The complexities and heterogeneity of the ageing process have slowed the development of consensus on appropriate biomarkers of healthy ageing. The Medical Research Council-Arthritis Research UK Centre for Integrated research into Musculoskeletal Ageing (CIMA) is a collaboration between researchers and clinicians at the Universities of Liverpool, Sheffield and Newcastle. One of CIMA's objectives is to 'Identify and share optimal techniques and approaches to monitor age-related changes in all musculoskeletal tissues, and to provide an integrated assessment of musculoskeletal function'-in other words to develop a toolkit for assessing musculoskeletal ageing. This toolkit is envisaged as an instrument that can be used to characterise and quantify musculoskeletal function during 'normal' ageing, lend itself to use in large-scale, internationally important cohorts, and provide a set of biomarker outcome measures for epidemiological and intervention studies designed to enhance healthy musculoskeletal ageing. Such potential biomarkers include: biochemical measurements in biofluids or tissue samples, in vivo measurements of body composition, imaging of structural and physical properties, and functional tests. This review assesses candidate biomarkers of musculoskeletal ageing under these four headings, details their biological bases, strengths and limitations, and makes practical recommendations for their use. In addition, we identify gaps in the evidence base and priorities for further research on biomarkers of musculoskeletal ageing.