It’s the time of year when gyms everywhere fill up with patrons hoping to improve their lives through New Year’s resolutions.

Often these newcomers run out of steam and return home by mid-February, returning the gym to its normal state.

But not only do the New Year’s crowd cause headaches for gym regulars who might have to wait for their favourite equipment, many of them also aren’t doing themselves the favours they think they are.

Robin Near knows that experience all too well. Willing to try almost anything to lose weight faster, she was told she would lose two pounds if she ate nothing but cucumbers for 24 hours.

Partway through that ill-conceived plan, she fainted. Now she hits the gym for her weight loss desires, more aware that not all exercise advice is correct.

“You can go to the gym and work out all you want and see no results,” she says.

“You have to be educated and trained and know what you're doing.”

Once she was educated, trained and knowing what she was doing, Near lost ten inches over her body and three pounds.

Fitness experts agree poor advice is one of the leading causes of people not achieving the weight loss results they hope for.

One common bit of poor advice? Being told there’s no such thing as spending too much time at the gym.

“If you do not rest, you’re going to hurt yourself, you’re not going to see end results,” says Tanya Otterstein-Liehs of Body Business in St. Jacobs.

Experts say working out for 15-20 minutes a day, three or four days a week can be enough to see significant weight loss over time.

But equally important as how much time you spend working out is what you do with that time.

“The biggest myth is that cardiovascular activity will burn more fat than resistance training,” says Justin Brooks of Waterloo-based Depth Training.

While some first-time gym rats think cardio training is the magic bullet, because they’ll shed weight faster if they move faster, trainers say that’s not true – though cardio training does have its own benefits.

“Cardio is great for the heart, very very good, but if you want to start seeing some results, weight loss, definition, you’re going to have to implement some basic weights in there as well,” says Otterstein-Liehs.

Weight training, not cardio, is what builds lean muscles. And muscles are what burn calories even long after a workout.

“Muscle is very metabolically active in that it requires a lot of calories just to maintain itself, because it’s constantly turning itself over,” says Brooks.

No matter what, though, losing weight through exercise is not a short-term proposal. Brooks says even losing half a pound each week is a sign that hitting the gym is working out very well.