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Your guide on how to stay hard longer

If you're struggling to get it up, you might find it's getting you down.

Written by
Imogen Kars
Medically reviewed by
Last updated
April 23, 2024
min read
Your guide on how to stay hard longer
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Staying hard is a huge part of living a healthy and happy life – and if you're struggling to get it up, you might find it's getting you down. But there's no need to fret.

So, how exactly do you keep an erection? We're here to show you the way.

What is an erection?

First things first, what is an erection? This sexual function crops up when the penis becomes engorged with blood and ready for sexual activity. For a man that is not sexually aroused, his penis will be soft and flaccid, and the muscles surrounding the arteries will be tight. The blood flow to the penis will be limited [1].

When sexy time begins, he'll become sexually stimulated. This triggers his brain to send signals through the nervous system to the muscles surrounding the penile arteries.

These muscles are told to relax, widen and let as much blood flow to the penis as possible. When more blood rushes in, pressure is created in the penis, which makes it stiff and ripe for sexual activity.

The world of sexual arousal involves most parts of your body, including the brain, the heart, blood, nerves and muscles. So, it's no surprise that there's a range of things that can get in the way of a hard penis and a fulfilling sex life. We'll explore these soon, but first, let's dive into erectile dysfunction and what it's caused by.

What is erectile dysfunction and what are its causes?

Erectile dysfunction refers to a sexual dysfunction where a man struggles to get or keep his penis erect. While most men experience problems with getting it up every once in a while, erectile dysfunction can create major challenges for some men that affects every aspect of their life [2].

As the most common sexual dysfunction found in men, it usually affects people with pre-existing health conditions or those who are older. Around 70% of men aged 70 and over report difficulties with getting it up.

As we mentioned above, erectile dysfunction can be caused by a range of different physical or psychological triggers — and sometimes even a combination of both. Physical issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity can trigger erectile dysfunction, and psychological erectile dysfunction can be caused by things like depression, anxiety, stress or relationship issues.

What are the symptoms of erectile dysfunction?

While the causes of erectile dysfunction can be a mixed bag, the symptoms are pretty clear-cut. The most common symptoms include having erection problems sometimes, but not every time you want to have sex, being able to get an erection, but not having it last long enough for sex, or even being unable to get an erection at any time [3].

If you're noticing strange sexual-related symptoms, your best bet is to contact a trusted health professional.

What kind of issues can erectile dysfunction cause?

Erectile dysfunction can cause a wealth of issues inside and outside the bedroom, especially if you're in a relationship.

According to one study, erectile dysfunction can cause other sexual performance issues as well as diminished sexual desire for both partners. While this isn't always the case, it's important to get on top of your erectile dysfunction before tensions rise and this can start with talking to your partner about erectile dysfunction treatment.

The good news is that there is a multitude of steps you can take to boost your erectile function and put a pep in your step when it comes to sexy time [1].

Most people with a penis, even young healthy men, can find it tricky to get it up every once in a while — and it doesn't automatically mean you're experiencing erectile dysfunction. Sometimes you might find it harder to maintain an erection if you're stressed, tired, anxious or drunk.

How long can the average man stay erect?

While there's no clear-cut average time a man should stay erect, one study found that men's erections can last anywhere from one second to 44 minutes. How about that? [1].

How to stay hard longer

There may be a tonne of causes directly related to erectile dysfunction, but on the other side of the coin, this means there's a wealth of different ways to stay harder for longer, too.

For sufferers of erectile dysfunction, one of the most common first ports of call is medical treatment. But, while these types of treatments are highly effective, it's also wise to take a look at your lifestyle and general health, too. Here's what to know.

Try medical treatment

ED is extremely common and there's no shame in seeking help. This is why Pilot offers online consultations with Aussie practitioners and judgement-free treatments for erectile dysfunction. Simply take our consult and a Pilot practitioner can create a treatment plan that tackles erectile dysfunction, so you and your partner can have enjoy the ride without any stress.

Plus, your treatments are delivered discreetly to your door, so there are no trips to the doctor or pharmacy necessary. And, with treatment, 78% of men will achieve lasting erections [9].

Reduce stress

Stress can affect almost every aspect of your health, from your mental function to your physical well-being. It’s also closely linked to erectile dysfunction and other sexual performance issues.

When you’re stressed, your body undergoes changes on a hormonal level, including a ramping up of your production of the hormone cortisol. When your cortisol levels are high, you may be more at risk of experiencing anxiety and depression, both of which can affect sexual function.

While there are few studies that specifically track the effects of stress on erection quality, there are several studies linking stress with poor sexual satisfaction. So, if you’re wondering how to get a harder erection, stress reduction may be your answer.

You can reduce stress by practising relaxation exercises, staying active and spending time with your friends and family.

Reduce your porn consumption

Believe it or not, your porn-watching habits (if you watch porn, of course) could have a negative effect on your sexual performance. In recent decades, a new phenomenon has emerged where young, otherwise healthy men find it difficult to perform sexually when they’re with a partner. 

This is often referred to as “porn-induced erectile dysfunction,” and it can potentially have a big effect on your sexual performance and enjoyment. 

