Every year, tens of millions of men in the United States alone deal with some degree of erectile dysfunction (ED) or erection problems, preventing them from enjoying the sex life they deserve. And we’re willing to bet that even the men who aren’t part of that group occasionally wonder what they could be doing to give themselves better, stronger erections.
How to get a harder erection is unfortunately a question that can get more complex as we age. But it can start before retirement — statistics show that even though about 70 percent of men will be affected by ED by the age of 70, a staggering 40 percent of us will experience similar problems by the age of forty.
So, if you’re wondering how to get hard — and stay hard — during sex, you’re not alone, and you’ve come to the right place.
Below, we’ll be diving into some of the science-backed ways to get hard faster and improve your erection quality for a greater sex life.
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How to get harder erections is really just a question of taking the best care possible of your mind, body and sexual health. If you want stronger erections, consider making it a priority to make of the following changes:
Eat (and drink) healthy
Amino acids (l-citrulline and l-arginine)
Limit alcohol intake
Get Better Sleep
Maintain a healthy weight
Check testosterone levels
Stop watching porn
Communicate with your partner
Explore new things in the bedroom
Use ED medications and other treatments
The question of how to get harder erection quality has many answers, and some of them may not require much medical intervention if you’re willing to make changes. But before you meet with a healthcare professional to talk about medications, it's important to reflect on your lifestyle habits and see if they align with general men's health recommendations.
From your diet to your level of physical activity and exercise habits, your lifestyle can have a big impact on your ability to get an erection, keep that erection, and perform in the bedroom.
So, let's dig deeper into these lifestyle changes for erectile dysfunction and sexual performance.
Stress can affect almost every aspect of your health — from your mental function to your physical well-being. As if stress alone wasn’t bad enough, wait until we tell you the effects it can have on your erection quality.
When you’re stressed, your body undergoes changes on a hormonal level, including ramping up the production of the hormone cortisol. When your cortisol levels are chronically high, you may be at a higher risk of experiencing anxiety and depression, both of which can affect sexual function. People who experience performance anxiety and other mind-based erectile problems know this all too well.
Some of the best stress reduction strategies include:
Spending time with friends and family
Avoiding unhealthy habits
Prioritizing your mental health
Getting enough sleep
Doing a creative activity
Signing up for online therapy
How to get stronger erections may be a question you answer in the gym. When it comes to erection quality, blood flow is the most important piece of the puzzle. In fact, it’s fair to say erections can’t happen without it. It’s also fair to say that life in general also doesn’t happen without blood flow, but we digress…
When you’re aroused, blood flows into your penis to give it the size and firmness that are required for penetrative sex. That’s how erections work.
When your cardiovascular system is strong and healthy, the process of getting and maintaining an erection becomes much easier for your body.
And what’s the best way to keep your cardiovascular system strong and healthy? That’s right — exercise!
One of the most effective ways to improve your heart health and function is by staying active and getting regular exercise. Luckily, you don’t have to go crazy.
In a meta-analysis published in the journal Sexual Medicine, researchers found that 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise four times a week is enough to reduce erectile dysfunction.
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.
Generally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adults get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week — that’s a little over 20 minutes per day.
One exercise you might consider working into your routines doesn’t have to be done at the gym. Kegels help both men and women strengthen the muscles of the pelvic floor, which can help prevent all sorts of problems (like urinary incontinence) down the line.
They’re also great practice for controlling your climaxes, so they could be a part of a plan to increase your stamina while boosting your erection quality.
Yes, even what you eat at the dinner table every night can affect how you perform in the bedroom afterward, so a healthy diet is essential for sexual performance
Erectile dysfunction is closely linked to high blood pressure. Common foods that contribute to high blood pressure when eaten in excess as part of your diet include deli meats, canned foods, fast food and other foods high in sodium.
On the other hand, a diet that’s rich in fish, nuts, legumes, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fresh ingredients and unsaturated fats may help keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. The Mediterranean diet is a great example.
