Periodic Motion: Definition & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: What is Kinematics? - Studying the Motion of Objects

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:04 What Is Periodic Motion?
  • 0:47 Examples
  • 1:08 Simple Harmonic Motion
  • 2:04 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David Wood

David has taught Honors Physics, AP Physics, IB Physics and general science courses. He has a Masters in Education, and a Bachelors in Physics.

After completing this lesson, you should be able to define and provide examples of periodic motion, as well as describe what makes a periodic motion a simple harmonic motion.

What is Periodic Motion?

The universe is full of movements that repeat themselves over and over in patterns. The nice thing about patterns is that we can describe and explain them, which often includes using math. For example, the term periodic motion refers to any movement of an object that is repeated in a given length of time. Whatever the motion may be, the period of time it takes to get back to where it started is called the time period of the motion.

We can also define a frequency for the motion measured in hertz, which is the number of complete cycles each second. So for example, if the time period of a motion is 0.2 seconds, that's the same as a frequency of 5 hertz. This is because there are five 0.2-second cycles in each second.

Examples of Periodic Motion

We can find dozens of examples of periodic motion in our everyday lives because so many actions and movements are repetitive. A rocking chair rocking is periodic motion. A swing swinging is periodic motion. A satellite orbiting the Earth is also periodic motion, as are the vibrations of a tuning fork or the swing of a pendulum.

Simple Harmonic Motion

There is a special case of periodic motion that is important in physics. It's called simple harmonic motion and occurs when an object moves back and forth around a middle or equilibrium position. For a movement to be considered simple harmonic motion, the restoring force that pulls it back towards the middle has to be proportional to the distance from that position.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account