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How to Maintain an Erection: 14 Natural Tips

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 09/17/2017

Updated 03/04/2024

Although most people associate erectile dysfunction with age, your ability to get and maintain an erection is actually determined by a large variety of factors, and most of them are “natural.”

Your body weight, your diet, your blood pressure, your cardiovascular health and your nerve function all contribute to your ability to maintain an erection, as do psychological factors like stress. 

The good news is that many of these factors are within your personal control, and by means of natural erectile health improvements. The bad news is that, for the most part, none of these are those “herbal Viagra” supplements you see online. 

Below, we’ve covered how healthy changes in your diet, sleep, alcohol and other habits are scientifically proven to improve erectile health. We’ve also shared how other factors like your weight, drug use and mental state can be impacting your erections more than you might suspect.

How to Maintain an Erection: 14 Natural Tips for Treating ED

Although there’s no natural simple trick to cure ED, your habits and lifestyle both play a major role in your sexual health and erectile function. So if you’re wondering how to keep an erection without medication, those are the places you’ll want to start.

By prioritizing healthy habits and cutting out not-so-healthy ones, it’s often possible to reduce the severity of erectile dysfunction (if you already have it) or reduce your risk of developing it (if you don’t).

Below, we’ve shared 14 techniques that you can use to maintain an erection naturally, from diet modifications to regular exercise, healthy sleep habits, avoiding harmful substances and taking steps to make sure you get plenty of high-quality sleep.

Many of these changes can also improve your general well-being and lower your risk of dealing with related health problems, such as high cholesterol or cardiovascular disease.

All of these strategies are easy to implement and align well with a healthy lifestyle, making them worth prioritizing before trying ED medication.

Maintain a Healthy Body Weight

Whether you want to know how to maintain an erection for 30 minutes or 30 years, the key is staying healthy enough to get an erection in the first place. Having overweight or obesity can negatively affect your ability to develop and maintain a healthy erection during sex.

Research has found that men with a body mass index (BMI) in the obese range are three times more likely to deal with sexual dysfunction than men with a healthy BMI.

If you have overweight (a BMI in the 25 to 30 range), your risk of developing erectile dysfunction is approximately 1.5 times higher than the risk for a person with a healthy weight.

This increased risk of ED is partially because obesity is closely correlated with serious health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, which can damage the nerves in your pelvis and genital area and stop you from being able to get or maintain an erection.

Erectile dysfunction from diabetes is particularly worrying because common ED treatments, like Viagra and Cialis, may not be totally effective in people with erectile dysfunction from diabetes.

In fact, one study published in 1999 showed that only 56 percent of men with diabetes-induced ED saw improvements after using sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra.

The best solution is to pay attention to your weight and aim to stay within the healthy range for your body type, which typically means a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9.

Since staying at a healthy body weight is also important for your general health, maintaining a weight that’s in the healthy range is something that’s worth doing even if you don’t suffer from erectile dysfunction.

It’s worth noting that although BMI is useful, it’s far from perfect at an individual level, meaning you may want to talk with your healthcare provider about a healthy body weight range if you’re very muscular, tall or have a body type that’s not quite the average.

Your healthcare provider may suggest an alternative method of assessing your weight, such as measuring around your waist or checking your body fat percentage.

We’ve discussed several ways to get to a healthy body weight further down the page, including regular exercise and healthy eating.

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Pay Attention to Your Blood Pressure

The key to how to keep an erection without meds may start with preventing other conditions like heart disease and high blood pressure.

Healthy, consistent erections are all about penile blood flow. Because of this, any condition that affects your heart, vascular system and blood circulation in general can potentially get in the way of you getting and maintaining erections.

High blood pressure is closely linked to ED because of the negative effects it can have on the health of your heart and blood vessels.

While there’s no need to obsess over your blood pressure if you’re otherwise healthy, it’s best to check your blood pressure regularly.

If your blood pressure is above the normal range, it’s important to discuss your options with your healthcare provider.

Mildly high blood pressure (such as blood pressure that’s in the prehypertension range) is often treatable by making a few small changes to your diet and lifestyle.

To reduce your blood pressure, your healthcare provider may recommend adjusting your diet to contain less sodium, increasing your exercise level or taking steps to improve your sleep.

