mm Yoga Mat (Buy It, $35, is it. The extra-thick (but super lightweight) PVC-made mat has been powering me through pilates, yoga, and floor workouts since college. Its surface is super stable, so even when things get extra sweaty, you won’t slip around. And if you need extra joint support, you’ll appreciate the Gaiam's soft cushioning. The 24-inch by 68-inch surface is large enough for me to get buck with burpees or fully outstretch during shavasana, but still fits into my shoebox-sized New York City studio apartment. (Related: Your Comprehensive Guide to At-Home Workouts)

The best part? This top-performing yoga mat is available in dozens of bright colors and designs to keep your spirits high, from an inspirational elephant drawing to an abstract illustration of tree roots. Between this mat, a couple of hand weights, some sliders, and a steady stock of fitness streaming apps, me and my sanity are hangin’ in there. I’m also going to take a minute to thank all the amazing fitness instructors who have rallied their communities to keep exercising together. They’re live-streaming workouts (my personal favorite has been Sydney Miller’s Housework classes, which include a $2 donation to Feeding America), offering personal training over video, and curating upbeat playlists and online companionship for your living room dance parties—so you won’t ever have to worry about sweating alone.


Buy It: Gaiam Reversible 6mm Yoga Mat, $35,

This story originally appeared on by Betty Gold.



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