AIMS: This paper summarizes the results of a systematic literature review to examine the quality and content of the evidence relating to nursing approaches to improving the mobility and movement of older people. BACKGROUND: Older people experiencing health breakdown often develop problems with movement and mobility and nurses play a role in helping patients to either adapt to or overcome these difficulties. METHODS: Electronic searches were undertaken of Medline, CINAHL, Amed and Cochrane Database of systematic reviews. Papers about nursing approaches to promoting mobility and movement were critically appraised using quality assessment checklists. Papers addressing safe moving and handling, falls prevention, health promotion, rehabilitation or teamworking in general were excluded. RESULTS: Sixteen research and 33 informational papers were included and comprise the review. Many research papers used weak designs and small sample sizes, limiting their ability to control for important confounding variables. Although numerous studies examined effectiveness, only one used a randomised controlled trial design. Papers were grouped into four interlinked sets. These were promoting mobility and preventing immobility; walking and exercise; neuro-developmental principles; and rehabilitation patient handling. CONCLUSIONS: Specific foci for nursing assessment and interventions to promote patients' mobility have been identified. However, the fragmented nature of the evidence makes it difficult to make recommendations for nursing practice. Future research should be conducted by multi-professional research teams to identify the most effective approaches to promoting patients' mobility and to explore overlaps between different members of the rehabilitation team. RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: Regaining the ability to move and walk is often a key concern for patients who have suffered health breakdown. Although nurses provide patients with assistance the evidence available does little to direct nurses as to the best approach towards mobility rehabilitation. It is important that nurses play a role in measuring the efficacy of different interventions to promote rehabilitation.