Since healthy erections are so dependent on blood flow, many of these changes can also help to improve your sexual performance.

In addition to lifestyle changes, there are also several medications that can reduce your blood pressure levels and improve your cardiovascular health.

Keep an Eye on Your Cholesterol Levels

Heart disease is a major risk factor for erectile dysfunction. In fact, research suggests that many men at risk of heart disease also have erectile dysfunction, making ED a common early warning sign that healthcare providers look for when judging a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

One early sign that you may be at risk of developing heart disease is a high level of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad cholesterol,” in your blood.

High LDL cholesterol isn’t something that you can feel on your own, making it important to have your cholesterol levels checked on a regular basis.

If you have a family history of heart disease, heart attacks or other medical conditions, or if you’re simply concerned about your cholesterol levels, you can get your cholesterol levels checked by talking to your healthcare provider.

If appropriate, they’ll take a small sample of your blood to check for low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good cholesterol''), as well as other substances that can provide helpful information about your cardiovascular health.

If your cholesterol levels are high, your healthcare provider might recommend making changes to your diet and lifestyle, or using medication, to bring them back down to the healthy range.

Here are some foods that may help with your cholesterol level: tamarind, garlic, lecithin, ashwagandha, and cinnamon. These foods and supplements aren’t actual treatments, though, so don’t rely on them as the only thing you do for your cholesterol levels.

Eat a Healthy Diet That’s Rich in Fruits, Vegetables and Nutritious Foods

Erections are dependent on strong, reliable blood flow. Because of this, the same types of food that can clog your arteries and affect your cardiovascular health can also have a negative effect on your erections and sexual performance.

For the most part, the same foods that increase your risk of heart disease can also contribute to problems with your erections and sexual health.

High-fat, high-sugar and high-calorie meals like hamburgers, pizza and fried chicken are all best avoided or eaten in moderation if you’re concerned about ED.

Instead of eating foods that can affect your cardiovascular health, it’s better to focus on eating a mix of different nutritious, healthy foods.

A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine showed that the Mediterranean diet, which is rich in whole grains, fish, fruit, nuts and fresh vegetables but low in red meat, might be linked to a lower incidence rate of erectile dysfunction in men.

Our complete guide to foods that may help with erectile dysfunction lists readily available foods that you can add to your diet to improve your health and sexual function. And while no one specific food can help or hurt erections, you can also read up on cayenne pepper benefits sexually to see if this spicy food helps.

Choose your chew

Take Stress and Your Mental Health Seriously

Erectile dysfunction treatment may include a more inclusive plan. Mental health plays a major role in almost every aspect of your sex life and sexual performance, including your ability to get and maintain an erection.

Erections begin with mental stimulation. As your nervous system communicates with the nerves around your penis, blood flows into your erectile tissue, helping you become hard and stay hard during sex.

Some mental health conditions, such as major depression and sexual performance anxiety, can affect this process and make it more difficult for you to get an erection.

Techniques used to treat sexual performance anxiety include mindfulness meditation training, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medications, such as ED drugs and antidepressants.

If you have a mental health issue that’s causing ED or affecting your sex life in other ways, it’s important to seek treatment.

While some mental health issues require medication, many can be solved through options like individual or group therapy.

We offer a range of mental health services that can help you to overcome depression, anxiety and other common issues that can affect your sexual performance.

Make Aerobic Exercise Part of Your Daily Routine

Aerobic forms of exercise, such as running, cycling, rowing or playing most sports, can improve your heart health and reduce the severity of erectile dysfunction.

A 2011 article published in the Ethiopian Journal of Health Science looked at evidence from five studies on the effects of aerobic exercise in men with ED.

The authors found that some of the studies showed a clear improvement in the symptoms of ED as men exercised, particularly over the long term.

The article concluded that aerobic training "can successfully treat ED in selected patients with arteriogenic ED" -- a form of erectile dysfunction that’s caused by poor blood flow to the tissues of the penis.

However, the researchers also noted that more research is needed on the link between regular physical activity and ED.

If you have erectile dysfunction, it’s usually possible to improve your cardiovascular health with a relatively mild exercise routine. Put more simply, there’s no need to spend countless hours of your day exercising just to reduce your risk of dealing with erectile dysfunction.

