Counterfeit fitness gear pervades market

LOS ANGELES Experts say the latest crop of fake exercise equipment is more real-looking than ever, but looking real and being real could mean the difference between getting a real workout and getting hurt.

At first glance, counterfeit fitness products look like a great way to tone abs, build muscle and even build your home gym. However, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection says to take a closer look.

"We're increasingly seeing various types of consumer products counterfeited including the latest trend of exercise and fitness equipment," said Therese Randazzo of U.S. Customs.

Counterfeit equipment include everything from basic fitness DVDs and popular infomercial products to the Malibu Pilates Chair and the Bow Flex Home Gym and its accessories.

The government has made nearly two dozen seizures of these bogus goods since April.

"We've seized about 32,000 pieces," said Randazzo.

Despite increased surveillance, customs says an unknown number of fakes are still ending up on the market.

"A number of them are being sold over the Internet on sites like Craigslist or eBay, and a number of them are also showing up in brick-and-mortar stores," said Randazzo.

Fitness fanatic Laurie Stopyra purchased her home gym equipment on Craigslist.

"It was easier for me to buy it offline, and basically the cost is why I bought the treadmill off someone else, it's cheaper," said Stopyra.

Lori's treadmill was the real deal, but next time she shops, she admits she'll do more research. That's because bogus goods won't just hurt your wallet. With fitness equipment, the quality may be inferior.

Dr. Barbara Bushman, a fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, says that exercising with improper equipment can result in possible muscle pulls, and neck, spinal cord and facial injuries.

"Any time we're looking at resistance training equipment that includes pulleys and levers or bands, we want to make sure those are secure," said Bushman.

What's just as scary are loose weight plates. Most of the products are coming from China, and U.S. Customs are working hard to identify suspects and shipments.

"Where we find counterfeit products, we're seizing them and getting them out of the market place," said Randazzo.

So, what can you do? Familiarize yourself with what the real deal looks like by paying close attention to the logo, the color, the wording on the label and even the packaging.

"If the manufacturer's Web site says we only sell these via these outlets, and you're getting it from a different outlet, then you should be questioned why that product is for sale there and where it came from," said Randazzo.

One way to help curb the fake frenzy is for the government to work with the companies whose products are being copied. Often, those companies will inform consumers with where they can buy those products legitimately. You may see the warnings to buying counterfeit right on their Web site, so that might be the first place to do your research before you buy.

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