How To Maintain an Erection

Wondering how to get and maintain an erection? This article will give you tips on the lifestyle adjustments needed to get it.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that at some point most men are going to struggle with how to maintain an erection.

For a few lucky people, it will be a one-off. A random event that rarely, if ever, happens again.

But with roughly 70% of men over 70 reporting difficulties with getting hard, as well as lots of younger men opening up about their experiences, there is no shame in talking about erectile dysfunction.

Let's dive into ways you can take control of your situation, from making changes to your lifestyle to trying a few new tricks. (Both in and out of the bedroom.)

How to keep an erection and stay hard

There are lots of different things that can cause you to lose your hard-on. So try to think holistically about your mental, physical and emotional health if you want to figure out how to maintain an erection.

It could be a combination of factors that are stopping things before they even get started, so you might need to make small lifestyle changes in multiple areas.

Eat a balanced diet of foods that help you stay erect


Because an erection requires healthy blood flow, any diet that's not good for your heart is not going to be good for getting hard. Any diets that are high in fatty and highly processed foods are going to be bad for heart disease and for maintaining an erection.

So what’s the best diet to keep blood flow strong? It turns out that men who eat a traditional Mediterranean diet have been scientifically linked to lower levels of erectile dysfunction. Foods that help you stay erect from a Mediterranean diet include:

  • fruit
  • egetables
  • whole grains
  • nuts

As well as a moderate intake of:

  • fish
  • olive oil
  • wine

These foods will help you get harder erections in the long run by helping keep your heart, veins and arteries healthy.

Try new things in bed


As well as changes to your lifestyle, spicing up your sexual routine and trying new things can stimulate stronger and maintain longer erections.

The most important thing here is increasing arousal, so we suggest trying out whatever appeals to you or your partner the most from:

Trying out new exciting positions to liven things up

This can create new sensations your penis may find extra stimulating. Try putting your partner's legs on your shoulders for deeper entry or doggy style with your partner's legs pressed firmly together to make things even tighter.

New sexual acts like anal sex, pegging or double penetration

It may be just the thing you need to get truly aroused. Try and keep an open mind about new sensations and go slowly, with lots of anal lube if you’ve not explored this area before.

Roleplaying new scenarios

If you’re into it, roleplay can help you get out of your own head and give you some much-needed psychological stimulation. Try submissive and dominant roles like a secretary and a boss or something novel like strangers in a bar if you need a spark of the unknown.

New toys can create thrilling new sensations

Think about trying a male vibrator or a penis sleeve for a more intense experience. If staying erect is something you’re worried about, consider putting on a cock ring once you’re hard, as it can help keep the penile blood flow in place for longer.

If you want to try new things in bed but find the idea of suggesting a little overwhelming, a sexy game can be an exhilarating experience for both you and your partner. You may end up trying you’d never be able to suggest yourself, with extremely positive results.

Communicate with your partner

2019.01.08 LH Day 01-1420-b (1)

If you are trying anything out of the ordinary with a partner, make sure you talk to them so they know why you want to try out new things. Talking to a partner can also help relieve anxiety around sexual performance and reframe it as sexual exploration.

Psychologically it’s important you aren’t just chasing an erection but exploring new ways to stimulate yourself and your lover.

Taking the pressure off your shoulders may just help increase pressure somewhere else…

Perform Kegel exercises to increase blood flow to the penis

O face IGS Model 10

Kegel exercises can help increase penile blood flow as these muscles around the pelvis prevent blood from flowing out of an erect penis. They’re also the muscles which support an erection and generally improve blood flow around the groin.

As we get older and all our muscles weaken, it’s a good idea to bring some Kegel exercises into our routine to experiment with how to maintain an erection.

One exercise you can try discreetly whilst sitting is trying to squeeze the muscles in your penis like you’re trying to stop weeing in the middle of a flow. Hold it for up to 5 seconds, let go then repeat up to 8 times.

If the exercises cause any pain whatsoever - go and see a doctor.

Use Penis Pumps to get and stay hard


Penis pumps can help you get a harder erection that lasts longer.

It works by putting the cylinder of the pump around your penis, creating an airtight seal against your pubic bone, and gently sucking the air out around your shaft.

This vacuum increases penile blood flow. You can watch your cock grow inside the cylinder, and even pop on a cock ring to help keep an erection once you’re ready to use it. (Though don’t leave a ring on or use a pump for longer than 30 minutes.)

If you’ve never used a penis pump before, check out our beginner's guide.