For most men, a 15-60 minute daily session of moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise (for example, jogging, cycling or walking on an incline) is enough to improve your heart health and reduce your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and other chronic health issues.

Wondering if too much exercise can cause erectile dysfunction? There’s currently no evidence to suggest that exercising frequently may cause poor functioning downstairs, meaning you can work out without any anxiety about your sexual performance.

Try Kegel Exercises to Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor

Your pelvic floor muscles -- the group of muscles located beneath your penis, bladder, intestines and rectum -- play a key role in several essential bodily functions, including your ability to hold in urine.

There’s also some evidence that weak pelvic floor muscles might contribute to weaker erections that are more difficult to maintain during sex.

Research suggests training your pelvic floor muscles using kegel exercises may help to improve your natural erectile function and prevent erectile dysfunction symptoms.

In a study published in the British Journal of General Practice, a team of experts found that men with ED who performed pelvic floor exercises showed improvements in erectile function over the course of three months, with the results improving even further after six months of treatment.

You can perform kegel exercises by tightening your pelvic floor muscles, counting up to three to five, then relaxing them again. Most people repeat this process 10 times in the morning, noon and at night over the course of several weeks.

Over time, you may notice that you feel more in control of your erections, and that you’re better able to avoid feeling excessively stimulated during sex.

In addition to potentially improving your erections, research suggests that pelvic floor exercises may also increase your ability to control ejaculation and stop common sexual dysfunctions such as premature ejaculation (PE).

Our guide to pelvic floor exercises for men goes into more detail about how you can use pelvic floor training to strengthen your erections and sexual function.

Avoid Using Anabolic Steroids

Many steroids, including testosterone, can reduce your body’s ability to produce hormones that are critical for your sexual health and function. This can increase your risk of developing sexual performance issues such as erectile dysfunction.

In a study published in the journal Translational Andrology and Urology, experts surveyed users of anabolic steroids to assess the potential impact of steroid use on male sexual health.

They found that many steroid users reported decreased libido and erectile dysfunction after they stopped using artificial testosterone.

These issues were more likely when steroids were used for the long term, as well as among the men who used steroids frequently.

If you’re concerned about your erectile function, try to avoid testosterone and other steroids that can affect your body’s natural hormone production. Instead, try using natural techniques to raise your testosterone levels and improve your physical performance. That is unless you have low testosterone and are using steroids for treatment.

In that case, taking testosterone can actually improve your erectile function. Wondering if you can take Viagra on steroids? This guide covers the information you need to know about ED medication and steroid interactions.

Check for Lower-Than-Normal Testosterone Levels

Low levels of testosterone may affect your level of interest in sex and have an impact on your ability to get and keep an erection during sex.

Your testosterone levels fluctuate naturally based on several different factors, from your diet and activity level to your sleep habits.

They also decline with age, with research showing a progressive decline in serum testosterone levels as men get older.

Common symptoms of low testosterone include loss of muscle mass, an increase in your level of body fat, changes in your mood, memory issues and a lethargic, fatigued feeling.

If you’re worried about low testosterone, it’s best to talk to your healthcare provider or schedule an appointment with a urologist. It’s easy to check your testosterone levels with a blood test.

If you have low testosterone, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication (referred to as testosterone replacement therapy, or TRT) or recommend that you make certain changes to your habits and lifestyle. There are other medication options besides TRT, as well.

Using testosterone therapeutically is very different from the type of steroid use we mentioned in the section above. If you’re prescribed testosterone, your healthcare provider will work with you to make sure you’re within the normal testosterone range for men of your age.

Simple habits, such as exercising often, reducing stress and getting a good night’s sleep, can all help to increase your testosterone levels. Many of these habits are also ideal for improving your general health, sexual performance and wellbeing as a man.

Improve Your Sleep Habits

The quality of your sleep has a huge impact on just about every aspect of your health, including your erections and general sexual performance.

In fact, research shows that common sleep disorders such as insomnia, shift work disorder and obstructive sleep apnea are all linked with erectile dysfunction and other urological disorders in men.

Other research has found that just one week of low quality sleep can result in a significant drop in your body’s production of testosterone -- a vital hormone for maintaining a strong and healthy sex drive.

Put simply, not only are you less likely to have reliable erections when you don’t sleep well, but you may also be less likely to feel interested in sex in the first place.

