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How Long Can the Average Man Stay Erect?

14 min read
How Long Can the Average Man Stay Erect?

Today, we'll look at a question that every guy has had at one point in their life - how long can the average man stay erect? If you're concerned that you're not able to keep it up for as long as you used to or are worried if you stack up compared to the national average, this is the place for you.

We'll take a look at the science behind an erection and examine the factors that could be affecting your erectile function. We'll also dive into what can be done to improve your erection time and offer some valuable tips for improving your mental, physical, and sexual health.

How long can the average man stay erect? Short answer

This is quite a tricky question to answer, but the short answer is anywhere between a couple of minutes to around 45 minutes. There is no "normal" erection duration because, ultimately, an erection lasts until it's no longer needed - which could be anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours.

Most men go through an erection cycle while they sleep, which is why it's not uncommon for guys to wake up with an erection.

Often referred to as morning wood, nocturnal penile tumescence happens to men of all ages, occurs anywhere between 3-5 times per night, and can last between 10-35 minutes for each erection.

Typically after an orgasm, the penis returns to its flaccid (non-erect) state, so we could estimate the average duration of an erection by looking at the average time for a sexual encounter.

Using data from two studies into intravaginal ejaculation latency time (IELT) - the time it takes for a man to orgasm during penetrative vaginal sex - we can determine that the average erection length clocks in at just under 6 minutes - 5 minutes 42 seconds.

Unfortunately, the IELT only measures vaginal penetration, so it's not a comprehensive measurement of erectile duration, although it does provide some insight and is arguably the most accurate metric available for this.

The reality is that the duration of an erection is incredibly subjective.

It depends on multiple factors, including your age, your sexual arousal levels, whether you're masturbating or having sex, and your physical and sexual fitness.

In the largest study ever conducted into average erection durations, researchers looked at 500 men from across five countries and measured their IELT. They found that age played a decisive role in shorter erection durations.

AGE GROUP  AVERAGE DURATION (MINUTES)
18-30 6.5
31-50 5.4
Over 50 4.3

What factors can impact erection duration?

If you feel like your erections aren't lasting as long as they used to, there could be multiple underlying factors. Our sexual health is closely tied to our physical and mental well-being, meaning any illnesses, stressors, or conditions often have a knock-on effect. Understanding your body and how it can react to adverse effects is key to getting your erection duration back to normal.

General factors

Here we've identified some general potential problem areas that could be impacting how long your erection lasts.

FACTOR EXPLANATION
Age Research has shown that as men age, the quality of their erections takes a hit. One study found that there was a significant decrease in time and number of nocturnal erections, specifically after the age of 50.
Health

Your health and sexual health are one and the same. Often, if you're having erectile issues, it's part of a larger problem - like high blood pressure or cardiovascular issues.

A poor diet can also affect the duration of your erection, as will extreme amounts of alcohol and cigarettes.

Weight If you're overweight, it's highly likely that your sexual function will be reduced. Weight gain can increase your blood pressure, lower your testosterone levels, and cause diabetes or heart disease - risk factors that can reduce the quality of your erections and elevate your chances of developing erectile issues.
Physical State

Research indicates that people suffering from an injury, an illness, or recovering from certain surgery can often struggle with a lower erection duration.

As getting an erection is a complex bodily process that involves your nervous system and cardiovascular system, any injury or illness could disrupt these processes, impacting your ability to keep an erection.

Mental State If you're not happy with your erection duration, it may be worth taking a look at your mental state. Stress, depression, anxiety, and other mental burdens can affect the quality of your erection and impair its function.
Hormone Levels A hormone imbalance occurs when your body produces too much or too little of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. In men, this can result in reduced erection duration, hardness, and size.
Medication

Medications can affect erection duration. Antidepressants, blood pressure medications, and diuretics can impact your ability to maintain an erection by affecting blood flow.

Recreational drugs can also affect your erectile function by blocking the flow of blood.


Sex-related factors

There are also a number of sex-related factors that could be affecting your ability to maintain an erection.

FACTOR EXPLANATION
General Sexual Stamina

Sexual stamina is key to keeping an erection. Typically, a man loses his erection after an orgasm.

