WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork) — Staying active is critical for many patients left disabled by life-changing accidents or by a painful health disorder.

Now, specialized gyms are offering sports and fitness programs to make it easier for those people to stay healthy.

Harsh Thakkar was the victim of a violent crime 12-years-ago that left him wheelchair-bound. He says he didn’t know how he’d keep his body in shape.

“It was difficult to understand how to work out, how I was still going to remain healthy,” Thakkar tells CBS News’ Weijia Jiang.

He now coordinates a fitness program at the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Washington. It’s open to anyone who is disabled, free of charge.

“Without this program I don’t know where I’d be,” patient Zandra Miller said.

Trainers customize workouts for patients who have had strokes, brain tumors, Multiple Sclerosis, and other debilitating injuries.

The goal is to help people who can’t stay active improve their strength and endurance.

“There are no limits to what people are capable of doing,” Thakkar said. “That’s our motto here.”

66-year-old Ray Bourgeois is a quadriplegic after a snow tubing accident. An electric stationary bike moves his legs for him, critical for rebuilding muscles.

“I followed up a therapy session at the hospital and I am determined to get out of my wheelchair,” he said.

Participants say it’s not the exercise alone that makes a difference. It’s doing it with people who know exactly what they’re going through.

“It’s given me a second lease on life, it really has,” Miller said.

The trainers say the program also improves mood and confidence in patients.

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