A particular dietary element might also improve your erection quality: amino acids. L-citrulline and L-arginine are both considered vasodilators, and while they may not work as well as medication according to some research, getting these from foods like melon and cucumbers, fish, meat, grains and dairy can help your body function more effectively — as part of a balanced diet, of course
In addition to food, alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on your erectile health and sexual performance.
While a glass or two of wine or beer isn’t likely to hurt your erections, studies show a clear link between chronic and persistent alcohol use and sexual dysfunction.
You don’t have to quit drinking in moderation (unless you want to), but pumping the brakes on nights when you’re planning to share some intimacy could be the same kind of strategic decision as carrying some breath mints.
Smoking is bad for you. Terrible, really. You already knew that. But did you know that smoking is also bad for your erectile health?
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.
If you smoke and have ED, it’s important to think about quitting smoking to improve your health and boost your sexual performance.
About 35 percent of American adults fail to get seven or more hours of sleep per night.
And since not getting enough shut-eye every night is also closely associated with higher stress levels, and since stress can affect your sex drive and sexual performance… Well, you see what we’re getting at.
Previously, researchers thought that sleep deprivation caused testosterone levels to drop in men. However, a recent study that analyzed sleep restriction and its impact on testosterone levels concluded that there were no adverse effects on testosterone levels in the healthy young men involved.
That means there needs to be more research to have conclusive results.
Nevertheless, a lack of sleep can still cause poor circulation and negatively impact your sexual health. Addressing sleep disorders with the support of a medical professional can help if these issues feel serious or chronic.
In a study out of Poland, researchers found that men with a body mass index (BMI) in the obese range were three times more likely to experience sexual dysfunction than their average-sized counterparts. Weight can cause erectile problems.
Even having overweight but not obesity can increase your risk of ED. In the same study, men with a BMI in the overweight range had 1.5 times more likely to develop ED.
Maintaining a healthy body weight is one proven way to improve your erectile function and sexual performance, as well as reduce your risk of developing certain health conditions like type 2 diabetes.
Low testosterone in men can lead to a number of problems, including low sex drive, difficulty sleeping and, you guessed it, erection problems.
If you’re starting to experience low testosterone symptoms, talk to a healthcare professional and see about doing a testosterone levels test to check your hormones. This simple blood test can tell you everything you need to know.
If you’re suffering from a deficiency, hormone therapy can help you increase your testosterone, which can help reverse symptoms within four to six weeks.
Porn is safe and healthy (and very normal!) in moderation, but if you get to a point where you’re watching too much of it, research indicates that it may start interfering with the pleasure receptors in your brain. Yes, really.
Often referred to as “porn-induced erectile dysfunction,” it occurs when your porn habits start to interfere with the parts of your brain associated with reward sensitivity. As you can probably guess, 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 Behavior, researchers found that watching porn (among other online sexual activities, or OSAs) was closely linked to both lower overall sexual satisfaction and lower erectile function.
The solution? Consider limiting your porn consumption or avoiding porn outright if you want to get or maintain an erection.
We get it. Talking about erectile problems can be uncomfortable for all parties involved. But it’s important to keep in mind the negative effects of ED can affect both you and your partner. And it’s equally important to be able to talk openly about what’s happening below the belt.
People are into different things, and being able to articulate what those things are and communicate about what you both need to have the best sex possible is the name of the game.
Speaking of communication, don’t be afraid to experiment with your partner. After all, it’s not just older men who sometimes struggle to get hard. Younger men can also face the same issues.
And sometimes, those issues can be solved simply by working to figure out just what — exactly — excites you.
Some fun ways to mix things up in the bedroom include:
Giving each other massages
Trying new positions
Sharing your fantasies with each other
Playing with sex toys
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Harder erections aren’t really about how to get harder quick, so much as they are about how to stay hard longer, and medications may help you do that.
Changes to your lifestyle can help treat some causes of erectile dysfunction, but if you have ED, you’ll often get the best results by calling for backup and combining lifestyle changes with prescription drugs to improve your erections.
And that journey starts with speaking with a healthcare professional to find the right medication for you.
