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How to have stronger, harder, longer lasting erections

How to have stronger, harder, longer lasting erections

Knowing how to get hard or how to get stronger erections might not be things you thought you’d have to worry about. Usually, erections just happen when you want them to and there’s no reason to question why. Except when they don’t just happen.

Maybe you want harder erections, or maybe you need to know how to get an erection. 

Erections are complicated, and struggling to get it up is nothing to be ashamed of. But ED can often be the symptom of poor lifestyle choices or a broader health problem. Things like exercise, a good diet and avoiding too much alcohol can all help you get harder erections.

Daniel  Atkinson
Medically reviewed by
Daniel Atkinson, GP Clinical Lead

Erections are complicated, and struggling to get it up is nothing to be ashamed of. But ED can often be the symptom of poor lifestyle choices or a broader health problem. Things like exercise, a good diet and avoiding too much alcohol can all help you get harder erections.

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Medically reviewed by
Dr Daniel Atkinson
GP Clinical Lead
on November 18, 2022.
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How to ‘lifestyle’ your way to better erections

If you struggle with Erectile Dysfunction, staying hard without pills may not be easy. But it is possible to achieve firmer erections by adopting some lifestyle changes. So, if you want to know how to have better erections without pills, read on.

The benefits of exercise are wide-ranging and well known, but here’s a quick recap:

  • Good for the heart and vascular system;
  • Helps maintain a healthy weight range;
  • Reduces the risk of several serious illnesses including Type 2 diabetes, stroke and cancer;
  • Boosts mental health and mood;
  • Improves energy levels.

That’s just to name a few, there are plenty of reasons to exercise regularly. (Hundreds more.)

Exercise is the wonder drug some of us fail to take notice of. In fact, just exercising moderately for 150 minutes a week, or rigorously for 75 minutes a week, is enough to lower serious risk and keep you fit.

And do you know what else exercise is great for? Erections. That’s because ED is often caused by vascular problems, which interferes with your ability to get or maintain an erection.

And do you know how to reduce the risk of developing vascular problems? Exercise.

Cardio and erections

Cardio, otherwise known as aerobic exercise, is defined as physical activity ‘relating to, involving, or requiring free oxygen.’ It means low to high intensity exercise that raises the heart and breathing rate. In the gym, you might have heard of ‘cardio’ machines. Examples include the treadmill, elliptical and cycling machines.

But you don’t need to go to the gym for a good cardio workout, other examples include brisk walking, jogging and running, and erectile dysfunction symptoms can benefit over time from these simple cardio exercises (as well as from many others).

Regular cardio over time will see your overall cardiovascular function and health improve, and it also helps to increase blood flow to the penile tissue and muscles, the corpus cavernosum.

This is because erections depend on good vascular health and blood flow. Research shows that men with higher levels of physical activity report less symptoms of impotence.

As well as this, it’s also well known that regular aerobic exercise improves mental health and overall mood. This is because the body produces endorphins around the time of exercise. This, too, could be of benefit to erectile dysfunction – particularly that which is caused primarily, or in part, by psychological factors like anxiety or depression.

Strength training and erections

So, we’ve covered cardio, but what about strength exercises?

You can think of exercise as two sides of one coin. It’s important that we strike a good balance between aerobic exercise and strength exercise, or resistance training.

Strength exercises are those which target the muscles and build strength and endurance. It’s often associated with weights, but can be defined in three ways:

Calisthenics: Calisthenic exercise helps build muscle and target key areas, without depending on anything except your own body weight. Examples include pull-ups, push-ups and chin-ups.

IsometricsIsometric exercises are those which involve static contraction of muscle groups without visible movement in the angle of a joint. Examples include the plank and glute bridges.

PlyometricsPlyometric exercise, also known as jump training, happens when the muscles exert high force in short bursts of time. Examples include skipping and jump squats.

These exercises and resistance training groups are designed to build muscle and endurance, but many of them will also raise the heart rate and breathing. This is of benefit to ED, because good erections depend on good blood flow and circulation.

Strength exercise also impacts testosterone levels, and in some cases causes the body to produce more. Testosterone being a male sex hormone that affects libido.

Can yoga and meditation help with erections?

Yoga is an ancient form of low-intensity exercise which focuses on strength, stretching and breathing. It’s long been claimed that yoga is of benefit to mental health and mood.

Meditation ‘focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.’