While science hasn’t yet revealed the perfect amount of sleep for an optimal sex drive, it’s best to aim for the CDC’s recommendation of seven or more hours per night.

If you find it difficult to doze off at a normal time, or have issues staying asleep at night, making a few simple changes to your lifestyle can often help you to maintain good sleep habits.

These include following a regular bedtime, avoiding caffeine, exercising regularly and switching off phones, tablets and other bright devices an hour or two before bedtime.

Avoid Smoking Cigarettes and Consuming Nicotine

Healthy erections are all about blood flow. Because smoking damages the blood vessels that supply blood to your penis, it can greatly increase your risk of developing ED.

Research into the relationship between smoking and ED has found that regular smokers have an elevated risk of developing erectile dysfunction compared to non-smoking men of the same age.

The same research shows that many men who smoke are able to improve their erectile function and sexual performance by quitting.

If you’re a smoker, kicking the habit might seem like a daunting task. However, it can offer real benefits both for your sexual function and for your general quality of life.

Beyond sex, quitting smoking has numerous other benefits, from reducing your risk of cancer and heart disease to improving your blood flow, reproductive health and lowering your risk of respiratory issues such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

These health benefits mean that quitting smoking is something that’s worth trying even if you don’t have erectile dysfunction.

Interestingly, nicotine itself is closely associated with ED, meaning that alternative methods of ingesting nicotine such as vaping or using nicotine patches may not result in full improvements in your erectile health.

One study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, for example, found that nicotine lowers the erectile response to stimulation and decreases sexual arousal.

This means that the best approach to ED treatment for smokers isn’t just to quit smoking, but to quit nicotine altogether.

Our guide to smoking and erectile dysfunction goes into more detail about the close relationship between nicotine and ED, as well as other sex and reproduction-related health risks associated with smoking.

Reduce Your Alcohol Intake

If you’re wondering how to keep an erection for the whole night, you may want to consider what else you do all night. Do you drink alcohol at night or on the weekend? Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink is a straightforward way to improve your erections and your general health and well-being.

While alcohol isn’t directly linked to erectile dysfunction, people with alcohol dependence are far more likely to display one or more signs of sexual dysfunction.

In one study from 2007, researchers found that the amount of alcohol people with alcohol dependence consume is the most significant predictor of developing sexual dysfunction out of the things the study was looking at.

The most common forms of sexual dysfunction observed in the study were erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation and low sexual desire.

Although there’s no need to quit drinking entirely, limiting your alcohol consumption can improve your sexual performance and overall health.

Try to stick to the CDC’s guidelines and limit your alcohol intake to a maximum of two servings a day (for example, two normal-sized glasses of wine or 12-ounce glasses of beer) to reduce your risk of dealing with alcohol-induced ED.

Try to Limit Your Consumption of Porn

While the link between porn and erectile dysfunction isn’t crystal clear, some research suggests that watching too much porn may contribute to levels of sexual satisfaction.

For example, research from the Naval Medical Center of San Diego has shown that regular porn watching could potentially impact arousal in real-life situations.

The link between porn consumption and ED appears to be psychological rather than physical -- possibly a result of porn’s novelty and potential for easy escalation changing the way men (and women, who obviously aren’t affected by ED) view sexual activity.

Right now, research into the link between pornography and ED is limited. However, the research that currently exists suggests that taking a break from porn consumption could improve this form of erectile dysfunction.

In short, reducing the amount of time you spend watching porn could be a potential way to solve erection problems, especially if you find yourself less interested in real sexual activity as a result of watching too much porn.

Communicate With Your Partner

Another way to reduce your risk of ED and maintain stronger erections is to talk openly with your sexual partner.

Communicating with your partner can help to reduce anxiety in your relationship, which may be a factor in erectile dysfunction. It’s also a great way to work together to overcome problems that can affect your connection and sexual response.

If you occasionally get weak erections or struggle to remain hard at all, letting your partner know about what’s going on and why you think it’s happening may also make it easier for them to help you feel comfortable during sex.

Put simply, talking openly with each other can help you to get rid of feelings of anxiety and make it easier to maintain a normal sex life.

Our guide to dealing with erectile dysfunction in a relationship shares a few techniques that you can use to bring up the topic of ED with your partner, all without any awkward moments.