If you're finishing too quickly or unable to maintain high levels of physical activity for a long period without a break, your erection duration is likely to be shorter.

Erectile Dysfunction (ED)

The International Index of Erectile Function is a medical questionnaire that helps doctors diagnose the severity of ED in patients.

ED occurs on a spectrum, and mild ED involves having erections that don't last as long, are less firm, and occur less frequently.

CAEP (Condom Associated Erection Problems)

Between 18-36% of guys struggle with CAEP, which can occur during sex with a condom or during the process of putting the condom on.

CAEP can manifest as an erection that's less hard than normal, an erection that doesn't last as long as normal, or a complete loss of erection.

Performance Anxiety

Performance anxiety is a widespread issue that affects between 9-25% of the general male population. It's easy to get caught up in your head before or during sex, and for many men, this results in a loss of erection.

Performance anxiety is a repeating cycle of thoughts affecting your sexual performance, and men often find it leads to reduced erection firmness and duration.

What can you do to increase the length of your erection?

If you're concerned about the duration of your erection, there's no need to panic - there are various methods available to everyone that can result in some improvement.

1. Quit smoking

Smoking is one of the worst vices to partake in if you're worried about your ability to maintain an erection. Years of research and multiple studies have found that there is a direct correlation between smoking and a higher-than-normal risk of developing ED or ED-related symptoms. Cigarette smoke restricts blood circulation by constricting your body's arteries and can also damage blood vessels.

Luckily, quitting smoking can help your erectile function return to normalcy within months. It's a tough process, so we recommend talking to your doctor first, as they'll be able to offer support, treatments, and advice - especially on products designed to help you quit.

Distractions are great for curbing the cravings - if you're feeling like you need a smoke, go for a walk or snack on some fruit or vegetables.

Avoid any smoking triggers by throwing out your lighters, ashtrays, and cigarettes, and avoid places you'd typically associate with smoking.

2. Engage in physical activity

An active lifestyle is excellent for your cardiovascular health and will have a direct impact on your erection quality. Studies have shown that losing weight has a positive effect on erectile function, including length and hardness.

If you're not already exercising, you're doing your body a disservice. If you're worried about your erection duration, you should definitely incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine - purely for the benefits it can have for your sexual health.

Exercising doesn't have to be a high-intensity activity - something as simple as walking can be enough to get the heart pumping and blood moving throughout your body. Walking is a great beginner-friendly cardio exercise - it's accessible and easy enough that making it a regular exercise shouldn't be too taxing.

3. Keep a healthy diet

Diet plays an integral role in your sexual health. A man's ability to achieve an erection is dependent on blood flow to the penis, which can become a big issue if they're eating a diet that's high in salt, sugar, refined carbohydrates, or red and processed meats.

These sorts of diets increase the risk of developing diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, which can all impact blood flow to the penis resulting in erection issues. Research shows that the best sort of diet for healthy erectile function is a Mediterranean diet - rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and fish, while low in red and processed meat as well as refined grains.

Steer clear of fast food, which is known for its high fat and sugar content, and that can contribute to weight gain and cholesterol problems.

Fruit is a great, low-cost diet option, as studies show that eating more of it can lower a person's risk of ED by as much as 14%.

4. Improve the quality of your sleep

If you're not sleeping enough, your erection duration will suffer. Research has shown that good sleep quality and good erectile function go hand in hand, especially as the body goes through multiple erection cycles during a man's sleep.

Some studies have found a link between a lack of sleep and low testosterone levels in men, while others have noted that people with sleeping disorders are more likely to exhibit symptoms of ED, including reduced erection length and hardness. Men who don't get enough sleep or regularly have disrupted sleep often struggle with a lack of libido, which will worsen any existing erection length issues.

Getting a good night's sleep of around 7-8 hours is crucial to not just your sexual health but also your overall physical and mental well-being. If you struggle to get a good night's sleep, we recommend you try avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and big meals before bed - and leave any screens out of the bedroom.

Making your bedroom a technology-free zone can improve your sleep quality, which will improve your erection length.

It's important to maintain a regular sleep schedule so your body gets used to the routine, and exercising during the day can also help you feel more tired at night.

