Whether your favorite indoor aerobic activity is walking, running, basketball or an aerobics class, the floor you work out on makes a big difference in how you feel during the workout and the impact on your body. The best floor for aerobic activity is one that has a slight give to it -- often referred to as an anti-fatigue floor -- because it's easy on your joints. If you're a new studio owner or are considering creating a home gym, there are several different types of anti-fatigue aerobic flooring to check out.
Suspended wood and suspended floating wood are two types of aerobic flooring you'll find in many studios and gyms. These types of flooring are made from pre-finished hardwood and have an integrated spring sub-floor. Larger gyms often have the permanent suspended wood floor. The suspended floating wood version is designed to be portable; you can break it down into smaller pieces to transport and reassemble easily. In high humidity, this type of floor can feel sticky, and in very dry conditions, it may feel too slick. Keep in mind that you will need to control the humidity in a room with wood floors.
Vinyl or PVC aerobic flooring often comes in one-foot square tiles that you can snap together to create a raised anti-fatigue floor for shock absorption. Some styles come with small raised discs on the top of each tile for more traction for your feet; others come with a faux-wood look and have a smooth surface. Most vinyl aerobic floors are made to stand up to UV light so they won't fade, which is great if you have a gym or studio with a lot of windows. They are also designed so as not to be affected by heat or humidity. One downside is that a new vinyl aerobic floor won't smell too nice for the the first few months following installation due to PVC off-gassing.
For a home gym or small group-activity room, interlocking rubber mats are the cheapest way to go. But you get what you pay for, so be careful in choosing among rubber-floor options. Thickness and grade of rubber can affect durability, and rubber flooring can wear out fast if used often. Compared to suspended wood or vinyl flooring, rubber flooring will not hold up as long. You can purchase rubber flooring as interlocking pieces that snap together or in rolls that will require a little extra work to install properly. If you decide to install the rubber flooring in your home gym by yourself, keep in mind that rubber usually expands over time and with heat.
There are other permanent options such as poured aerobic flooring. You may have this type of anti-fatigue flooring in your local YMCA, gym or school. At first glance, it may look like concrete, and it may feel like you are on a hard cement floor, but as you work out, you'll notice a big difference in how your legs and body feel because the synthetic resin used to make the floor has some give to it. Some poured indoor floors look and feel similar to the outdoor tracks used for college and Olympic track and field events. Poured synthetic flooring requires professional installation to ensure that the floor stays even as it polymerizes. These permanent floors can last 10 to 20 years depending on how well they are cared for and maintained. This type of flooring is not suitable for a small home gym, but if you are thinking about opening your own aerobics studio or gym, this is an option to consider.
Kris Heeter is a research scientist specializing in basic cancer and disease research. Her work has appeared in several scholarly journals and online publications. Heeter has also been a wellness professional for more than 15 years, teaching healthy cooking courses and fitness classes. She holds a Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology.