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3 Exercises for Erectile Dysfunction

Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Reviewed by Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 01/23/2018

Updated 04/18/2024

From medications like Viagra® to talk therapy, a range of options can treat erectile dysfunction (ED) and improve sexual performance. There’s also an aspect of ED treatment that’s less well known than but potentially as effective: erectile dysfunction exercises.

Much like the body’s other muscle groups, the pelvic floor muscles located close to your penis can be trained and strengthened to improve erections and sexual performance.

Below, we’ll look at the most common erectile dysfunction exercises, as well as the effects they can have on erection quality, sexual function and overall quality of life.

Erectile dysfunction is a form of sexual dysfunction in which you’re unable to get or maintain an erection firm enough to have sex. And as you may have already guessed, it has a lot to do with your overall health.

Erections are all about healthy blood flow. When you’re sexually aroused, your nervous system triggers an increase in blood supply to the corpora cavernosa — spongy erectile tissue inside your penis. As blood flows to this tissue, your penis becomes firmer and larger.

Numerous factors can interrupt this process and either cause or contribute to erectile dysfunction.

Health conditions that can cause ED include cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), chronic kidney disease, multiple sclerosis and injuries to the penis or surrounding tissue that affect blood flow or local nerve function.

Unhealthy habits, such as smoking, being physically inactive or drinking too much alcohol, can contribute to these health issues and potentially make ED worse.

And as you’ve probably gathered, many of these conditions have one thing in common: They can be improved by maintaining a healthier lifestyle, including regular exercise.

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Many benefits of exercise are indirectly linked to better erections and sexual function. For instance, since regular exercise increases your physical endurance, it could improve your sexual performance by giving you extra stamina.

A systematic review published in the journal Sexual Medicine found that getting at least 160 minutes of exercise a week for six months reduced the severity of erectile dysfunction for men with hypertension, heart disease and other health issues.

In short, erectile dysfunction exercises do work, and exercise in any form is likely to help reduce the negative effects of ED. The more active you are, and the better-conditioned your pelvic floor muscles are, the more likely you’ll be able to improve your erection quality.

Other Reasons to Get Moving

In addition to improving arterial blood flow and reducing your risk of erectile dysfunction, regular exercise has plenty of other benefits. It can:

  • Lower your risk of developing heart disease

  • Help you to maintain a healthy body weight

  • Manage blood sugar levels and reduce your risk of diabetes

  • Lower your risk of developing some forms of cancer

  • Improve your moods, thoughts and mental health

  • Improve your sleep duration and quality

  • Increase your strength and muscle mass

  • Make it easier to quit smoking

The following forms of exercise are great ways to improve your well-being, self-esteem, vascular function and pelvic integrity. 

The three best erectile dysfunction exercises for improving ED are:

  • Pelvic floor exercises (also known as Kegels)

  • Aerobic activity

  • Pilates

Here’s what to know.

1. Pelvic Floor Exercises

Let’s start with the most obvious (and the closest) exercise to the problem itself.

The best exercise for ED is one that targets erectile function directly — and no exercises target erectile health better than the ones that can control your erections.

Pelvic floor exercises (aka Kegel exercises — yes, men can do Kegels too) strengthen the muscles around the penis.

In one study published in the urology journal BJU International, researchers looked at the effects of pelvic floor exercises on erectile health in men with long-term erectile dysfunction. Participants were split into two groups — both were instructed to make lifestyle changes, but one group was told to also do pelvic floor exercises.

After three months, the men who did pelvic floor exercises and made changes to their lifestyles had a significantly higher rate of recovery from ED than participants in the control group. This suggests that pelvic floor exercises could be an effective treatment for ED.

More recent research has found that men affected by ED tend to have weaker pelvic floor muscles than their peers, suggesting that pelvic muscle function is involved in erections and sexual function. It might even help with premature ejaculation (PE).

Other Benefits of Strengthening the Pelvic Floor

The pelvic floor muscles are a sling-shaped group of muscles located underneath your genitals, bladder and bowel. They originate from the pubic bone at the front of your body and attach to the bottom of your spinal column.

The muscles of your pelvic floor aren’t just involved in erections and sexual activity — they also play a role in bladder and bowel function. Whenever you pee, you relax your pelvic floor muscles, only to clench them as you finish to stop the flow of urine. 

How to Perform Pelvic Exercises for ED

Pelvic floor exercises work just like other muscle exercises — by increasing the strength of pelvic floor muscles and enhancing their function.

Exercising pelvic floor muscles is a simple process. You won’t need any special equipment to train these muscles, nor will you need to train them intensely. 

For most men, a few minutes of pelvic floor muscle exercises a day should be enough to produce real, noticeable benefits.

Here’s how to train your pelvic floor muscles:

  1. Start by emptying your bladder. Relaxing your pelvic floor muscles can make you pee. Because of this, it’s best to go to the bathroom before you start doing any pelvic floor exercises.

