Every man wants to know how they stack up against other blokes when it comes to their erections.
You might even find yourself Googling, 'how long can the average man stay erect?' But, there really isn't a simple answer and there are a bunch of different factors which affect erections.
An erection occurs because of a complex mental and physical response in the brain and penis which can make an erection last for a few minutes to about half an hour.
The success of this combination comes down to having a healthy sex life, an active lifestyle and treating anything that may hinder that if it pops up (for example, erectile dysfunction).
If you're wondering what the average duration of an erection looks like, we've got your ultimate guide on how erections work, how long the average man maintains an erection, the factors affecting penile erection length, plus, what to do if you want to maintain an erection for longer than a few minutes.
Let's dive in!
How do erections work?
Let's start with the basics. During sexual arousal, nerve messages stimulate the penis and impulses from local nerves and the brain relaxes the muscles in the corpora cavernosa (a spongy tissue containing blood vessels) to relax . This causes blood flows to the penis which expands and creates an erection.
The membrane surrounding the corpora cavernosa — called the tunica albuginea — traps the blood in the corpora cavernosa which helps to maintain an erection . The erection lasts because of this process and the erection in the penis reverts when muscles in the penis start contracting which stops blood flow.
Types of erections
There are 3 different types of erections which all have different causes:
- Psychogenic erections: Psychogenic erections occur as a result of a reaction to stimuli or sexual arousal because of a fantasy. These trigger impulses to the penis from the brain. Psychogenic erectile dysfunction occurs when you can't achieve an erect penis or maintain an erection due to psychological factors like anxiety, stress and depression .
- Reflexive erections: Reflexive erections occur as a physical response to stimulation of the penis or any form of tactile stimulation which sets off your nervous system .
- Nocturnal erections: Nocturnal erections happen while you're sleeping which causes a surprise erection or morning erections . This typically occurs during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep which is the phase in your sleep cycle when you're dreaming.
How long should an erection last?
There's not really a rule of thumb for how long an erection lasts because there are a bunch of factors that affect the duration of an erection. Every man is different and there are a lot of complex biological and psychological processes involved in erections.
But, it can be handy to figure out what processes can cause you to feel sexually aroused, and how your blood flow and blood vessels can impact your performance during sexual intercourse.
Interested in learning more? Let's run through a few stats around how long most blokes can maintain an erection.
How long can the average man stay erect?
As we've already mentioned, erections aren't black and white and depend on various factors. But, there have been studies on how long can the average man stay erect, which gives a range of 'normal erections.'
One study on sexual intercourse between 500 couples found that the average erection lasts anywhere between 1 minute to 44 minutes . The median average erection time was 5.4 minutes.
Not all erections come from sexual stimulation or sexual activity, there are also nocturnal erections that happen while asleep. Nocturnal erections occur roughly 5 times per night for an average erection duration of 25-35 minutes .
How long is too long for an erection?
You might be thinking that a long-lasting erection is good news. But, a prolonged erection lasting more than 2 hours or more is called priapism, which is considered a medical emergency . Priapism are painful erections that are unwanted and are sometimes not caused by sexual stimulation.
These erections happen because the blood in the penis becomes trapped and is unable to circulate again. If you ever experience priapism, head to your closest emergency department to seek professional medical advice.
The quicker you get it checked out, the less risk and damage to the penis occurs — in some cases, permanent damage can occur if it's not treated within 24 hours .
Factors that can affect erections
There is a stack of factors affecting erections from your age to health conditions and even your mental state. Let's take a look at some common factors that affect erections.
One of the most common reasons for erectile dysfunction is an underlying health condition which can include:
- Heart disease
- High cholesterol
- Multiple sclerosis
- High blood pressure
- Metabolic syndrome
- Smoking or vaping 
- Substance use
- Low testosterone levels
- Some medications like anti-depressants and high blood pressure medications .
Just like your physical health, your mental health is also an important factor in maintaining an erection and sexual functioning in general. Erections can be affected by life stressors, relationship issues, mental health issues and even performance anxiety.
The prevalence of erectile dysfunction increases with age, and it's estimated that men in their 40s have a 40% chance of experiencing erectile dysfunction and for each decade of life, this increases by 10% .
What to do if you're struggling to maintain an erection
The good news is that if you're not so happy with your erection length or you're struggling to maintain an erection, there are ways you can make your erections last longer.
A Harvard study found that 30 minutes of daily walking was associated with a 41% drop in risk for erectile dysfunction .
Other research has found that moderate to high-intensity exercise for 40 minutes, 4 times per week has significant improvements in erectile dysfunction .
Exercise is great for your overall sex life and mental and physical health, so try to find some sort of exercise you enjoy doing and try to incorporate it into your lifestyle.
Improve your diet
Weight loss and following a healthy diet can improve erectile dysfunction, help maintain an erection and is great for your overall health too. Eating foods like whole grains, fish, fruit and vegetables can lower your chance of erectile dysfunction .
A bunch of research suggests that the Mediterranean diet can also be really beneficial, with one study finding that those following a Mediterranean diet were the least likely to develop erectile dysfunction .
If you're suffering from prolonged erectile dysfunction issues, medication is one the best treatments out there as it targets the enzyme responsible for the contraction of blood vessels in the penis. This helps to improve blood flow and maintain an erection that's firm throughout sexual activity.
Pilot's erectile dysfunction treatment offers both on-demand and daily prescription medications for whatever your needs are when you need to treat erectile dysfunction. With treatment, 78% of men achieve long-lasting erections.
If you're experiencing premature ejaculation, Pilot's Last Longer Program gives you the option to use medication that sees a 74% improvement in patients or through natural treatments through a 4-week training program and control device developed by sex health experts. This treatment program sees a 65% improvement rate for patients .
Pilot offers an online practitioner service with online consultations to take the judgement and embarrassment many men feel when seeking treatment for sexual dysfunction. Plus, we offer discreet shipping to take the stress out of getting help.
The truth is that erections aren't really black and white and as long as you've got a fulfilling sex life that's free from pain, you've got a normal erection.
If you are struggling with erectile dysfunction issues that are affecting your physical and mental health, there are plenty of options that can help you achieve and maintain rock-hard erections.
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