Porn-induced ED occurs when your porn habits start to interfere with the parts of your brain that are associated with reward sensitivity. This can affect your sexual performance and reduce your brain’s response to sexual stimulation.

In a recent study published in the journal, Computers in Human Behaviour, researchers found that watching porn (among other online sexual activities, or OSAs) is closely linked to both lower overall sexual satisfaction and lower erectile function [4].

In short, watching porn excessively both reduces your level of sexual enjoyment and could play a role in making it harder to get and maintain an erection. The solution? Consider limiting your porn consumption, or avoiding porn outright.

Exercise regularly

When asking how to get a penis hard, blood flow is the most important piece of the puzzle. When you’re aroused, blood flows into your penis to give it the size and firmness that are required for penetrative sex.

When your cardiovascular system is strong and healthy, the process of getting and maintaining an erection becomes much easier for your body.  Because of this, good cardiovascular health is an important part of getting an erection quickly and staying hard during sexual activity. 

One of the most effective ways to improve your heart health and function is by keeping yourself active with regular exercise. 

In a meta-analysis published in the journal Sexual Medicine, researchers found that 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise 4 times a week is enough to reduce erectile dysfunction [5].

However, this effect only occurred in men who experienced ED as a result of physical conditions such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, inactivity, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

Over the long term, this level of exercise is also linked to improvements in your overall well-being and heart health. 

In short, there’s no need to commit to an intense exercise regimen to improve your erections or general sexual health (although, if you’re a gym enthusiast, by all means, go for it). However, regular exercise can help improve other health conditions, promoting better overall health in general.

Instead, try to focus on getting in at least 4 moderately intense workouts a week and making exercise a regular part of your daily life. 

Eat (and drink) healthy

Although your diet isn’t as closely linked to erectile dysfunction as factors like your activity level and cardiovascular health, it can still play a role in helping you get erect faster and maintain an erection (or, if you eat poorly, prevent you from getting hard in the first place).

Erectile dysfunction is closely linked to high blood pressure. This means that foods that increase your blood pressure could have a small but noticeable negative effect on your ability to get hard and sustain a longer erection adequate enough for sexual activity.

Common foods that raise blood pressure include deli meats, canned foods, fast food and other foods that are high in sodium. In fact, anything that’s high in sodium is likely to raise your blood pressure and affect blood flow throughout your body. We know, it’s a bummer.

On the other hand, a diet that’s rich in fish, nuts, legumes, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fresh ingredients and unsaturated fats may help to keep your blood pressure in the healthy range. So, eating these foods can positively impact your experience with ED.

In addition to food, alcohol consumption can have an impact on your erectile health and sexual performance. 

If you drink alcohol often, reducing your consumption could help to improve your erections and sex life. While a glass or 2 of wine or beer isn’t likely to hurt your erections, studies show that there’s a real link between chronic and persistent alcohol use and sexual dysfunction.

Quit smoking

As we’ve mentioned, getting and maintaining an erection during sex is all about optimal heart health. Very few habits are as bad for your cardiovascular system as smoking, meaning it might be a good time to consider quitting if you’re starting to experience sexual performance issues.

Smoking harms your erections in several ways. First, the nicotine in cigarettes can cause your blood vessels to narrow, reducing the amount of blood that can flow into the soft tissue of your penis when you’re sexually aroused.

This means slower, weaker erections and a higher risk of losing your erection during sex due to poor blood flow.

Smoking also contributes to atherosclerosis or the buildup of plaque inside your arteries. This further reduces your cardiovascular health and harms blood flow, increasing your risk of getting heart disease and erectile dysfunction, according to an article published in the journal, Prostate International [6].

In short, smoking harms your erection quality and sexual performance from multiple angles, all while damaging your health in general. And, while more research is needed in this area, it seems that vaping isn't so great for erectile dysfunction either.

If you smoke and have ED, it’s important to think about quitting smoking to improve your health, enhance your life and boost your sexual performance.

Sleep more

If you’re a busy person with a demanding schedule, it’s easy to sleep less time in bed each night than you should. In fact, 33-45% of Australians are getting inadequate sleep, of either duration or quality [7].

Sleep disorders can affect your erection quality in several ways. For starters, it’s closely associated with higher levels of stress, which can affect your sex drive and sexual performance.

Plus, it’s also linked with lower testosterone levels, which could potentially contribute to ED and reduced sexual desire.

In short, sleep is very important for maintaining optimal sexual performance and sexual arousal. Try to get 7-9 hours per night, especially if you have a busy daytime routine. This may help you to avoid most sleep-related negative effects on your erections.

Maintain a healthy weight

Research has found that the medical condition of obesity is a major risk factor for erectile dysfunction, meaning your risk of experiencing erection issues may increase along with your waistline.

In a study from Poland, researchers found that men with a body mass index (BMI) in the obese range were 3 times more likely to experience sexual dysfunction than men with a weight in the normal range [8].

Even being overweight can increase your risk of ED. In the same study, men with a BMI in the overweight range had a 1.5 times higher risk of developing ED.

Maintaining a healthy body weight is one of many things that you can do to improve your erectile function and sexual performance.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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