Anti-aging lifestyles compared: $2m-a-year Blueprint project vs the humble bicycle

Tech entrepreneur Bryan Johnson spends millions trying to defeat the ageing process, but could regular cycling be just as effective? We decided to find out

Lit in moody red light, Bryan Johnson stands to the left of Justin McKie; both men are holding their hands together as though praying
Praying to eternal youth: Bryan Johnson (left) and Justin McKie
(Image credit: Magdelena Wosinka, Justin McKie)

Over the past few months, it has been hard to avoid media coverage about the US tech centi-millionaire Bryan Johnson and his quest to defy the ageing process. Hardly a news outlet in the land – not even Auntie Beeb herself – has turned down the chance to feed Johnson’s apparently insatiable appetite for publicity. Most of the headlines allude to his $2m-a-year anti-ageing budget, or the fact he was injecting himself with the blood plasma of his 17-year-old son – a vampiric practice he has since ditched, admitting it didn’t work. Among his many audacious claims, the wealthy 46-year-old purports to have slowed his pace of ageing by 31 years – but it was his boast about having a VO2 max of 58.7ml/kg/min that raised my eyebrow highest. 

In fairness to Johnson, a VO2 max in the high-50s is very respectable for a man in his mid-40s, but his claim that this measurement puts him in the “top 1.5% of 18-year-olds” says a lot more about the sedentariness of the teenagers to whom he’s comparing than it does about his own peak oxygen uptake. What’s more, I knew from experience that plenty of competitive veteran cyclists of similar age to Johnson have VO2 max numbers that would make his 58 look positively geriatric. Which sparked a hypothesis in my mind: if cycling maintains cardiovascular performance more effectively than a $2m-a-year anti-ageing regime, maybe a bike is the only rejuvenation tool any of us really need. 

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Who’s ageing faster, millionaire or Master’s racer?
Row 0 - Cell 0 Bryan JohnsonJustin McKieHealthy range
Height6ft 0in6ft 4inn/a
Body fat %6.9%11%11–22%
Epigenetic rate of ageing0.69*1.0<1.0
VO2 max58.7 ml/kg/min65.6 ml/kg/min>52.5 ml/kg/min (top 5% for age)
Cholesterol (total)4.1 mmol/L4.4 mmol/L<5 mmol/L
Testosterone26.7 nmol/L16.5 nmol/L9–37 nmol/L
White blood cells4.5 10^9/L8.5 10^9/L4–11 10^9/L
Thyroid stimulating hormone1.9 mIU/L2.5 mIU/L0.4–4.0 mIU/L
C-reactive protein (marker of inflammation)0.46 mg/L0.24 mg/L<1.0 mg/L
HbA1c (marker of blood glucose control)25.6 mmol/mol35.0 mmol/mol20–48 mmol/mol

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David Bradford
Features editor

David Bradford is features editor of Cycling Weekly (print edition). He has been writing and editing professionally for more than 15 years, and has published work in national newspapers and magazines including the Independent, the Guardian, the Times, the Irish Times, and Runner’s World. Alongside his love of cycling, David is a long-distance runner with a marathon PB of two hours 28 minutes. Having been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) in 2006, he also writes about sight loss and hosts the podcast Ways of Not Seeing.