Patent application title: Portable exercise assisting device
Donna Lee Houle (Gaffney, SC, US)
IPC8 Class: AA63B7100FI
Class name: Exercise devices having specific electrical feature monitors exercise parameter
Publication date: 2011-11-03
Patent application number: 20110269600
The invention relates to a device for measuring repetitive events in
exercise routines using a pressure-sensitive mat having a base layer of a
rubberized material, an intermediate layer attached to said base layer
comprising a layer or layers, a top layer attached to said intermediate
layer being formed from a durable material, a readout and control unit
connected to said device, connective wires between said intermediate
layer and said readout and control unit. The device is useful for
counting repetitive events in exercises such as running in place, sit ups
and knee bends. The device may be used to measure traffic through
doorways and within confined spaces.
1. A portable exercise device comprising: a base layer of a rubberized
material which can be rolled into a cylinder for storage and travel, an
intermediate layer attached to said base layer comprising a pressure
sensitive layer or layers, a top layer attached to said intermediate
layer formed of a durable material, said pressure-sensitive layer or
layers comprising two separable halves. a separate readout for each half
and a control unit connected to said device and connective wires between
said intermediate layer and said readouts and control unit.
2. A portable exercise device according to claim 1, wherein said intermediate layer comprising a pressure-sensitive layer responds to pressure events by providing a signal to said readout and control unit.
3. A portable exercise device according to claim 1, wherein said readouts and control unit displays the number of incidents of pressure events detected by said pressure-sensitive layer.
5. A portable exercise device according to claim 1, wherein said readout and control device includes an on and off switch, a display of pressure events and optionally, a display of time and distance.
7. A portable exercise device according to claim 1 which is powered by at at least one battery.
8. A portable exercise device according to claim 1 which may be powered by a stepdown transformer.
9. A method of exercise involving repetitive motions wherein the number of repetitive motions is collected using a device comprising: a base layer of a rubberized material, an intermediate layer attached to said base layer comprising a pressure-sensitive layer or layers, a top layer attached to said intermediate layer being formed of a durable material, a readout and control unit connected to said device and connective wires between said intermediate and said readout and control, and wherein the repetitive motions are selected from the group consisting of walking in place, jogging in place and running in place, sit-ups, push ups, knee lifts and knee bends.
12. A method of exercise according to claim 9, wherein the repetitive motions are laps around a track.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
 This invention relates to a pressure sensitive roll-up mat and an associated counter means used to assist individuals in exercise routines and especially to relieve boredom during repetitive exercises.
 Physical exercise routines have become popular among people whose occupations have become sedentary and are a means of maintaining and improving physical health and appearance and especially in exercising the heart. Running, jogging and walking are popular methods for maintaining cardiac health but are limited by weather and location, especially for travelers. An industry has developed around indoor exercise rooms, often labelled as gymnasia and often filled with specialized exercise machines. Many people who join these organisations find the experience boring and cease attending. Treadmills and other exercise machines sold for home use are bulky, often flimsy and/or difficult to use, and a challenge to store. Travelers often find it inconvenient to find a local exercise club where they feel comfortable.
 The device of this invention and methods for using it make various exercises more readily available at home or on the road and relieve the boredom of repetitive exercises is sterile gyms.
BACKGROUND AND PRIOR ART
 Pressure activated electronic pads or mats are known. Some, such as those disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,580,083, 3,834,702, 4,189,588 and 4,218,958 are directed to mats for running in place. All of the disclosed devices are suitable for use in one location but are not readily packed for travel. Neither are they suitable for other exercise routines.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
 The exercise device of this invention consists of a flexible pad of at least three layers which contains a low-voltage pressure-detection layer or layers sandwiched between a slip-resistant base layer and a durable top layer, The pressure detection layer is electrically connected to a display and control unit preferably affixed to one end of the pad. Power is supplied to ire readout and control unit by batteries, a transformer, or a combination of both. In the preferred embodiment, the pressure detection layer is split into two halves so that individual pressures on opposite halves of the mat can be reported separately or accumulatively.
 The primary use for the device of this invention is as a counting device. Most exercise routines involve multiple iterations of the same physical motions. Counting steps over thirty minutes or more is boring and lost counts are irksome. Likewise for stair-stepper exercises, sit-ups, jumping jacks etc. This device allows the user to watch television, listen to music, talk on the telephone or play games on an iPHONE as a distraction while exercising without the need to count mentally or verbally.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the first embodiment of this invention;
 FIG. 2 is an exploded cross-section of a mat according to this invention.
 FIG. 3 is an embodiment of a display and control unit module according to this invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
 The invention is an exercise-assisting device which provides a counting function when performing repetitive, mind-numbing exercises such as walking and running in place, stair climbing, sit-ups, crunches, push-ups and various aerobic exercises and dance routines. The utility is not limited to exercise but applicable to any function when a pressure response indicates some use or event. Counting people coming through a doorway in a store or classroom is an alternative use unrelated to exercise. Multiple embodiments are envisioned.