But how effective are these techniques, and can they help with erectile dysfunction? Yoga, perhaps the more accessible of the two, will require some form of physical exertion, which will help with circulation and blood flow (especially when performed regularly). This, in turn, can help with the symptoms of impotence.

But what about meditation for erectile dysfunction? Well, it’s less about the physical and more about the mental. This is because a lot of meditation surrounds (through practice) letting go of the material, of worry and of stress. It is about becoming comfortable, and one, with yourself and your mind.

This might not sound like your thing, but the evidence is far-ranging on the impact of mental health and the practice of meditation. ED can be a symptom of psychological factors, like anxiety or depression or even things like performance anxiety.

One study found that ‘mindfulness group therapy framework offers a feasible and potentially promising treatment avenue for men with situational ED.’

Cardio, otherwise known as aerobic exercise, is defined as physical activity ‘relating to, involving, or requiring free oxygen.’ It means low to high intensity exercise that raises the heart and breathing rate. In the gym, you might have heard of ‘cardio’ machines. Examples include the treadmill, elliptical and cycling machines.

But you don’t need to go to the gym for a good cardio workout, other examples include brisk walking, jogging and running, and erectile dysfunction symptoms can benefit over time from these simple cardio exercises (as well as from many others).

Regular cardio over time will see your overall cardiovascular function and health improve, and it also helps to increase blood flow to the penile tissue and muscles, the corpus cavernosum.

This is because erections depend on good vascular health and blood flow. Research shows that men with higher levels of physical activity report less symptoms of impotence.

As well as this, it’s also well known that regular aerobic exercise improves mental health and overall mood. This is because the body produces endorphins around the time of exercise. This, too, could be of benefit to erectile dysfunction – particularly that which is caused primarily, or in part, by psychological factors like anxiety or depression.

Yoga is an ancient form of low-intensity exercise which focuses on strength, stretching and breathing. It’s long been claimed that yoga is of benefit to mental health and mood.

Meditation ‘focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.’

But how effective are these techniques, and can they help with erectile dysfunction? Yoga, perhaps the more accessible of the two, will require some form of physical exertion, which will help with circulation and blood flow (especially when performed regularly). This, in turn, can help with the symptoms of impotence.

But what about meditation for erectile dysfunction? Well, it’s less about the physical and more about the mental. This is because a lot of meditation surrounds (through practice) letting go of the material, of worry and of stress. It is about becoming comfortable, and one, with yourself and your mind.

This might not sound like your thing, but the evidence is far-ranging on the impact of mental health and the practice of meditation. ED can be a symptom of psychological factors, like anxiety or depression or even things like performance anxiety.

One study found that ‘mindfulness group therapy framework offers a feasible and potentially promising treatment avenue for men with situational ED.’

We get taught from an early age how important food is.

  • Eat your greens.
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
  • Carrots help you see in the dark.

While some of these phrases are exaggerated, they all have roots in truth. Fruit and vegetables are one of the most important food groups, and as part of a balanced diet – they can have a number of far-ranging benefits.

The reason for this is because different food groups, and the varying foods within those groups, contain different vitamins and minerals (which all have varied jobs in the body). For example, milk contains calcium, which is of benefit to the teeth and bones.

Eating a healthy diet reduces the risk of developing many chronic diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer – many of which can damage the blood vessels, which can have a knock on effect for your erections.

But are there any foods in particular which may be good for ED?

Supposedly, garlic and honey for erectile dysfunction may be of benefit, as well as a number of spices such as paprika and cumin. Spinach, cayenne bell peppers, coffee and oats are also said to improve impotence symptoms. However, the evidence on a correlation between any of these foods and improved sexual function is mostly anecdotal at best.

What is true is that consuming a fair and balanced diet, often and regularly, will benefit your whole body, reduce the risk of developing many health conditions later in life and may help with erectile dysfunction also.

Yes, is the short answer. Recreational drugs, smoking and alcohol consumption all have the ability to cause serious, long-term damage to the body and impact the ability to get or maintain an erection.

Recreational drugs can include illegal drugs, but also prescription medication if misused and taken for pleasure. Drug misuse can impact the blood vessels and vascular function, and also impact sexual desire and libido.

Nicotine, also a drug, has a similar effect. Smoking, particularly over time, can decrease libido, but also cause many health conditions which impact cardiovascular health. This, in turn, impacts erections.

Drinking alcohol also carries risks, especially if you drink too much over time. Alcohol interferes with the ability to get an erection for a number of reasons in the long and short term.