  2. Get into a comfortable seated position.

  3. Tighten your muscles for 10 seconds. While seated, contract your pelvic floor muscles and hold them in this position. Count to 10 while you keep your muscles tight, then relax your muscles while counting to 10 again. (You can identify your pelvic floor muscles by tensing as if you need to stop peeing. You’ll feel the pelvic muscles “lift” into your torso as they’re tensed, causing your pelvic area to feel tighter than usual.)

  4. Repeat this process 10 times.

  5. Take a break after you finish, then return to your normal daily routine.

  6. Do these exercises three to five times a day. You’ll notice the best results from pelvic floor exercises if you do them frequently. Try doing Kegels after waking up, in the afternoon and before going to bed.

These therapeutic exercises can be performed while seated or lying down. Try doing them while using your computer, watching TV or reading a book. 

It usually takes six to 12 weeks of consistent training to notice improvements. 

Like other forms of exercise, it’s important not to overtrain your pelvic muscles. Avoid doing more than five sessions of training per day, as this may cause your muscles to become fatigued or injured.

2. Aerobic Exercise for ED

Scientific research suggests that any form of exercise that improves cardiovascular health can also potentially improve erection quality and sex drive.

For example, a meta-analysis published in 2011 found a strong link between aerobic exercises and improvements in erection quality for men with arteriogenic erectile dysfunction (ED caused by poor arterial blood flow). 

Just a quick daily cardio session can start to address problems like obesity, high blood pressure and risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

One simple way to reach this target is to set aside 30 minutes for exercise five days a week. Besides cardiovascular exercise, try to do at least two muscle-training workouts a week, whether in the gym, at a yoga class or using your body weight at home.

Since healthy erections are all about blood flow, any exercise that improves cardiovascular health can also reduce your risk of developing erectile dysfunction.

Try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week. You can do this by:

  • Briskly walking around your neighborhood

  • Walking or jogging on a treadmill at home or in the gym

  • Riding your bike outside or using a stationary exercise bike

  • Playing tennis, basketball or other moderate-intensity sports

  • Taking boxing or martial arts classes

  • Swimming laps or doing water aerobics 

  • Doing yoga

Try a few things, mix it up or just do what feels best. The most important thing is to move your body.

Does running help with erectile dysfunction? Read our blog for insight. 

3. Pilates Exercises for ED

Believe it or not, Pilates may be an excellent, targeted exercise routine for improving erectile function.

Pilates has been shown to help people with pelvic floor issues, like women struggling with incontinence after childbirth. Studies have shown that modified routines provide numerous benefits to women, who are essentially strengthening the same muscle floor after a traumatic injury. 

Research doesn’t specifically link Pilates to improvements for erectile dysfunction, but the moves activate the pelvic floor muscles that are vital to getting and keeping an erection.

Here are a couple of Pilates moves to try:

  • Knee fallouts. Start lying flat on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees bent. Contract your pelvic floor muscles while slowly lowering one knee sideways toward the floor. After moving your knee as far as it can go to the side, slowly bring it back to the center while still engaging your pelvic muscles. Repeat with the other knee, and do five reps on each side.

  • Supine foot raises. Start lying flat on your back with your feet on the floor and your knees bent. Raise one foot into the air, maintaining a 45-degree angle with your leg, while contracting your pelvic floor muscles. Hold for a count of five, then slowly lower your foot back down. Repeat with the other foot, and do five reps on each side.

If you’re not into Pilates, no sweat. Some studies have also pointed to yoga as a way to strengthen the pelvic floor.

Can too much exercise cause erectile dysfunction? What about physical therapy for ED? Our blogs have answers.

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Pelvic floor exercises and general physical activity are linked to real improvements in blood flow, erectile function and sexual health. However, being more physically active isn’t necessarily a guaranteed form of treatment for erectile dysfunction.

You might also consider medications and lifestyle changes (other than exercise, that is).

Erectile Dysfunction Medications

If you have moderate or severe ED that doesn’t get better with exercise alone, your healthcare provider may suggest using erectile dysfunction medication, such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Levitra®) or avanafil (Stendra®). 

These oral medications can be taken shortly before sex, making them helpful if you need some extra assistance getting or staying hard. Hims also offers chewable ED meds in the form of hard mints.

Our guide to the most common erectile dysfunction treatments goes into more detail about how ED medications work and what you should know before using them.

Lifestyle Changes for ED

ED often improves with changes to your lifestyle. Exercise is a big one, but it’s not the only factor.

Simple things such as eating balanced meals with nutritious food and limiting your alcohol intake might help you maintain normal erections and boost your sexual performance.

If you smoke, kicking the habit can also improve blood flow throughout your body and make it easier to get and maintain an erection sufficient for sex.

Our guide to naturally protecting your erections shares other non-pharmacological techniques for improving your erections and sex life.

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Men’s health, penile health and pelvic floor muscle training can all get a little complicated. So if you feel like you’re in over your head, you’re definitely not alone.

The most important thing to do is connect with a healthcare professional to discuss your concerns. A urologist or another medical professional can help you figure out the potential cause (or causes) of your erectile dysfunction with tests and screening and find treatment options to fit your needs.

