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The Musculoskeletal System: The Science of Staying Active into Old Age

Newcastle University , The University of Sheffield and University of Liverpool via FutureLearn


This free online course has been developed by The Medical Research Council Versus Arthritis Centre for Integrated Research into Musculoskeletal Ageing, a collaboration between the Universities of Liverpool, Sheffield and Newcastle. On this course, you’ll learn why our bones, joints and muscles function less well as we age, and discover how best to live well as we get older.

This course is designed for patients, carers and people who lead active lives and would appreciate knowing how their lifestyle is likely to affect their long-term health. It may also inspire you to study or research musculoskeletal ageing. No previous biological experience is needed.

This course will also be ideal for those from a non-biological background who may be interested in studying or researching musculoskeletal ageing at postgraduate level. For more information see our MRes and PhD training pages on our web site.


  • What is musculoskeletal health and how does it change with age?
    • Welcome to course
    • What is the musculoskeletal system?
    • How and why does the musculoskeletal system age?
    • Mobility and ageing
    • Ageing and disease
    • Reflection and a look at next week
  • How can physical activity benefit musculoskeletal health?
    • Why do we need to think about moving into old age?
    • The importance of everyday movement
    • Is your chair killing you?
    • What is best practice?
    • Reflection and a look at next week
  • How can diet benefit musculoskeletal health?
    • Nutrients for musculoskeletal health
    • What should we eat for healthy muscle and bones?
    • Reading food labels
    • Monitoring nutritional health and setting healthy eating guidelines
    • Ageing and other factors affecting nutritional needs and dietary habits
    • Final steps

Taught by

Michael Trenell, Peter Grabowski and Lesley Iwanejko


4.8 rating, based on 322 Class Central reviews

4.6 rating at FutureLearn based on 305 ratings

Start your review of The Musculoskeletal System: The Science of Staying Active into Old Age

  • Profile image for Veronica Maged
    Veronica Maged
    I'm 62 years old and terrified of getting older with no information about this process. I 'm in very good health and I feel young and so far nothing changes regarding my energy to do things. I'm single and have been waiting to be retired to learning…
  • Anonymous
    Very informative and easy to understand. Made me more aware of the interlinking of these systems and what they need to continue functioning well. I do think that in sections on physical activity it would be helpful for some acknowledgement for disabled students and suggestions at integrating activity into their lives when they cannot join a gym, walking club etc. I found it quite frustrating as someone who is limited in their physical capacity to be urged to exercise. In some ways lack of acknowledgement made me feel as if I am a bit written off. Sorry if this sounds a bit "snowflake"
  • Anonymous
    This short course seemed just what I needed to enable me to learn more about a condition I'd recently experienced and it proved to be really helpful. It was good to see a course particularly aimed at older people ( I still find it hard to see mysel…
  • Anonymous
    Although I have been involved in clinical work all of my working life, it did not involve these parts of our bodies. This course updated on some knowledge that I had and greatly added to my understanding the relevant aspects of the aging processes. I'll be in discussions with other people in my my family and local community with a view to improving lifestyle in terms of not only safe physical activities but also the associated nutritional requirements. This will hopefully improve social interaction that may likely also help with feeling a better sense of wellbeing / enhanced mental health.
  • Anonymous
    This course is very informative and fascinating. I would highly recommend it to everyone or any age.
  • Anonymous
    I found this course to be very interesting and have learnt so much from it, it has made me to take a look at my own life style and the changes i can make. Exercise for one is at the top of my list especially to incorporate some aerobic exercise. I…
  • Anonymous
    This course seems to be an awareness course so deftly designed, without going into the complex technicalities, that it was just like a thriller. Enjoyed the conversation with course mates, educators, mentors. The bottom lines of research were given to the participants in so lucid a language. The key word that I got : (i) activity, (ii) balanced diet. I am sharing this with my family members, friends.
    I have seen that cows, buffaloes, goats, etc, having high emotions, get so terrified while taken for slaughtering, that some type of toxicity must have been generated by their body system to save them from danger. Can there be a study on this aspect. Can CIMA undertake a study? Thank you all.
  • Bernard Newland
    I found the course interesting in that it provided a formal fabric for aging that I essentially knew. What it did is add to the essential discipline we need in terms of diet and exercise. I am fortunate that I have the financial resources to buy "good" food, including fruits, fish, nuts, and so on. I avoid sugars like the plague and also saturated fats. My medical provider provides a free gym membership. I live in the USA, where obesity is a chronic problem, even in the young. I am slightly overweight. My goal? A BMI of 25 or below. That wasn't discussed. It should have been.
  • Anonymous
    This course was interesting, informative and well designed. It offered different perspectives on the topic; it included sub-areas such as nutrition, health and movement; the activities were well designed; I mean, there was a balance between information provided through articles or videos and discussion. The questions posed made me reflect on what was being discussed. Besides, I felt there were always suggestions as to what I could do in order to improve any of the areas under discussion.