Caffeine

If you’re wondering how to keep an erection longer, it may be as simple as having an extra cup of coffee in the morning. No really, caffeine has been shown to offer some benefits to vascular health and has been linked in regular consumers to better ED prevention rates.

A 2015 study of more than 3,000 men found that two or three cups of coffee a day reduced ED risk in men of normal weights as well as those who had obesity or overweight, though it did not affect men with diabetes.

Yes, we did mention that caffeine can interrupt your sleep schedule, and it absolutely shouldn’t be consumed too late, lest you cause yourself other problems. But those morning and midday refreshers may be the simplest answer to how to stay erect longer.

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How to make an erection last longer takes a little self-assessment about your health, your body, your brain and how you’re caring for them all.

Although erections might seem simple, your body does some serious work behind the scenes to help you get and stay hard during a sexual encounter.

If you find it tough to get and maintain a full erection during sex, the habits listed above can help you to improve your overall health, maintain harder erections and reduce your risk of developing erectile dysfunction over time.

If you have persistent ED, or find that lifestyle changes alone aren’t quite enough to prevent you from dealing with weaker erections than you’d like, you may want to consider taking medication to improve your erections.

We offer several evidence-based ED medications online, including PDE5 inhibitors like sildenafil (Viagra®) and tadalafil (generic Cialis®), which are available following a private online consultation with a provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate.

These medications can make a real difference in the strength and reliability of your erections, as well as your general sexual performance.

You can also find out more about the causes of ED, common risk factors and the most effective treatment options in our full guide to erectile dysfunction.

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Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Mike Bohl, MD

Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician, a Medical Advisor at Hims & Hers, and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup, where he is involved in pharmaceutical drug development. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years working in digital health, focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show (receiving recognition for contributions from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences when the show won Outstanding Informative Talk Show at the 2016–2017 Daytime Emmy® Awards) and at Sharecare. He is a Medical Expert Board Member at Eat This, Not That! and a Board Member at International Veterinary Outreach.

Dr. Bohl obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine from Brown University, his Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and his Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies—Journalism from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership at Cornell University. Dr. Bohl trained in internal medicine with a focus on community health at NYU Langone Health.

Dr. Bohl is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, Medical Writer Certified by the American Medical Writers Association, a certified Editor in the Life Sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist by the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs. He has graduate certificates in Digital Storytelling and Marketing Management & Digital Strategy from Harvard Extension School and certificates in Business Law and Corporate Governance from Cornell Law School.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. He has also spent time conducting orthopedic and biomaterial research at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland and practicing clinically as a general practitioner on international medical aid projects with Medical Ministry International.

Dr. Bohl lives in Manhattan and enjoys biking, resistance training, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, tennis, and traveling. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information.

Publications

  • Younesi, M., Knapik, D. M., Cumsky, J., Donmez, B. O., He, P., Islam, A., Learn, G., McClellan, P., Bohl, M., Gillespie, R. J., & Akkus, O. (2017). Effects of PDGF-BB delivery from heparinized collagen sutures on the healing of lacerated chicken flexor tendon in vivo. Acta biomaterialia, 63, 200–209. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1742706117305652?via%3Dihub

  • Gebhart, J. J., Weinberg, D. S., Bohl, M. S., & Liu, R. W. (2016). Relationship between pelvic incidence and osteoarthritis of the hip. Bone & joint research, 5(2), 66–72. https://boneandjoint.org.uk/Article/10.1302/2046-3758.52.2000552

  • Gebhart, J. J., Bohl, M. S., Weinberg, D. S., Cooperman, D. R., & Liu, R. W. (2015). Pelvic Incidence and Acetabular Version in Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis. Journal of pediatric orthopedics, 35(6), 565–570. https://journals.lww.com/pedorthopaedics/abstract/2015/09000/pelvic_incidence_and_acetabular_version_in_slipped.5.aspx

  • Islam, A., Bohl, M. S., Tsai, A. G., Younesi, M., Gillespie, R., & Akkus, O. (2015). Biomechanical evaluation of a novel suturing scheme for grafting load-bearing collagen scaffolds for rotator cuff repair. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 30(7), 669–675. https://www.clinbiomech.com/article/S0268-0033(15)00143-6/fulltext

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