 The invention is shown in perspective in FIG. 1. The device 1 has a pressure sensitive mat area 3, with a display and control unit module 5 attached thereto, with a cable (not shown) connecting mat area 3 to module 5. At the end of the mat opposite the module 5 is an area 7 which serves a a cushioned rest area. A midline 9 delineates halves of the mat which may be marked separately such as with left and right feet or may indicate a location where the mat area is divided into separate halves 3R and 3L where right and left halves may be separated in some embodiments.
 FIG. 2 is a cross-section of one embodiment of the pressure sensitive mat area 3 in exploded form. Cross-section 11 shows a slip-resistant base layer 13 of a rubberized material, pressure detection layer(s) 15 and a durable top layer 17.
 The base layer 13 of rubberized material may be an impregnated fabric, a fabric with a rubberized layer adhered thereto or an unreinforced synthetic rubber layer. Examples of such materials include PVC coated polyester scrim and HYPALON.
 The pressure-detection layer(s) may include any of the following combinations of components known to those skilled in the art such as pressure-sensing resistors, mat sensors as described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,897,781. Most available sensor systems employ at least two layers to detect pressure.
 The durable top layer 17 may be fabric, fabric-reinforced polymer or composite. The layer must be flexible enough that pressure above a threshold will be detected by the pressure-sensitive layer(s). A washable, non-slip top surface is preferred.
 FIG. 3 illustrates a display and control unit 5 formed from a high impact plastic 21 such as high impact polystyrene (HIPS) or high density polyurethane. A front display panel 23, preferably mounted at an angle to the base of the control unit for ease of viewing, contains switches and displays. Typically, these would include a master on-off switch 25, a master reset switch 27, a readout 29 showing pressure events such as steps, for the right pad, a readout 31 showing pressure events for the left pad, resets 33 and 35 for each readout, a timer 37 which may include alternative readouts such as miles as steps per mile or calories and a select button 39 to chose options for readout 37. In the preferred embodiment, display 37 may include a readout indicating a speed as steps per minute and whether the user is keeping up with a target speed as set on optional switch 41.
 The control unit 5 contains a circuit board to perform the necessary switching functions, a power supply, storage batteries and a reference battery. A low voltage light or a flashing of the display may be used to indicate a low battery. Control and display devices of this type are well known in the art and no proprietary system is required. In one embodiment, the control unit 5 is attached to the end of the mat and connecting wires are concealed.
 In a second embodiment of the invention, the left and right halves of the mat may be connected by a zipper or similar device so that they may be used separately to count events at a distance from each other such as jumping jacks or steps on a stair-climbing exercise. A longer cord connecting at least one mat to the control unit is required in such embodiments.
 The invention in its preferred embodiment is as thin as practicable for lightness and low bulk. it should be reliable into a cylinder and secured with a strap such as one employing hook-and-loop fasteners. The end of the strap may be fixedly attached to the control unit 5. In the alternative, an embodiment allowing separation of the pads into two pieces which may be overlapped into a sleeve and carried and stored as flat luggage is contemplated.
 The exercise device according to this invention is used on a flat surface, preferably a hard surface. The control unit is activated using switch 25 and the user begins to walk or run in place. Each contact by a foot is recorded and displayed at display windows 29 and 31. Running time is shown at display 37. The user continues the exercise until the selected time period has expired or a selected number of steps is accomplished. an alarm may be activated when the selected limit is reached.
 To avoid the inevitable boredom of such an exercise, the user is free to watch television, listen to music or talk on a telephone. in some occupations such as night attendant at a refueling station, the device can be regularly used to add exercise to a sedentary job.
 Some exercise routines require movement such as when climbing stairs (usually stepping onto a box or stair step. For this exercise, the mat may be split and one half placed on the step, the other on the bottom level. For kneeling exercises, the mat should be placed where the knees touch the floor. When running laps in a small gym, the device can be used as a lap counter.
 The device of this invention can be used for floor exercises such as push-ups, sit-ups and leg lifts using contact with the mat on the floor.
 In addition to exercises, this counting device may be used to count the number of people entering and leaving a store, school or church. Small modifications to the control unit to operate on house electricity using a plug-in transformer and to provide an output signal make the device useful in nursing homes to identify patients moving into inappropriate locations or moving at inappropriate times. Such uses may require the control unit to be physically separated from the mat while still connected by cable.
 This invention has been described in terms of preferred embodiments, which in no way are considered to Limit the invention and all embodiments within the scope and spirit of this invention are considered to be encompassed herein.
Patent applications in class Monitors exercise parameter
Patent applications in all subclasses Monitors exercise parameter