EVERYONE who exercises knows it: being physical is good for your mental health. It doesn’t always work, and it isn’t a magic solution, but there’s a lot of research showing people who do the most physical activity are less likely to suffer depression than those who do the least. Other factors play a part, but exercise can be a depression-easer, an anxiety-zapper and a self-esteem-booster.

To publicise and promote these effects, the LGBT running group Glasgow FrontRunners is taking part in a nationwide campaign to encourage people to open up about their mental health. The idea is that running clubs across the country sign up to look after a little mascot dog called Sammy, take him out on a run, and use him as a starting point to introduce a session or conversation focusing on mental health and wellbeing. The hope is that as Sammy makes his way round the country, more people will be talking about their mental health.

For Glasgow FrontRunners, whose members have been taking Sammy on their runs over the last few days, including a trip to the Skye Half Marathon, the new campaign feels particularly relevant and important. Coming to terms with your sexuality, trying to find acceptance and support, or dealing with isolation or low self-esteem – all of it means gay people can struggle with their mental health; it has been estimated, for example, that more than half of young LGBT people have self-harmed.

In taking part in the campaign, Glasgow FrontRunners hopes to encourage gay people to talk about these mental health issues and how they might have been affected by them. But they also hope to highlight a positive message about the benefits of running – and running in a group.

One member who has seen the positive effect for himself is Jack Kelly. Jack, who is 53, began going to Glasgow FrontRunners in 2013 when he was struggling with his own mental health.

“I felt a bit of an outsider at first,” he says, “But I kept attending and although I didn’t go to a lot of social events, the people were very friendly and this made me come back. In the last couple of years I have gotten a great deal out of the training groups organised by the club. The group experience, the advice on running and increasing friendship have been big factors in my progress.

“In the last year I’ve gained a lot from becoming a jog leader and feel so humbled at being adopted as a club captain. I hope I can use this position to support and encourage others to improve their running and push themselves.”

HeraldScotland: Fellow member Penny Lowles, pictured, has also seen the benefits of running with the club. “Running has allowed me an escape from every day stressers and has massively improved my confidence and wellbeing,” she said. “Running with such a friendly and supportive group has also made me feel more comfortable with my own identity and given me lifelong friends.”

Other running groups are now being encouraged to take part in the campaign, which has been organised by Jog Scotland and the Scottish Association for Mental Health and runs until October. Sammy, and his siblings Agnes and Lee, will make their way from group to group, finishing back at Jog Scotland’s offices in Edinburgh in time for World Mental Health Day in October.

For more information and how to take part, visit jogscotland.org.uk. For more information on Glasgow FrontRunners, visit glasgowfrontrunners.org