Exercise and Fitness

Exercise and Fitness Accessories

Regular exercise is an effective way to improve your immune system and cardiovascular health. However, it is important to do it properly and use the correct accessories to prevent injuries. With better understanding of how our body works and what kind of exercises are most effective for us as individuals, sport science has come up with a myriad of workout-specific accessories designed for both beginners and professionals to reduce risk of injuries and increase training intensity while reducing pain and the chance of injury.

Workout accessories are not always overly sophisticated or electronically-powered devices. They can be as simple as a yoga mat or fitness mat, knee sleeves, and weight lifting gloves; these are far from sophisticated yet they are able to assist in improving performance and training results. Not all workout accessories are created equal, however. They are made from different materials and each has a unique design.

Yoga Mat

There was only one type of yoga mat in the past; it was made from PVC and praised for its thickness, and available in just a few colors. There is now a yoga mat to suit everybody’s needs and preference. Beyond color and pattern, this workout accessory is now available with choices of different materials as well as thickness. Each one is designed to help you stay steady in every position and yet still be comfortable. Some of them are even made from environmently-friendly materials.

Thickness of the yoga mat is often a personal preference and there are pros and cons to each. For some it has to do with comfort; a thin mat means your body (particularly knees) may feel hard surfaces underneath. However you may feel that you have more control this way as you are not sinking into the mat material of a thicker mat. Mats come in many different thicknesses and these are the most popular sizes: 1/8-inch, 1/4-inch, and 1/2-inch while thinner or thicker are still available they are often too thin or too thick.  Other benefits of a thinner mat are that it can be lighter and more portable, particularly if you are carrying it while walking or on public transportation.

A thicker mat provides more cushioning for knees and other parts of the body during yoga positions or exercises. They are typically larger when rolled up and may be heavier but provide maximum joint and body protection.  It is important to look at the dimensions and weight of the mat you are considering.

In terms of material, you have many options available including including PVC, rubber, cotton and mats made from organic cotton or recycled rubber which are environmentally friendly. Material affects texture and sponginess (how well it yields to pressure). PVC is still the best in providing energy or pressure absorption, while jute and cotton are the worst. On the other hand, texture is all about traction. Rough texture performs best to prevent slipping and sliding. Many options are available from perfectly smooth one to a completely rough mat. It is common to have a smooth side where your body meets the mat and a rough side that is placed against the floor to keep the mat from slipping out from under you. It all depends on your personal preference.

Knee Sleeves

There are several important differences between knee braces and knee sleeves. The former, the knee brace, is normally worn when there is an existing injury in the knee. It protects users from developing the injury into a more severe condition during intense activities. Knee sleeves can help to prevent injury by providing support and compression during high-pressure exercise such as jumping, running, and weight lifting.

Added compression helps to increase blood flow and reduce pain, not only during the workout but also after you finish. A compressed knee promotes blood flow into blood vessels on the knee, so it is not only effective for injury prevention, but also allows for faster recovery. Most knee sleeves are made from a neoprene material and they slide on over the knee.

Besides preventing injury, sleeves also provide added warmth and limit patella movement yet it increases proprioception (the ability to feel the position of the joint as sensed by central nervous system). Knee sleeves are not mandatory, but they are proven effective in preventing knee injury. Furthermore, they are not accessories specific to certain activities only; you can use them during jogging, bicycling, tennis, and more.

Weight Lifting Gloves

Wearing weight lifting gloves is an entirely personal preference. Some say it improves performance, while others claim that gloves interfere with the training. One thing is certain: glove design affects its effectiveness. Properly designed gloves do increase grip, providing better performance even during long sweaty workout. Because most dumbbells handles are made of a slippery metal, sweaty hands can be dangerous for you and for everyone else in the gym. Moreover, lifting weights over long periods often make your hand blisters, and weight lifting gloves are simple yet effective preventive accessories. Blisters are mild problems, but it can prevent you from enjoying exercises for a while.

Gloves made from a combination of leather and breathable polyester materials are good to prevent sweaty hand and increase grip at the same time. Placement of each material also plays a major role. The leather is ideally placed on the palm, which is the area that makes most contact with metal bar or handle. Polyester material can also be inserted in the palm area to provide breathability. Gloves do not necessarily have to cover the entire hands and fingers. When properly designed, a combination of those materials does not make the gloves too bulky.

Size is also an important factor. Wearing gloves that are too big or too small may be uncomfortable. Gloves with an adjustable closure allows for a perfect fit in the hand.

Simple accessories such as the fitness mat (yoga mat), knee sleeves and weightlifting gloves can make your workouts more comfortable and effective.