5. Invest in your mental health

Mental health is one of the biggest barriers men face when it comes to erection quality. Stress, anxiety, and depression can all play a part in reducing your ability to maintain an erection - these are all a form of psychogenic (psychological) ED.

Psychogenic ED is more common in younger males, but it has been documented in men of all ages. Research shows that people struggling with their mental health often have a reduced libido and also struggle to keep an erection.

Investing in your mental health means taking active steps to improve your mental well-being.

It involves making healthy lifestyle choices, managing your stress and anxiety through boundaries, and potentially seeking therapy.

Practicing self-care will improve your physical and mental well-being, helping you to gain a deeper understanding of your body and, in turn, improve your sexual health and erectile duration.

6. Improve your sexual stamina

One of the most beneficial ways to improve your erection length is to improve your sexual stamina. Studies have proven that using masturbation aids can result in a significantly extended IELT, meaning an erection for a longer period of time.

There are numerous ways to improve your sexual stamina. Eating nutritious foods will help promote blood flow throughout your body and can help you have a stronger erection for longer. Exercising will build up your physical strength, allowing you to focus more on the pleasure of sex and thereby improving your erection duration.

There are also stamina training units made to enhance a man's performance in the bedroom.

We recommend focusing on foreplay before sex, as it sets the mood for the entire event. Without properly getting in the mood and without devoting ample time to foreplay, many guys can struggle to keep an erection.

7. Consider medication

Medicines like Viagra (also known as sildenafil) are commonplace nowadays and can improve the time and quality of your erection. These medications are proven to help people suffering from varying levels of ED, and the effects can last up to four hours.

These medications work by increasing blood flow to the penis during sexual arousal and blocking the body from producing a protein called PDE-5 which is responsible for the penis returning to its flaccid state. This creates harder erections that last longer than normal.

There are numerous medications on the market that operate in this manner, but if you're planning to take any,  it's important that you check in with a doctor first. They'll be able to tell you if there are any risks and guide you through the safest route.

About erection stages

There are three different types of erection:

TYPES  DESCRIPTION
Psychogenic Which is caused by mental and sensory stimuli like thoughts, smells, sounds, or fantasies and doesn't require any physical sensation.
Reflexogenic Which is an arousal response to physical stimulation, like masturbation or touch during foreplay.
Nocturnal Which occurs when you're asleep, typically during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.


The penis is composed of sponge-like tissue that fills with blood during sexual stimulation. The brain sends signals down the spinal cord to the genital nerves, which work together with blood vessels, hormones, and muscles to make the penis stiffen and become erect.

Diagram of the Stages of Erection

Let's take a look at the four different stages of an erection.

Soft or flaccid penis

This is the state that the penis spends most of its time in - the resting or flaccid state. In this state, a man is typically not sexually aroused, and the penis hangs relaxed outside the body. There is a low amount of blood flowing equally in and out of the penile tissue (the spongy tissue inside the penis), causing the penile muscles to relax and the penis to remain soft.

Swollen penis

The swollen or tumescent state typically occurs when a man is aroused. The penile muscles begin to relax, the spongy tissue within the penis expands, and the blood vessels begin to dilate, allowing more blood to flow into the penis than is flowing out and causing it to swell.

Erect penis

The erect state is when the penis is at its firmest and most sensitive. The brain and nerves send more blood to the penis, while muscles in the perineum (the area between the anus and the scrotum) contract, restricting the blood flow out. This causes the spongy tissue within the penis to fill with blood, making the penis harder and firmer and enabling a man to have sex.

This is the state typically associated with orgasm and ejaculation, although it's important to note that men can orgasm without the need for an erection.

Detumescence

After orgasm, the penile muscles contract and relax, allowing blood to flow back out of the penis and causing detumescence - a return to the natural flaccid state.

When should I see a doctor?

If you've been persistently struggling to maintain an erection for a long period of time, we would recommend making an appointment with a doctor to get checked out.

A healthcare provider will be able to look at your symptoms and offer advice and treatment recommendations to regain your erectile function.

