The photomechanical effect induced by periodically varying sub-bandgap illumination in thin ZnO films deposited on oxidized Si has been demonstrated for the first time. The efficiency of this effect is at least one order of magnitude higher as compared to the photothermal activation of Si. Thus it can be considered as a powerful optical drive for resonant sensors. A phenomenological model of the mechanisms involved in the process is proposed. The optomechanical effect can also be used as a complementary method in determination of the surface state parameters of ZnO films.