BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention generally relates to a portable exercise mat and pad system upon which floor exercising and stretching the human body is performed and is specifically directed to a combination of a floor exercise mat and removably attachable pads for supporting the back and neck areas of a user lying on the mat.
Exercise mats have long been used to facilitate indoor physical exercise because of the numerous benefits that they provide to the exerciser. Typically, exercise mats are constructed of foam or another type of shock absorbing material that dampens the impact to body parts that, otherwise, would directly contact the floor during exercise. Also, mat surfaces can provide greater foot traction than do less friction generating floors such as those made of smooth concrete or laminated hardwood. Thus, an exercise mat can have the cumulative effects of reducing stress that various aerobic exercise movements place upon body joints, diminishing the incidence of bruising and bone fracture that body contact with a harder, less forgiving floor surface would cause, reducing foot slippage and generally making exercise a more comfortable and safer experience for its user.
In addition to protecting and comforting the user, another primary reason for using a mat during exercise and stretch is to protect the integrity and maintain the cleanliness of a floor surface. Absent the presence of an exercise mat, the friction generated from moving body parts in contact with the floor can greatly accelerate wear and tear on carpeted and hardwood floors. Also, a mat largely prevents the floor from being soiled with an exerciser's sweat or blood that could take laborious effort to clean from the floor. In contrast, most exercise mats can be easily sanitized with a rag and cleaning solution, or they may include removable fabric coverings that protect the mat and can be cleaned separate from the mat. For examples, U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,099,530 to Scott and 6,751,816 to Wechsler both disclose mats having removable, machine washable covers.
Yet another benefit of many conventional exercise mats is that they are easily transportable due to their lightness and compactness. For example, a typical exercise mat can be rolled into a coil and is light enough for one person to carry it to wherever he wishes to exercise. Ease of mat transportability allows the exerciser to exercise in places that she otherwise would not for fear of injury due the hardness or slipperiness of the floor or for fear of damaging the floor surface.
Nevertheless, despite all of the virtues of conventional floor exercise mats, there remains a deficiency common among them. To wit, most feature flat surfaces that are not contoured to produce a fit with and provide support to the natural arches found in the cervical and lumbar spinal regions of the human body. Differences, from one person to another, in body characteristics such as upper torso length and degree of spinal curvature create the need for a mat and support pad system that is universally compatible with the differently dimensioned bodies of exercisers.
To an extent, this need is addressed is U.S. Pat. No. 4,953,857 to Lemire. Lemire is probably the most conceptually similar prior art of which the inventor is aware in that Lemire discloses a orthopedic back support having means for attaching lumbar and cervical spine rest pads thereto. However, the Lemire mat is specifically directed to a back support that is an attachment to a weightlifting bench and is dimensioned accordingly.
In fact, the Lemire mat is for placement upon the backrest component of a weightlifting bench. A typical backrest has a width of not more than eighteen inches (i.e., narrower than a foreseeable user's shoulder width) so that a user's arms are permitted to move below the elevated horizontal plane in which the backrest holds the user's upper torso. For instance, in properly performing the bench press exercise on a weightlifting bench and with a weighted barbell, a user's elbows will drop vertically below the bench's backrest when the user lowers the barbell to his chest. It therefore follows that any weightlifting bench attachment that is to be placed upon the backrest necessarily must also be of narrow enough width to allow arm movement below the horizontal plane of the bench attachment.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Thus, it can be appreciated that there exists a particular need for an exercise mat configured for floor exercise use in combination with attachable pads for providing support to and preventing undue stress from being put upon a user's neck, lower back or other body regions when the user performs exercise or stretch while resting on the mat and attached pads. The floor exercise mat and pad system of the present invention substantially fulfills this need.
In view of the foregoing disadvantages inherent in exercise mats of the prior art, the present invention provides an improved exercise mat and pad system for providing body support to a person performing exercise and stretch on the floor. In a preferred embodiment, the present invention comprises an exercise mat and two attachable pads for providing support to the lower back and rear neck of an exerciser lying on them in a supine position.
The mat is fabricated of durable, shock absorbing material and, typically, is flexible enough to be rolled into a coil. In fact, attached at an end of the mat may be an elastic band for encircling and holding the mat in a coiled position. The mat's top surface features strips of attachment means, such as hook and loop fasteners, running alongside its longitudinal edges, and the width of the mat is such that the parallel fastener strips are spaced far enough apart that they are unlikely to rub against an expected user's shoulders and arms.
The support pads are comprised of firm, compressible material. Each pad features a top use surface and a bottom attachment surface. On the bottom surface of each pad are strips of hook and loop fasteners to adhere to the fastener strips on the mat's top surface. The pads' top surfaces may be generically shaped, or they may be contoured for engaging specific areas of the body. Moreover, the pads can be attached to the mat at the exact positions necessary for supporting each individual user's neck and lower back.
