A Guide to Maintaining an Erection

Dr. Babak Ashrafi

Medically reviewed by

Dr Babak Ashrafi

Last reviewed: 24 Jun 2022

Your ability to maintain an erection can affect your quality of life in more ways than one. Read this guide for helpful tips on how you can maintain an erection. You will find detailed information on treatments for maintaining an erection too.

Man looking up how to maintain an erection on his tablet PC

How can I maintain an erection?

You can improve how long you can maintain an erection by first looking at how you live your life. You might want to think about making some lifestyle changes. For example:

  • eat a balanced, healthy diet full of wholegrains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats like chicken and low fat dairy products
  • obesity may be the cause, so lose weight if your body mass index (BMI) is over 25
  • cut down on high cholesterol foods and saturated fats found in animal fat, full fat dairy and processed meat
  • try to quit smoking as cigarettes have chemicals that damage the blood vessels in your penis and make it more difficult to maintain an erection
  • exercise 150 minutes per week or 21 minutes per day, even a brisk walk counts
  • sleep 7 to 8 hours each night to avoid being tired
  • reduce how much alcohol you drink if you have more than 14 units per week
  • if you cycle more than 3 hours a week, take a break or go to a professional bike fitter to make sure your bike and bike seat are a good fit for you

Looking after your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and there can be psychological causes that make it difficult to maintain an erection. You may want to try:

  • bringing your stress levels under control by practising mindfulness meditation, writing in a journal or doing yoga
  • seeing a therapist that specialises in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • talking to a healthcare professional if you have any signs or symptoms of anxiety or depression
  • professional counselling for yourself or with your partner
  • having a conversation with your partner and talking about your sex drive or sexual expectations

What treatments are available to maintain an erection?

There are a selection of treatments available to help you maintain an erection. Your doctor will check for any underlying health problems and suggest which treatment you should try first.

Phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors

Phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors help treat erectile dysfunction. They make the blood vessels in your penis wider so more oxygen can be delivered to the area to help you maintain an erection. Keep in mind that you need to be sexually aroused for these to work. You take them about an hour before sexual activity. You can buy these online:

Blood pressure lowering medication

You may need medication if you have high blood pressure to reduce damage to the blood vessels in your penis. Once your blood vessels recover, you may find it easier to maintain an erection. Getting your blood pressure checked regularly can also help you find out any other health conditions you may need treatment for.

Cholesterol lowering medication

When you have high cholesterol it can lead to heart disease and cholesterol plaques can build up in the blood vessels in your penis. This can make it difficult to maintain an erection because your blood can’t deliver enough oxygen to the area when you are sexually stimulated. You can check your cholesterol levels and try a cholesterol lowering medication such as:

Testosterone replacement therapy

If your testosterone levels are low, it could make it difficult to maintain an erection. You can get a testosterone test kit and request testosterone replacement therapy if the cause is low testosterone.

Check your current medication

Taking prescription medications for certain medical conditions can affect how well you can maintain an erection. For example, some antidepressants can cause erectile dysfunction and can be a side effect. You may need to change how much you take or change to alternative medication. Speak to your doctor or pharmacist for a medication review to check if your medication may be the cause.

Get a sexual health check

You may need to get a sexual health check if you have problems maintaining an erection. It could be a sign that you have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). You could also see a specialist at a men’s health or urology clinic for extra peace of mind.

With ZAVA, you can request safe, effective treatment for erectile dysfunction without seeing a doctor in person. Get started by completing our short online medical questionnaire so our doctors can check if this is suitable for you. If you have any questions about erectile dysfunction or treatment, you can privately message our doctors through your account, free of charge.

What if I can keep an erection when I masturbate?

When you masturbate, there is no pressure to perform. It is likely you will be more relaxed and find it easier to maintain an erection. Sex is different and involves the emotional wellbeing of your relationship as well as your individual partner. You could try speaking to your partner if you’re nervous and ask them about their sexual expectations.

Try your masturbation techniques during foreplay.

If there are techniques you enjoy when masturbating, suggest these to your partner during foreplay. They may have their own ideas to share too. So you and your partner can work together to make sex more pleasurable.

Do I need to change the way I masturbate?

You may need to change the way you masturbate if you do it too often or use porn for sexual stimulation. This is because you may find it difficult to maintain an erection or orgasm when you want to have sex with your partner. It could also lead to performance anxiety. You could try:

  • masturbating without porn
  • masturbating less often
  • using sex toys
  • speaking to your partner about your sex life

What can I do to stay hard?

Here are some other things you can try so that when you get an erection, it’s easier to keep it.

  • Adjustable rubber rings (cock rings): these are rings that fit onto the base of your penis and help keep blood in your penis. This helps prevent venous leakage (where your blood flows into your penis during an erection but has trouble staying there). You may also find it can improve your sexual performance.
  • Kegel exercises: this is where you tighten and relax your pelvic floor muscles. Strengthening these muscles could help strengthen your erect penis over time.
  • Cardio: blood flow is important for a healthy erection. Cardio based activities, like running or cycling, can help improve your blood flow around your body.

Speak to your doctor for premature ejaculation treatments if needed.

Medically reviewed by:
Dr Babak Ashrafi Clinical Lead for Service Expansion
Accreditations: BSc, MBBS, MRCGP (2008)

Babak studied medicine at King’s College London and graduated in 2003, having also gained a bachelor’s degree in Physiology during his time there. He completed his general practice (GP) training in East London, where he worked for a number of years as a partner at a large inner-city GP practice. He completed the Royal College of GPs membership exam in 2007.

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Last reviewed: 24 Jun 2022

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ZAVA offers a convenient and discreet service to help men improve their erectile dysfunction. There are a number of treatments you can consider. Continue to our erectile dysfunction service page to learn about the treatment options available.

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