Bike to Work Week comes around every May, and in preparation we'll be discussing smart ways to start using a bicycle for some of the trips you're currently making by car. But first — how cycling makes you smarter!

That's right: riding a bicycle, like most forms of aerobic exercise, can actually improve cognitive function. It's long been known that physical activity can improve your mental outlook and help slow the results of aging, but scientific studies continue to stack up showing that regular exercise actually helps the brain to function better.

A 2004 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that aerobic activity yielded up to a 20 percent improvement in pattern recognition and sorting. It also produced dramatic improvement in short-term memory.

These are exactly the kind of mental activities most of us face at the start of the work day. Think about sorting your e-mail inbox or planning a daily schedule. If you've started your day with a short bike commute, you're mentally a step or two ahead of your groggy coworkers.

So using your bicycle more isn't just about what you can do for the environment — it's about doing good for yourself. Or get in gear for May's Bike to Work Day by checking out our guide to becoming a bicycle commuter.

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