As for exercise, here’s what to take away:

  • While medication is the most common first-line treatment for ED, some research suggests that exercise can help improve sexual health and erectile function.

  • Scientific research on erectile dysfunction exercises generally shows that they work well, with pelvic floor exercises and cardiovascular workouts both worthwhile options for improving sexual function. 

  • High-intensity cardio workouts can promote weight loss, improve heart health and reduce many factors in ED for men.

  • Kegel exercises for men can target specific muscle groups that control blood flow associated with erections. These exercises for stronger erection performance can improve your erectile health.

If you have erectile dysfunction, it’s always best to talk to a licensed healthcare provider about your options.

Using our telehealth platform, you can take part in an ED consultation online and, if appropriate, get prescription medication to treat your symptoms.

15 Sources

  1. Curillo-Aguirre, C. A., & Gea-Izquierdo, E. (2023). Effectiveness of Pelvic Floor Muscle Training on Quality of Life in Women with Urinary Incontinence: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Medicina (Kaunas, Lithuania), 59(6), 1004. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10301414/.
  2. Hein, J. T., Rieck, T. M., Dunfee, H. A., Johnson, D. P., Ferguson, J. A., & Rhodes, D. J. (2020). Effect of a 12-Week Pilates Pelvic Floor-Strengthening Program on Short-Term Measures of Stress Urinary Incontinence in Women: A Pilot Study. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 26(2), 158–161. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7044776/.
  3. Definition & Facts for Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/definition-facts
  4. Lakin, M. & Wood, H. (2018, June). Erectile Dysfunction. Retrieved from https://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/endocrinology/erectile-dysfunction/
  5. Dhaliwal, A. & Gupta, M. (2021, June 25). PDE5 Inhibitors. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549843/
  6. Symptoms & Causes of Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/symptoms-causes
  7. Dorey, G., Speakman, M.J., Feneley, R.C., Swinkels, A. & Dunn, C.D. (2005, September). Pelvic floor exercises for erectile dysfunction. BJU International. 96 (4), 595-7. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16104916/
  8. Kim, J.K., et al. (2021). A prospectively collected observational study of pelvic floor muscle strength and erectile function using a novel personalized extracorporeal perineometer. Scientific Reports. 11, 18389. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-97230-6
  9. Lamina, S., Agbanusi, E.C. & Nwacha, R.C. (2011, November). Effects of Aerobic Exercise in the Management of Erectile Dysfunction: A Meta Analysis Study on Randomized Controlled Trials. Ethiopian Journal of Health Science. 21 (3), 195–201. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3275865/
  10. Gerbild, H., Larsen, C.M., Graugaard, C. & Josefsson, K.A. (2018, June). Physical Activity to Improve Erectile Function: A Systematic Review of Intervention Studies. Sexual Medicine. 6 (2), 75–89. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5960035/
  11. Pelvic floor muscle training exercises. (2020, October 14). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/003975.htm
  12. Bordoni, B., Sugumar, K. & Leslie, S.W. (2021, July 21). Anatomy, Abdomen and Pelvis, Pelvic Floor. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482200/
  13. How much physical activity do adults need? (2020, October 7). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
  14. Benefits of Exercise. (2021, September 30). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/benefitsofexercise.html
  15. Treatment for Erectile Dysfunction. (2017, July). Retrieved from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/erectile-dysfunction/treatment
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.

Kelly Brown MD, MBA
Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Dr. Kelly Brown is a board certified Urologist and fellowship trained in Andrology. She is an accomplished men’s health expert with a robust background in healthcare innovation, clinical medicine, and academic research. Dr. Brown was previously Medical Director of a male fertility startup where she lead strategy and design of their digital health platform, an innovative education and telehealth model for delivering expert male fertility care.

She completed her undergraduate studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!) with a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science and a Minor in Chemistry. She took a position at University of California Los Angeles as a radiologic technologist in the department of Interventional Cardiology, further solidifying her passion for medicine. She also pursued the unique opportunity to lead departmental design and operational development at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, sparking her passion for the business of healthcare.

Dr. Brown then went on to obtain her doctorate in medicine from the prestigious Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine and Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. During her surgical residency in Urology at University of California San Francisco, she utilized her research year to focus on innovations in telemedicine and then served as chief resident with significant contributions to clinical quality improvement. Dr. Brown then completed her Andrology Fellowship at Medical College of Wisconsin, furthering her expertise in male fertility, microsurgery, and sexual function.

Her dedication to caring for patients with compassion, understanding, as well as a unique ability to make guys instantly comfortable discussing anything from sex to sperm makes her a renowned clinician. In addition, her passion for innovation in healthcare combined with her business acumen makes her a formidable leader in the field of men’s health.

Dr. Brown is an avid adventurer; summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (twice!) and hiking the incredible Torres del Paine Trek in Patagonia, Chile. She deeply appreciates new challenges and diverse cultures on her travels. She lives in Denver with her husband, two children, and beloved Bernese Mountain Dog. You can find Dr. Brown on LinkedIn for more information.

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