The better news? You have options. Currently, there are four FDA-approved oral medications for treating ED and improving your sexual performance:
Sildenafil (sold as Viagra®)
These treatment options are called PDE5 inhibitors and are commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction. In some cases, they are also FDA approved to treat pulmonary arterial hypertension and benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).
These drugs work by inhibiting PDE5, an enzyme responsible for regulating blood flow to the soft tissues inside your penis. They’re taken orally and are designed for use anywhere from 15 minutes to a few hours before sex.
Our guide to what you should expect from ED medication explains how these medications work in more detail.
You can also learn more about each medication and its effects below.
You can find sildenafil sold under the brand name Viagra, though it’s now available as a generic medication. Brand name Viagra and generic sildenafil work in exactly the same way and cause the same improvements in sexual performance.
Sildenafil takes around 30 minutes to one hour to start fully working, meaning you’ll want to take it at least that amount of time before you plan to have sex. The effects of this medication wear off after about four hours.
Tadalafil is another popular medication for improving your erections and helping you to stay hard during sex.
You can find tadalafil sold under the brand name Cialis and as a generic medication.
Compared to sildenafil, tadalafil is a long-lasting erectile dysfunction drug. Its effects last for up to 36 hours per dose, making it an option worth considering if you want to treat ED and improve your sexual performance for one or a couple days at a time. In fact, it’s sometimes called “the weekend pill.”
Vardenafil is another PDE5 inhibitor that shares similar effects to sildenafil. It starts working within one hour, but lasts for slightly longer than sildenafil, with effects usually starting to wear off after around five hours.
You can find vardenafil sold under the brand name Levitra or as a generic medication.
Avanafil is the new ED medication on the block. It was designed throughout the 2000s and approved by the FDA in 2012 as an alternative to sildenafil, tadalafil and other PDE5 inhibitors.
Currently, avanafil is only available under the brand name Stendra. Since it’s a new medication for ED, a generic version isn’t on the market yet.
Avanafil starts working faster than other ED medications and is designed for use about 15 minutes before sex, which means if things are going from zero to 100 with the quickness, you can still be ready for anything.
It’s also less likely to cause certain side effects than older ED medications, as it targets fewer PDE enzymes.
Our guide to Stendra explains more about how avanafil works and its advantages over other ED drugs.
Lidocaine is a topical anesthetic that lowers the sensitivity level of specific parts of your body — including your penis.
Our guide to how lidocaine spray works explains this medication in more detail, as well as how you can use it to avoid premature ejaculation and improve your sex life.
The list of possible ways to treat ED doesn’t stop there. There are injectable and intraurethral medications for ED, including alprostadil, BiMix, TriMix, and QuadMix. Beyond these, the FDA has recently authorized a non-medicated, non-prescription topical gel for the treatment of ED that gets rubber on the head of the penis. And then there are vacuum erectile devices and penis rings, for those who want to try gadgets, and surgery, for those with severe ED.
How to get an erection and improve sexual performance — whether that means learning how to get hard fast, last longer or just have a more enjoyable time in bed — involves several factors:
Physical. Improve your cardiovascular function and overall physical well-being.
Mental. Concentrate on your psychological health by addressing any anxiety, depression, lack of self-confidence or mental health issues.
Habitual. Create health habits by following a nutritious diet, doing more physical activity and cutting back on alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs.
Scientific. Use science-based medications and other ED treatments. A medical professional can prescribe several safe and effective prescriptions for dealing with ED.
Since no two people are the same, your path to better sexual performance and better erections could involve making changes to one, two, three or all four of these things.
If you’re interested in taking action against ED, you can view our range of erectile dysfunction treatments online.
You can also learn more about dealing with ED in our guide to erectile dysfunction, which goes over common causes, risk factors and treatment options for ED.
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]!
Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years in digital health focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show and Sharecare and has served on the Medical Expert Board of Eat This, Not That!.
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.
In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information
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.
Bachelor of Arts, Egyptian and Ancient Western Asian Archaeology. Brown University |
Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist. Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs
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