Exercise regularly to improve blood flow to your penis


There’s a hell of a lot of evidence that supports a link between regular exercise and better erections.

In particular cardio exercises like running, swimming and dancing that get your heart thumping and blood pumping can be good for improving the quality of your erections.

You don’t have to go all out if it's not for you though. Even half an hour of walking a day can reduce erectile dysfunction.

Maintaining a healthy weight also has benefits when it comes to erections, so following a Mediterranean diet and regular exercise will help you in that area as well.

Be mindful of activities like cycling or horse riding that will put pressure on the area between your scrotum and anus. It’s where lots of blood vessels that take blood to the penis are.

So though a 20-minute occasional ride is unlikely to do any damage, if cycling is a regular habit and you’re worried about maintaining erections, you may want to find a new sport.

Reduce stress to keep erections for longer penis


Stress and anxiety are some of the most common causes of struggling to maintain an erection.

Stress boosts adrenaline, a hormone that makes your blood vessels contract. So maintaining an erection is trickier when you’re stressed.

The problem is stress often leads to more stress, especially with sexual performance anxiety. This can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially when words like impotency or sexual dysfunction start coming to mind.

Talking to a trusted partner, professional or friend can help normalise these experiences and break the cycle. Other techniques we’ve mentioned, like changes to diet and exercise, can also help to reduce stress.

Consider mindfulness techniques like yoga or meditation, as well as being more mindful during the sexual activity itself. Rather than focusing on getting and maintaining a rock-hard erection, focus on the sensations you’re experiencing or giving to a partner.

Stop smoking

Aubergine Innuendo

Smoking is another thing that constricts blood vessels and reduces blood flow to the penis. Smoking can also weaken your heart and make your blood thicker, all of which make erections harder to get and maintain.

So consider quitting smoking… or at least limiting the amount you smoke each day.

Why do some guys get harder erections than others?

Let's talk a little about how an erection works and the different types of erections. The three main types of erection are:

  • Reflexive erections: Random erections that happen when you’re not even thinking about sex
  • Nocturnal erections: Like ‘morning wood’ or erections in the night
  • Psychogenic erections: Erections that happen as a result of sexual stimuli like images, being touched, or memories

Let's focus on the last kind.

When sexual stimuli, like a partner or porn, cause sexual arousal the brain sends a message to the muscles around the penis telling it to relax.

This lets blood flow in, whilst at the same time, a membrane around your penis stops the blood from flowing out. This creates the blood pressure needed to make the penis erect.

When the muscles in the penis contract, usually at climax, the membrane relaxes, letting blood flow out. The original muscle stops relaxing so no more blood can come in.

So there are lots of different factors that go into how strong an erection is:

  • Whether the brain is aroused enough to start the process off
  • Whether the muscles can relax to allow blood through
  • Whether there’s enough blood flow and blood pressure to fill the shaft
  • Whether the membrane is trapping blood effectively

So things like high cholesterol, nervous system issues, diabetes, stress, blood pressure, penis injuries and levels of sexual arousal can all affect how strong an erection is at different points in the process.

Some men may get stronger erections because they get aroused easily or have healthy blood pressure from running a lot. Whereas someone with scar tissue on their membrane from a previous injury may struggle to maintain an erection.

Why your erection may not be as strong as it used to be

Your body changes as you get older, so it's normal for your erections to change as well.

One of the most common reasons that erections become less strong is that as we age our blood vessels get narrower, especially if they’re clogged up with years of unhealthy habits. If we’ve been particularly sedentary as well, our hearts may be a bit stiffer and not as good at pumping blood.

The overall effect of all of this is decreased blood flow to the penis, meaning weaker erections. If you think ageing is the primary cause of a weaker erection, consider taking up some new healthy habits like the Mediterranean diet and more aerobic exercise to try and improve blood flow.

If you think you’re relatively physically fit and healthily, then perhaps it’s mental health problems like stress that are making your erection less strong.

If you’re struggling to get any erection over half the time you try and have sex, then consider talking to a doctor.

How long should an erection last?

An erection usually lasts between a few minutes to half an hour. There isn’t an exact average erection time as it also depends on factors like your age, health, how sexually stimulated you are, and your overall mental state.

Be aware that erections can sometimes last too long! If you experience an erection for over four hours it’s called priapism, and it's time to talk to a doctor or seek emergency care immediately.

Explore Lovehoney best-sellers

Read more Sexual Wellness Advice from Lovehoney