Erections and recreational drugs

Recreational drug use can be dangerous in many ways, particularly where addiction is a factor in their use. But taking drugs for leisure can also impact erections and cause impotence.

However, it isn’t quite as clear-cut as ‘all drugs are bad for your erections.’ Drugs react differently in the body, and so interfere with the ability to get an erection in varying ways.

For example, drugs which induce a stimulating effect in the brain also cause the blood vessels to narrow and become too constricted. Examples include cocaine and speed. Erectile dysfunction can also increase in severity if these types of drugs are misused over long periods of time.

Other drugs may also reduce libido and sexual desire. This can include drugs that fall into the barbiturate classification, synthetic drugs used to treat depression, anxiety and insomnia.

Erections and smoking

It’s well known that smoking is incredibly dangerous and addictive. In fact, it’s one of the biggest causes of death in India – where around 1 million people die due to smoking.[8] Nicotine use increases the risk of several cancers, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, damaged blood vessels, pneumonia, asthma and many, many more.

But if that wasn’t enough to make you think twice about smoking, it also increases the chances of developing erectile dysfunction. Why?

Because cigarettes contain up to 40,000 chemicals, many of which have no business being inside the human body. Examples include carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide and arsenic.[9] A lot of these harmful chemicals can damage the blood vessels which pump blood around the body, and to the penis, sometimes permanently. Nicotine also has an instant effect in reducing blood flow and constricting the blood vessels.

But that’s not all. If you developed a serious, chronic health condition from smoking – like cardiovascular disease or heart disease – this would also have an effect on your erections. This is because conditions relating to the blood, heart and vascular system can result in permanent blood vessel damage, which firm erections depend on.

The effects of smoking on your erections are both long and short term. The longer you smoke, the more at risk you’ll be. It’s also highly addictive, acting as both a stimulant and a depressant, so it’s better to avoid smoking altogether.

Erections and alcohol

Alcohol consumption and misuse can carry a lot of risks – including for your erections. In fact, the popular consensus among experts is that no single level of alcohol consumption is safe. It always comes with risk.

This has led medical professionals to create ‘low-risk’ drinking guidelines to help keep the risks of alcohol consumption to a minimum. In India, there are no such official guidelines yet but in the UK, it is 14 units of alcohol a week, spread across the days, with ‘sober’ days in between. To give an idea of how this looks in practice:

Of the physical causes of ED, cardiovascular disease was the cause 40.82% of the time, and diabetes 33.67%. Two conditions that binge drinking seriously increase the risk of making up almost three quarters of all physical causes of impotence.

But alcohol can also have short-term impacts on the ability to get an erection, namely because of how it reacts in the body and affects the central nervous system. It’s well known that a heavy drinking session can decrease your chances of getting it up. This is because it’s a depressant, and it impacts the brain’s ability to send chemical messages where they need to go (in this instance, to the penis).

Drink Size ABV Alcohol units
Lager Glass (568ml) 4% 2.3
Wine Glass (175ml) 13% 2.3
Cider Glass (568ml) 4.5% 2.6
Spirits Shot (50ml) 40% 1
Champagne Glass (125ml) 12% 1.5

In the UK, drinking more than 14 units per week consistently is considered as high risk and can increase the risk of a number of health conditions. These can include blood pressure problems, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, liver disease and digestive problems.

Of the physical causes of ED, cardiovascular disease was the cause 40.82% of the time, and diabetes 33.67%. Two conditions that binge drinking seriously increase the risk of making up almost three quarters of all physical causes of impotence.

But alcohol can also have short-term impacts on the ability to get an erection, namely because of how it reacts in the body and affects the central nervous system. It’s well known that a heavy drinking session can decrease your chances of getting it up. This is because it’s a depressant, and it impacts the brain’s ability to send chemical messages where they need to go (in this instance, to the penis).

Can sleeping help with erections?

Sleep is vital because it provides a rest period between our daily lives and activity. According to a study, sleep disorders (or insomnia) were seen in 33% of the Indian population surveyed.

A lack of sleep can be dangerous for a number of reasons. In the short term, it can cause you to feel tired, groggy, grumpy and stressed. In the long term, it can increase the risk of several health conditions including obesity, coronary heart disease and diabetes – and it also decreases life expectancy.

The short effects of sleep deprivation, those which impact the mood, may also interfere with your ability to get an erection because, simply, you won’t feel like it. You may feel tired, stressed or without energy.

The long term effects of sleep deprivation can also damage, sometimes permanently, the vascular system and blood vessels. This will make keeping an erection, or getting one at all, extremely difficult.

