If you have a penis, then you know it has a tendency to be a little, uh, temperamental sometimes. When you want it to stay hard during sexual activity, it goes soft. Then, when you finally manage to sustain an erection, you end up ejaculating too quickly. It doesn't get along so well alcohol, even when you’re in a sexually arousing situation, and—speaking of substances—studies show there might be a link between erectile dysfunction and smoking weed. It also tends to show up in a big way at inopportune times, like in the middle of your important presentation for work. As far as sources of pleasure go, the penis can be pretty damn frustrating.
According to a study published in the American Journal of Medicine, 85 percent of penis-owning men between the ages of 20 and 39 say they “always” or “almost always” can get and maintain an erection, which means 15 percent of men in the prime of their life have a tough time getting hard, at least occasionally. The same study found that of men between the ages of 40-59, only 20 percent said they could get a healthy enough erection for sex most of the time. In other words, solid wood is far from a foregone conclusion.
Though you may never be able to predict how your penis will behave with 100 percent accuracy, there are steps you can take to make sure that when it comes time to perform, your erections are as healthy and strong as they can be. So without further ado, here are 16 tips to help you stay hard.
1) Try a cock ring.
Did you know that a cock ring can help you maintain an erection? This O-shaped toy fits around your penis and helps keep blood in the shaft, where you want it. A cock ring also helps prevent venous leakage, a form of erectile dysfunction where blood flows to your penis, but has trouble staying there.
There are four types of cock rings, all of which can help in the erection department:
2) Work your Kegel exercises.
The pelvic floor muscles play a role in sexual activity, explains Robert Valenzuela, MD, a board-certified urologist and Promescent medical advisor. “Contractions of the pelvic floor muscles (called Kegels) help produce an increase in the penis pressure and the rigidity of the penis.” In simpler words, Kegel exercises—where you contract and release your pelvic floor muscles—can help strengthen your erections.
Kegel exercises are also a component of a practice known as “penis rehabilitation,” adds Michael Ingber, MD, a urologist and urogynecologist at Garden State Urology. “Just like after shoulder surgery, when you might see a physical therapist to work on the muscles, strengthening them, and increasing range of motion, the same thing is true for the penis, the muscles, and nerves that play a role in erectile function.” That’s why many urologists recommend early penile rehabilitation—which includes Kegels—shortly after events that affect the erectile nerves of the penis, such as prostate cancer surgery. “This is done in conjunction with medical therapies like Viagra,” Ingber says.
3) Watch what you eat.
According to WebMD, research has shown that foods bad for the heart are also bad for the penis—which makes sense, since the heart and penis both depend on blood flow to function properly. The Mediterranean diet—which includes, fruits, whole grains, heart-healthy fats like nuts and olive oil, red wine, and vegetables—is a good place to start.
4) Hit the gym.
Cardio. Cardio. Cardio.
According to Ryan Berglund, MD, a urologist at the Cleveland Clinic, bloodflow is the key to a healthy erection, and there's nothing that encourages bloodflow like aerobic exercise. Not only does it keep you in shape, it builds the body's nitric oxide, which helps maintain erections.
While running is great, stay off the bike if you can help it. “Endurance cyclists who spend a long time on their bike seats may have more trouble with ED,” says Erin Michos, MD, an associate professor of Medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“This is because bike riding can compress the pudendal artery, which provides blood flow to the penis,” Ingber adds. “Using a special bike seat (split-seat) along with wearing special shorts can help prevent ED.”
5) Put the cigarettes away.
In a study conducted at the University of Kentucky, researchers found that when asked to rate their sex lives on a scale of 1 to 10, men who smoked averaged about a 5, while nonsmokers rated theirs a 9.
One reason is that smoking is a known cause of impotence, and there’s some evidence that smoking affects erection strength—and size. In one study, researchers found that smokers’ penises are smaller than those belonging to nonsmokers.
“In addition to damaging blood vessels, smoking may cause damage to penile tissue itself, making it less elastic and preventing it from stretching,” says Goldstein.
We have yet to hear a better reason to quit.
6) But keep a pot of coffee on.
Though few things are worse for your erection than a cigarette habit, coffee can actually help you out below the belt. A study by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston found that men who consumed the caffeine equivalent of 2-3 cups of coffee per day were less likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction than those who preferred to wake up with caffeine-free beverages.
7) Get a vasectomy.
If you’re finished producing offspring (or you’re sure you don’t want kids), consider investing in permanent renovations at the sperm factory.
“The risk of a contraceptive failure can be a big source of anxiety for some men, especially those who’ve had a birth-control disaster—or a scare—in the past,” says Karen Donahey, Ph.D., director of the sex- and marital-therapy program at Northwestern University.
That anxiety can, in turn, lead to erection problems—and cause the same vicious circle that makes performance anxiety such a mood killer.