While some circumstances that could cause you to experience erection length problems may be temporary - for example, relationship issues or work-related stress - a lot of the time, they can be caused by an underlying condition like a hormone imbalance or high blood pressure. These types of health issues are complex and will require treatment from a medical professional.

A doctor may refer you to a specialist if your erectile problem stems from psychological or emotional issues, who will be able to create a tailored treatment plan for you.

We know how tough it can be to talk to a doctor about issues with your sexual health, but it's an important part of your overall wellbeing, and keeping on top of it is as important as looking after the rest of your body.

Erection duration FAQ

Can an erection be too long?

In short - yes, it can. Any erection that lasts for longer than four hours is too long and needs immediate attention from a medical professional.

This is a condition called priapism, which occurs when your body can't regulate the blood flow back into your penis, causing it to remain in an erect state. It causes a persistent erection that can become painful after a while and has the potential to lead to ED or permanent damage to your penis if left untreated.

Priapism is an uncommon condition, but studies have found that it's more likely to occur in men who have sickle cell disease. Certain medications, drugs, and trauma to the penis can also cause it.

Can an erection be too fast?

There are many cases when an erection could be considered too fast. Ultimately, an erection should last long enough for you to feel satisfied, either in orgasm or penetrative sex.

If that's not happening, then there could be cause for concern, and it may be worth visiting a medical professional to determine the root cause of your difficulties.

Whether an erection is too fast is subjective; if you're meeting you and your partner's needs in a short time - for example, less than the average IELT - then arguably, your erection is functioning as it should.

What can I do to make an erection go away?

Every man has had to deal with an unwanted erection at some point in their life. While they're more common in younger adults and adolescents, they can occur at any age. If you're stuck with a surprise erection, try these methods:

  • Calm breathing exercises
  • Distract yourself
  • Take a cold shower
  • Do some gentle exercise like jogging or walking
  • Flex a muscle elsewhere in the body, like your bicep or thighs
  • Have a warm bath
  • Masturbate


Make sure to see a doctor if you've had an erection for longer than 4 hours.

How often do men get erections?

On average, men get an erection between 3-5 times per night during an 8-hour sleep. Trying to determine how often it occurs during waking hours, however, is a little more tricky.

The research simply isn't there to definitively say how often men get an erection.

Some people claim the average man has 11 erections a day, but there's simply no scientific data available to back that up. That figure seems more likely to be about hormonal teenagers than grown adults.

Ultimately, it depends a lot on age, hormone levels, physical health, and sleep quality. If you're an older guy with a high sex drive, you could have multiple erections a day, while a younger man who's depressed or overweight might not experience any at all.

Can frequent masturbation impact erection duration during sex?

If you're able to achieve a long-lasting erection during masturbation but have problems during sex, continuing to masturbate shouldn't worsen these issues. Masturbation cannot cause ED - although if you're consuming too much pornography, that can have an adverse effect on your sexual desire and performance.

Frequent masturbation shouldn't affect your erection during sex, however, that does depend on what you class as frequent.

If you're masturbating more than three times a day, it may lead to exhaustion and a lack of sexual desire, potentially resulting in a reduced erection duration during sex.

Can dehydration affect erection duration?

Hydration levels can actually affect the erection process and erection time. Drinking enough water is crucial for your body to function properly, and studies have shown that dehydration can impair your muscle's endurance and decrease their strength.

If you're not drinking enough water, the muscles in your body will struggle to work efficiently, which can lead to a decrease in erection time if the penile muscles fail to restrict blood flow.

When the body is in dehydration mode, it releases a chemical called angiotensin that can decrease blood pressure - which can cause erection difficulties. Men who are dehydrated tend to have worse moods, which can also impair erectile function.

Summary

The duration of an erection varies between every guy, but it typically ranges between a few minutes to around 45 minutes, with no definitive "normal" length.

The average erection during penetrative sex is about 6 minutes, although numerous factors can influence this.

Age, height, weight, sexual stamina, physical and mental state, hormone levels, and medication can all play a crucial role in inhibiting your erectile length. Luckily, you can fight back.

Improving your erection duration can be as simple as eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, managing your mental health, and quitting smoking. If these methods don't work for you, however, we recommend consulting with a medical professional.

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