Using the system of the present invention to facilitate an abdominal floor exercise such as the leg raise allows the exerciser's neck and lower back to rest comfortably atop support pads and, thereby, enhances his ability to maintain safe posture throughout the range of exercise motion. Contrastingly, when the exerciser performs the same exercise on a mat not having the properly placed pad support, he may tend to flatten the arches in his unsupported neck and back in reaction to feeling tension in the abdominal muscles. While this reactive body adjustment may well alleviate stress on the abdominal muscles, it has the converse effect of increasing stress on muscles of the neck and back—muscles that, typically, are more delicate and susceptible to injury than are abdominal muscles.
Therefore, it is an object of the present invention to provide an exercise mat and pad system that helps an exerciser to maintain safe biomechanics during floor exercise and, thereby, have a distinctly more comfortable and safer exercise experience.
It is another object of the present invention to provide an exercise mat and pad system that can be easily sanitized.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
It is yet another object of the invention to provide an exercise mat and pad system whose mat can be compacted for convenient transport and efficient storage.
FIG. 1 is a side elevational view of the mat and pad system showing a cervical pad positioned underneath a user's rear neck and a lumbar pad positioned underneath a user's lower back. The user's spinal column is illustratively diagramed.
FIG. 2 is a bottom plan view of the system with pads detached from the mat.
FIG. 3 is a top plan view of the mat only.
FIG. 4 is a right side elevational view of the mat only, the left side elevational view being a mirror image of the right side elevational view.
FIG. 5 is a front elevational view of the mat only, the rear elevational view being a mirror image of the front elevational view.
FIG. 6 is a top, rear and right side perspective view of the system showing pads detached from the mat.
FIG. 7 is a top, rear and right side perspective view of the system showing pads attached to a mat having an elastic band attachment. Broken lines illustrate the adjustability of the pads.
FIG. 8 is a top, rear and right side perspective view of the mat disposed within a protective cover.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 9 is a bottom, rear and left side perspective view of the mat disposed within a protective cover having an elastic band attachment.
The floor exercise mat and pad system of the present invention employs a few integrated components. FIG. 6 illustrates a preferred embodiment of the present invention, an embodiment whose primary components are an exercise mat 10, a cervical support pad 32 and a lumbar support pad 30. An elastic holding band 40 can be included as an additional component, as shown in FIG. 7.
The mat 10 is rectangle shaped, wherein its latitudinal edges 16 are at least twenty-two (22) inches wide and its longitudinal edges 18 are of substantially greater length, as is portrayed in FIG. 2. The mat 10 is fabricated from a spongy, shock absorbent material such as vinyl cellular foam. Typically, the mat 10 has a thickness dimension of not more than 0.50 inches so that it can be rolled into a compact coil (not shown) and held in that position by the band 40 for carrying and storage. Along each longitudinal edge 18 of the mat's top surface 12 is a continuous strip of hook and loop fasteners 20. The strips 20 are attached to the mat 10 by stitches or by an adhesive substance (not shown). The mat's bottom surface 14 is substantially bare, as illustrated in FIG. 2.
The cervical support pad 32 is designed to comfortably fit underneath a supine lying user's neck and to occupy the space void that exists between his arched rear neck and the planar mat, as shown in FIG. 1. Along the longitudinal edges 18 of the bottom surface 36 of the cervical pad 32 are strips of hook and loop fasteners 34, as shown in FIG. 2. A user may fix the cervical pad 32 into proper position on the mat 10 by engaging the cervical pad's fasteners 34 with the mat's fasteners 20. The lumbar support pad 30 is designed to fit under the user's lower back, and its bottom 38 features hook and loop fastener strips 34 similar to the cervical pad 32. As illustrated in FIG. 7, the cervical pad 32 and lumbar pad 30 can be selectively attached to the mat 10 at the positions necessary to simultaneously support the user's neck and lower back, respectively. However, in other embodiments of the system of the present invention, a single pad is employed, or the system includes pads designed specifically to support parts of the body other than the rear neck and lower back. For examples, pads for elevating the legs of a supine lying user or for placement underneath the front neck/collarbone or groin areas of a face down lying user can be included.
In an alternative embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 8 and 9, the system also includes a protective mat cover 50 made of a machine washable fabric. The cover 50 is dimensioned so that the mat 10 snugly fits within it, and the cover 50 includes sewn on elongate strips of hook and loop fasteners 56 to simulate those found atop the mat 10 of the preferred embodiment of the system (i.e., the coverless mat). A zipper 52 and zipper track 54 along the cover 50 allows the cover 50 to be opened for insertion and removal of the mat 10. Alternatively, an elastic band 40 may be stitched to the cover 50 so that the covered mat can be rolled up and bound.