But if there’s no sperm, the risk of pregnancy is beyond minuscule: A properly performed vasectomy has an effectiveness rate of 99.9%. Depending on your insurance situation, the procedure typically costs between $0 and $1,000, according to Planned Parenthood.
“Many of my patients end up paying $0 for them if they have low deductible plans,” Ingber says. “We can often do these in the office setting, with a local anesthesia, which can minimize cost for some patients.”
8) Stay faithful.
It’s common for men who start having affairs to stop having erections. So common, in fact, that doctors who treat erectile dysfunction often ask their patients if they’re getting any action on the side.
Unless you’re in an open or polyamorous relationship, you’re bound to feel at least a little guilty when you have sex with your partner. Guilt can turn to anxiety, and that can kill an erection.
9) Reduce your risk of diabetes.
Erectile dysfunction is common in people who have diabetes (and especially type 2 diabetes), according to the Mayo Clinic. The disease hits the penis with a double whammy: It accelerates the process of arterial disease, and it slows the transmission of stimuli along nerves throughout your body. And, trust us, a numb penis is not a happy penis.
Type 2 is the most prevalent form of diabetes among American adults. There are various ways to prevent it, including eating the right foods and exercising regularly. You should also be vigilant in checking your blood sugar (talk to your doctor about the best methods).
10) Get your testosterone levels checked.
Low testosterone doesn't directly affect the mechanisms involved in your erection, but it does affect your libido, making it harder to get turned on—and harder to get, well, hard. If you notice an uncharacteristic drop in your sex drive— or any of these symptoms of low testosterone—you might want to ask your doc if your T levels are lower than they should be. If they are, your doctor can help get your testosterone back to levels within the normal range.
11) Take it easy when you're thrusting.
One vigorously misplaced thrust is all it takes to rupture the corpora cavernosa, the elongated “erectile chambers” that run the length of your penis. Don’t believe us? Try aiming your erect penis at the trunk of a tree—it’s roughly the same density as your partner’s pubic bone.
A complete rupture will require surgery within 24 hours to stanch internal bleeding and reduce the risk of permanent damage. A partial tear isn’t as serious, but it may cause problems later on. As the linings of the corpora heal over with scar tissue, they lose their elasticity—leading to curvature, pain, and eventually impotence.
By some estimates, more than a third of impotent penis-owners have a history of “penile trauma.” To protect yourself, be careful when your partner's on top. That’s the position most likely to cause damage.
12) Walk more.
In one study, researchers found that men who walk just 2 miles a day had half the rate of erection problems of more sedentary men, says Goldstein. (Twenty minutes of jogging or 30 minutes of weight training will work, too.)
Deposits that clog or stiffen penile arteries can also wilt erections. “Guys tend to think of their arteries as simple pipes that can become clogged, but there’s a lot more going on than that,” says Laurence Levine, MD, a urologist at Chicago’s Rush-Presbyterian Medical Center. “The linings of those blood vessels are very biologically active areas where chemicals are being made and released into the bloodstream.”
The more you exercise, the healthier, cleaner, and more flexible those linings become.
13) Yawn a lot.
Sorry if reading the word "yawn" made you yawn just now. Actually, we're not sorry—because as far as your body’s concerned, yawning and getting an erection are practically the same thing.
They’re both controlled by a chemical called nitric oxide. Released in the brain, it can either travel to the neurons that control mouth opening and breathing, or go down the spinal cord to the blood vessels that feed the penis. Sometimes it does both (that’s why a big yawn can cause a tremor down under).
We don’t recommend foreplay with your mouth hanging open. But allowing yourself to yawn now and then throughout the day may help prime the neurochemical pathways that lead to good, sturdy erections.
14) Get plenty of sleep.
Your penis needs as much shut-eye as it can get. Every night while you sleep, you have between three and five-hour-long erections. You probably noticed this phenomenon the last time you had to pee at 4 a.m.
Those erections are not there just to make life interesting for your bedmate. They work to recharge your penis—keeping it well-nourished with oxygenated blood.
“Theoretically, the more nocturnal erections you have, the more flexible your erectile tissue will become. And that may help keep erections strong as the years wear on,” Goldstein explains.
15) Try ED medication.
If all else fails, there is ED treatment in the form of drugs, such as Viagra and Cialis. Talk to your doctor about whether the option is right for you—and know that men's wellness brands like Hims and Romans both prescribe ED medication online and then deliver them straight to your door.
16) Try Trimix
If traditional oral ED medication isn’t working, there’s something called Trimix, where you inject the base of your penis with vasodilating agents, says Jed Kaminetsky, MD, a board-certified urologist and Promescent medical advisor. “It’s actually less painful than it sounds and is effective in over 90% of men with erectile dysfunction.”
However, while Trimix works great, “one has to be aware of complications,” Ingber says. “In some men, this erection can persist and become painful. If it lasts more than 4 hours, it’s called ‘priapism,’ and it becomes a medical emergency where you will need to go to the emergency department.”