    I learned a lot, I enjoyed reading the articles or watching the videos. Thanks a lot !

  • Anonymous
    Depressing, at the same time full of positive messages. some of the medical technical terms I tended to skip over. Advice on exercise and diet was good and down to earth in summery. I did learn new information about how my body works and particularly vitamin D.

    The course will change my lifestyle a bit although I try to run at least twice a week and would swim at least that if it was not for this pandemic. My diet is reasonable by the standards set out in the course.

    Thank you a lot of work has gone into this venture.
  • Anonymous
    This course is excellent, as all the FutureLearn courses seem to be. You learn how body systems ( skeleton, muscles, digestion) work together , how the body ages and the significant efforts you can make to keep yourself fit and active.

    There are some complex descriptions of various functions, but they are not overwhelming, as they are interspersed with more straightforward discussions and videos.

    I enjoyed reading other peoples' comments, all in all very enjoyable and informative.
  • Anonymous
    This is a wide-ranging course consisting of: the biology of the musculoskeletal system, the importance of exercise and a good diet. I found that it held my interest through interesting articles and short lively videos.

    Much information was fairly detailed, but always explained clearly and simply. Because I am very interested in this topic I was familiar with some aspects, but I still learnt a great deal. This course is designed for learners at many levels. If health interests you then this course is for you.
  • Anonymous
    I found this course to be extremely interesting and would encourage younger people to take an interest in completing it if and when they have the time. I'm sure it would benefit the majority of the population prior to become old and muscle and joint movement have disappeared.
    The level of detail in which the course was set I thought was about right and its interesting to know that the studies into ageing is still progressing.
    Thank you to all who have set up and taken part in the course

    Yours sincerely
  • Gulnara
    This course was organized very well from the beginning to the end. Excellent videos and information to take into consideration for everyone. I like the course very much, than you our mentors and all educators!
    Just want to review it more to stay healthy and get the right nutrition foods. It’s somehow a little short but great course! Thank you so much again, and good luck to everybody who put their efforts to bring this lovely course to us!
  • Anonymous
    Found the course valuable as I am 68 and naturally concerned about ageing. I am in good health, have a physical job and eat well most of the time, but I realise I have to be much more aware of what I eat and how much exercise I do. I am not in a health profession and have no interest from a CPD point of view, but I think it is important for all of as we age to make sure we remain as fit as possible. The course has 'concentrated my mind' a little more. Thank you for offering it.
  • Anonymous
    I thought the course was excellent, very informative about the need to do some exercise, whatever you can manage of course, basically " if you don't move it, you lose it" Great advice about the sort of foods to eat, at any age, but more specifically as we age. Because I'm on a fixed income I'm not able to Upgrade, so I down loaded some of the videos & printed off some of the articles.
    Thanks again for a great course.
    Best regards,
  • Anonymous
    Very interesting. The three areas of interest fitted well together. Have recommended it to an NHS forum on weight control and will be recommending it to my U3A. All aGPs should know of its exitance.
    Although I knew a fair bit on nutrition the other two areas - the MS system and importance of activity helped me focus and plan better for the future. Thank you.
  • Anonymous
    The course contained not only academic information but some practical guidance as to what individuals could do to help themselves as they aged. Interviews with patients who were experiencing difficulties but who had a positive attitude to dealing with these problems was very revealing. A very informative and worth while course.
  • Anonymous
    It has been a great course because I have learnt a lot about our body function and the processes related to aging. Therefore, I got a vital information from this course which is people, specially older people, should consume a balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals in order to enjoy a healthy life later in elderly ages.
  • Anonymous
    Interesting and informative course. A lot of scientific explanation but well balanced with practical explanations and opportunities to contribute one's own experiences and questions and learn from others. So even if I'm a bit hazy on the biology still, it's given my valuable pointers about exercise and nutrition.

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