A pooch called Tiki has proved that dogs really are man’s best friend.
Robert Fleming’s life was in turmoil as he battled depression, weight issues and struggled to cope with full-time care for his mum who has learning difficulties.
But after his beloved pet labrador turned his life around and helped him lose an incredible nine stone, the 30-year-old is fit, contented and ready to take part in the Great Scottish Run in October.
Overweight and suffering from depression, Robert, 31, used to sit at home watching the London marathon on his TV. He felt inspired by the stories of the runners, but struggled to get outside, never mind run.
Now a marathon runner himself, the Forfar man has own inspiring story to tell.
“I had anxiety issues and I was struggling to cope,” he recalls.
When my collie Max died something clicked inside,” he says. “I was in a right mess at that point and I knew I had to make a change.”
Robert, who also has learning difficulties, then started to get some help with his mum.
Then in 2013 he rehomed seven-year-old black labrador Tiki from another family.
“Being out and about with Tiki made me happy. Then people started commenting on how much weight I was losing. I noticed I wasn’t as out of breath and my clothes started getting bigger. I keep all my old photos and if I have had a bad day I look at them and think I’ve come too far to go back there.”
Robert, who has lost nine stones, also remembered the inspiration he felt from the London marathon runners and wondered if he could do it.
He completed his first half marathon run on his 30th birthday last year, and then, despite a hamstring injury, completed a marathon earlier this year.
Part of Forfar Road Runners, he is now training for the Bank of Scotland Great Scottish Run in Glasgow on October 2 when he is running the half marathon.
He hopes to become a personal trainer and says: “I’ve managed to sort my life out and getting Tiki was a huge part of that. I’d be lost without him.”
Did you know…?
Research shows that being depressed can leave you feeling low in energy, which might put you off being more active. Ironically, regular exercise can actually boost your mood if you have depression, and it’s especially useful for people with mild to moderate depression.Try following these NHS tips:
To stay healthy, mentally and physically, adults should do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity every week.
If you haven’t exercised for a while, gradually introduce physical activity into your daily routine. Any exercise is better than none. Even a 15-minute walk with the dog can clear your mind and relax.
Find an activity you can do regularly. You can take part in a team sport, attend classes at a leisure centre, or just be more active in your daily routine by walking or cycling instead of travelling by car or public transport.
If being outdoors appeals to you, Green Gym projects, run with The Conservation Volunteers (TCV), provide exercise for people who don’t like the idea of the gym or indoor exercise classes.
If you like walking, visit www.walkingforhealth.org.uk to find a walking group near you, which can support people who have health problems.