As much as we’d like, there is no instant miracle cure for erection problems like ED. If you want to know how to keep an erection for longer, there are simple steps you can take, as discussed.

That includes getting regular exercise, with a good mix of aerobic and strength exercise, avoiding recreational drugs and not smoking and sticking to the ‘low-risk’ alcohol consumption guidelines. The more you perform good health practices such as these, the better your ability will be to stay hard during sex.

Erections happen because, in times of arousal, blood rushes to the penis and fills two muscular chambers known as the corpus cavernosum. Keeping an erection means that once the penis is filled with blood, the muscles at the base can constrict well enough to keep it there – ensuring you stay hard.

If you want to learn more about the severity of your ED symptoms, you can perform an International Index of Erectile Dysfunction questionnaire. Knowing how badly you suffer with impotence can help inform the steps you take to keep your penis hard, and how to make an erection last longer.

If you’ve ever wondered how you get an erection, or even how to get an erection on command, ensuring you live a healthy lifestyle is only half of what needs to happen. You also need to be aroused. 

One of the biggest misconceptions surrounding ED drugs is that they get you in the mood and stimulate you sexually, but this isn’t true. They merely help the blood vessels to dilate, allowing blood flow into the penis. 

When you’re turned on, the brain sends chemical signals to the penis. The blood vessels in the penis will dilate, allowing blood to flow in. Once filled, the vessels at the base constrict which ‘traps’ the blood, keeping you hard.

Simply, if you’re not aroused, you’ll struggle to get it up. There are certain tips to get an erection you can practice, especially if you struggle with arousal. 

  • Make sure you feel comfortable and engaged; 
  • If you’re with a sexual partner, trust is key; 
  • Ensure there are no distractions; 
  • Don’t forget foreplay; 
  • Try the stop/start technique; 
  • Be open to new things; 
  • Make sure if you suffer with mental health problems like stress, anxiety or depression – you talk to your sexual partner about it, don’t try to force yourself and speak to a medical professional if you’re struggling.

Does ejaculating make your erections weaker? Why is it so difficult to stay hard, or erect, after coming? Is it normal for the penis to get soft after you finish? 

The answer to these questions is: the refractory period, which is defined as the period directly following an orgasm where the person is no longer sexually responsive. It’s more commonly observed in men, whereas in women it’s an area of more complex clinical focus. In men, the period can be thought of in two stages. 

Stage 1: Following an orgasm, it is physiologically impossible to get an erection or ejaculate again. 

Stage 2: A psychological refractory period may also occur, where the man feels fulfilled and no longer interested in sex.

How long does it take to get an erection again after ejaculating?

The refractory period is different for all men. Sometimes you may feel ready to go again in just a couple of minutes, sometimes it can last hours or even days.

Longer refractory periods get more common with age, but other things can factor into their length including cardiovascular health. It’s also alleged that certain exercises or training techniques can reduce the refractory period, such as pelvic floor muscle training (PFMT.) However, studies on their effectiveness are limited.

It may also be worth speaking to a doctor or sexual health expert if you feel your refractory period is too long.

When is it ‘ED’ and when should I get help?

So you’ve tried:

  • Eating well, and often; 
  • Reducing alcohol intake;
  • Avoiding recreational drugs;
  • Quit smoking;
  • Getting at least six to eight hours sleep a night. 

If you’re still having problems with erections, there are other types of ED treatments available.

Don’t despair, there are still options available for people who suffer with erectile dysfunction even after they’ve adopted positive lifestyle changes. This includes ED drugs, medication and treatment.

ED treatment can help because it limits the action of a particular enzyme, known as PDE5, which causes the blood vessels to narrow and become too constricted. Treatments like Viagra and Manforce are PDE5 inhibitors. Basically, they tell the body to open the floodgates. This means that in times of arousal, blood can flow easily into the penis and give you an erection.

PDE5 inhibitors are often beneficial to men who have adopted several lifestyle changes, but aren’t seeing any improvements downstairs. You can chat with a medical professional at Treated about ED drugs like Viagra and other PDE5 inhibitors. Answer some questions about you and your health, and they’ll suggest appropriate treatments that are right for you.

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When we present you with stats, data, opinion or a consensus, we’ll tell you where this came from. And we’ll only present data as clinically reliable if it’s come from a reputable source, such as a state or government-funded health body, a peer-reviewed medical journal, or a recognised analytics or data body. Read more in our editorial policy.

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