Most older persons with dementia living in nursing homes spend their days without engaging in much physical activity. This study therefore looked at the influence that the environment has on their level of physical activity, by reviewing empirical studies that measured the effects of environmental stimuli on the physical activity of nursing home residents suffering from dementia. The electronic databases PubMed, PsycINFO, EMBASE, CINAHL and the Cochrane Library were used for the search. The search covered studies published between January 1993 and December 2012, and revealed 3187 abstracts. 326 studies were selected as potentially relevant; of these, 24 met all the inclusion criteria. Positive results on the residents' levels of physical activity were found for music, a homelike environment and functional modifications. Predominantly positive results were also found for the small-scale group living concepts. Mixed results were found for bright or timed light, the multisensory environment and differences in the building footprint. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd and The Ergonomics Society.