What is movement? Concept, Types, Elements and Examples

What is movement?

We explain what movement is and the categories in which it can be classified. In addition, the elements that compose it and examples.

What is movement

Movement is the change of position experienced by a body in space.

In physics, movement is understood as the change of position experienced by a body in space, taking into consideration time and a reference point where the observer of the phenomenon is located.

In other words, the characteristics of any movement will depend on the reference system, that is, on the point of view from which you look at it.

According to this reference system, the equations used to calculate the characteristics of a given motion will vary.

In some of them the direction of motion is taken into account (vector equations) while in others it is enough to pay attention to its particularities, such as speed, acceleration and distance travelled.

The movement has been studied since ancient times, and caught the attention of the great Greek and Roman philosophers.

Since then this study tends to represent motion by means of graphs, paying attention to the particularities of the equations used to describe it.

Currently, the branch of physics that studies movement is kinematics, but also dynamics. However, the one in charge of postulating the laws of the functioning of this phenomenon was mechanics, in its three aspects: classical (or Newtonian), relativistic and quantum.

Movement types

In a rectilinear motion, speed and acceleration are parallel.

According to the type of trajectory that a mobile describes, the movement can be classified into the following categories:

  • Rectilinear movement. One whose trajectory describes a straight line, and in which speed and acceleration are always parallel. It is usually studied in two specific cases:
    • Uniform Rectilinear Movement. It has a constant speed, with zero acceleration.
    • Rectilinear Movement Uniformly accelerated. The mobile presents a constant acceleration, that is to say, that in any instant of the journey it will always be the same, because the speed always increases or decreases at the same rhythm.


      • Circular movement. It has a pivot axis and a constant radius with respect to it, thus drawing a perfect circumference. If its angular velocity is constant, we will also be in the presence of a uniform circular movement, but generally this type of movement has a margin of acceleration.


      • Wave movement. This is a combination of two movements: a uniform horizontal straight line and a uniformly accelerated vertical straight line. The result is an undulating trajectory, just like sound waves through the air.


      • Parabolic motion. The one that draws a parabola, that is to say, the one resulting from the composition of a horizontal uniform rectilinear movement and a vertical uniformly accelerated one. This considering that a parabola is a cut in a certain wave.


      • Pendulum movement. The movement traced by pendulums, whether simple, torsional or physical pendulum type.


      • Simple harmonic movement. Also called simple harmonic vibratory movement, it is the one presented by springs and other objects whose movement is periodic and is described in time by a harmonic function (sine or cosine).

    Elements of movement

    The elements of motion are their characterizations or describable properties, and they are the following:

      • Trajectory. The line with which one can describe the movement of a punctual body, and which according to its nature can be:
        • Rectilinear. When it is a straight line without variations in its trajectory.
        • Curvilinear. When you draw a curved line, that is, a fragment of circumference.
        • Circular. When he draws a complete circumference in his gait.
        • Elliptical. When you trace a fragment of an ellipse or a complete ellipse.
        • Parabolic. When you describe a parabola in its displacement.
      • Distance The amount of space traveled by the mobile in its displacement.
      • Speed. It is the relationship between the distance travelled and the time in which the mobile does it. In other words, the higher the speed, the more distance per unit of time a body travels, and vice versa.
      • Acceleration. The variation of velocity (comparing the initial velocity and the final velocity) per unit of time experienced by a mobile whose displacement is not uniform. If the acceleration is positive, speed is gained; if it is negative, it is lost.

    Examples of movement

    In many cases the movement is studied in ideal terms, but in other cases there are many everyday examples to illustrate them, as they are:

      • The movement of the stars. The planets revolve around the sun in elliptical orbits, that is, tracing a uniform elliptical motion that can well be calculated and examined.
      • The pendulum of a clock. The clocks of old worked on the basis of the movement of a pendulum to mark the seconds. This movement is the perfect example of the simple pendulum movement, which is the same one we use in movies to “hypnotize” someone.

    A bowling ball. Since the floor of bowling lanes is waxed to greatly reduce friction, the balls tend to move in a uniform rectilinear motion until they hit the pines.

    However, if we consider from the point at which they leave the player’s hand, it will be a rectilinear movement uniformly accelerated, because at rest the speed is zero.

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